Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Sky's the Limit

On the eve of the New Year the limit of 2005's blessings and banes, I've been thinking about the star of the Magi. I'm not sure whether it was one of many natural phenomena that have been suggested or a manifestation of the Shekinah glory like the pillar of fire that Israel followed in the wilderness. But the question remains: How did the Magi know to follow the star?

(Gen. 1:14-18) "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
And let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
And the evening and the morning were the fourth day."

The Magi were practiced observers of all the heavenly bodies they could see. The sun and moon set limits on the day and the night; and all the stars have fixed patterns of motion. It is what God made them for. Suddenly, there appeared a deviation. The terra firma of time and space had been altered. Who wouldn't, given the resources, want to discover the cause of this cosmic change?

But there was more. Something about the timing, placement and motion of the star clued the Magi that this alteration had significance in terms of human kingship, divine visitation, and life-and-death. Their conviction was displayed in their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. They may have guessed this by studying the works of Daniel, who had lived among them centuries before. But they certainly knew it by studying the works of God in the limits of the sky.

Unlike the Magi, my generation has spent enormous energy dissing the value of limits of any kind. What poverty! This generation is no longer able to discern events or changes of importance unless they appear in tabloid headlines wearied with a catalog of detail. The liturgies of nature, courtesy, poetry, human relationships, worship, music, all have ceased to speak to us, because we deny there is a language beyond bare proposition.

My New Year's resolutions this year will have to do with recovering the grammar of limits, learning the steps of the dances all around us that lead us, like Bethlehem's star to the side of the Dayspring. I will look up. The sky's the limit.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Delightful Incongruities

Have you ever noticed that the things you do for your children often end up being the things that most feed your soul?

I started coaching speech and debate so that my children would have a challenging gifted-and-talented project and peer group. I ended up with my own wonderful intellectual challenges and peers I hope to enjoy for the rest of my life.

I started blogging in order to understand how to help my children develop online ministries and businesses. I have ended up loving it myself, and finding an extraordinary company of Christians and homeschoolers who minister to me inspiration, comaraderie, encouragement... And now you have elected Mother-Lode as Best Homeschool Mom Blog!

You are amazing! I am grateful! And once again, God shows His sense of fun!

Nurturing Daughters

Kudos to Karen & Mollie, a mother-daughter team over at Got Me A College Girl for tackling the controversial subject of educating Christian women. They do it with sensitivity and style, and the commentary conversations are really wonderful.

As a mother to two involved, academically-minded high school daughters, I have thought long and hard about this question. Much of what I've read in the Christian reaction to radical feminism is just that - a reaction. While there's a lot to react against in the feminist perspective, the current Christian reaction leaves us feeling that after high school a godly father should essentially warehouse his daughter until he finds a husband for her.

It seems there are two fundamental misconceptions underlying this flawed idea of Christian womanhood. 1) A girl's preparation for life should have more to do with her office as a wife & mother than it does with who she is as a creation of God. 2) Being a "Keeper at Home" involves nothing more than cooking, cleaning and childbearing.

To the first misconception, I submit that training up a daughter to be a wife and mother should primarily have to do with developing the daughter herself, as faithful stewards together of her gifts. Since no one knows precisely what her husband will need, we really have no alternative as faithful stewards except to focus on making the most of what God has given to that daughter. To withhold higher education from a daughter who is intellectual is not only to despise that gift of God, but also to endanger that daughter's pure heart toward her father.

It seems to me that warehousing an able, intellectual daughter will tempt her to such despair and rage that she will either rush into an unwise marriage merely to be able to move on in life, or she will ditch the whole godly family vision as tyrannical. I know a number of young women struggling between these very temptations. Indeed this strategy may produce the very things the Christian patriarchy advocates (and I, too) want to avoid: young women who are less likely to have stable marriages and less likely to raise children.

To the second misconception, I offer the notion that daughters must be taught to view college, not as an alternative to marriage, but as a further preparation for what she will be called to do IN her marriage. In my 25 years as a keeper at home and a help-meet for my husband I have been called on not only as a cook, cleaning-woman, and child-bearer, but also as a foreign-missions fundraiser, a public relations officer, a lobbyist both domestic and international, a teacher, a musician, an artist, a beekeeper, an accountant, a Bible study leader, a recording artist, a writer, an accountant, a landscape and interior designer, a gourmet chef and corporate hostess, a school administrator, a journalist, a jewelry designer, a theater director, a costume designer & seamstress, a conference speaker, a translator, a child-development specialist and confidant... I could never have been what my husband needed without my college degree. Nor have I ever had what the world would call a career. I have borne six children and have been privileged to raise three to the glory of God.

Our family's financial situation has been such that I have needed to make significant financial contributions to the family income. My college degree has given me the scope and the credibility to be able to make those contributions from home, while maintaining a homeschool and training the children in various cottage industry enterprizes.

Our daughters plan to homeschool their children (God and their husbands willing). My grandchildren's educations may be curtailed by the decisions we make concerning giving our daughters a higher education. Our daughters may be widowed early. Dare we withhold from them training and verification of achievement (ie. a degree) that could enable them, in those circumstances, to continue to stay home with their children and make ends meet?

Our daughters' worth ought not be measured by the number of her degrees and the prestige of her career, but neither should it be measured by how thoroughly she has been conformed to a romantic one-size standard of femininity. In the Christian community, we all want the same thing: a restoration of strong, godly families led by self-sacrificing, caring fathers and supported by creative, faithful mothers. But we cannot achieve this either by insisting that every daughter be kept from college or that every daughter be pressed into it.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Grow Up!

The homeschool area over at Crosswalk is featuring my article, Homeschool Homocides and the Cult of Youth.

Our culture's idea of adolescence leaves us vulnerable to the follies of youth. We still need more than one generation at a time working on training maturity.

And don't forget! This is the last day to vote for your favorite blogs nominated in the Homeschool Blog Awards!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Paradox of Blessing

My son faithfully prays over the sore, broken places in our lives, "Lord, we know that when You destroy something, it is only so that You can build it again more gloriously." So it was with the first Advent.

Joseph and Mary had their reputations ruined, their business uprooted to Bethlehem and then to Egypt, their family life disrupted, the guilt of knowing all those Bethlehem children died because of their child...Jesus' own initial loss in the Incarnation is staggering. Infinite divinity pressed into finite flesh. Gone the instant access to and awareness of the loving bonds within the Trinity. No distance from the shame and pain of fallen creation.

We are familiar with the concept that disobedience brings chastisement. But how about the notion that God's blessing often brings sorrow and destruction? What were David's losses when he was anointed King over Israel? He was hunted for over 20 years. And the first Joseph, what were his losses when his gift for interpreting dreams was discovered? He was enslaved in a foreign country for over 20 years.

The scale of the loss is the early predictor of the scope of the re-creation. But the first Advent shows us something new in this balance. Loss isn't the only thing great blessing brings. Right there in the heart of the sorrow is the special presence of Jesus. Fully identified with us in our shame and misery.

Joseph and Mary thought it was compensation enough even though they only glimpsed the Restorations. They held on to the joy in their arms, and lived in the future.

"My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my

For He hath regarded the low estate of His

for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call
me blessed.

For He that is mighty has done to me great

and holy is His name and His mercy is upon them that
fear Him

from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strenth with His arm;
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their

He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and
exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of His

as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed
for ever."


Friday, December 23, 2005

More Holiday Reading

Voting for the first (annual, we hope) Homeschool Blog Awards is on until Dec. 26. The nominees' blogs make for wonderful encouragement, thoughtful reflection, provocative engagement, helpless laughter, soul-filling art, and delightful community. Including, I trust, this blog, which has been nominated in the Best Homeschool Mom category.

The Homeschool Blog Awards is sponsored by SpunkyHomeschool, The Old Schoolhouse, Homeschool Buzz and StillThinking. The voting process is fast and easy thanks to the wonderful homeschoolers at StillThinking. Go! Read! Vote! You'll thank me for introducing you to such interesting new friends.

I have especially enjoyed these nominees' blogs:
CatchWord, a penetrating, beautiful cultural-analysis and arts commentary by a homeschooled teen
SoulPerSuit, an art project cum worship experience (leave your fill-in-the-blank Bible studies at home)
Choosing Home, a collage of women's views on choosing to stay at home creatively
Holy Experience, one mom's view of raising a family as an act of worship
Daddy on Board, comic relief from a homeschool dad
the Confessor, dad as confessor cum detective, who mostly gets the goods on himself
Legal Redux, news digest by a team of homeschooled teens. (US News really needs these guys! And you really need their hilarious Blog Disclaimer - see my sidebar!)
the Rebelution, the Harris twins spark amazing conversations with their cultural commentary....

There are more real gems among the nominees. I'll keep you posted as I have time to peruse them. But don't wait! Go read for yourself!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


My husband often quotes an Arab proverb, "the kitchen is the university". In a home-school family it is more true than usual Our kitchen table as been the foundation for drafting edible topographic maps; building french pastries; designing jewelry; plotting birthday kidnappings, election strategies, and murder mystery parties. From it we have served up weekly church potlucks, midnight comfort and fresh perspective. This table has been equally hospitable to old friends, needy strangers and sometime traitors.

Our family's most nourishing traditions gather around this table. Here my husband and I share a dark-of-the-morning coffee to plan the day. Here my children and I gather for breakfast devotions. And of course it is the center of the old Southwest sobre-mesa.

Sobre-mesa is the extended conversation after the main meal of the day. We all sip our coffee slowly and consider. Every topic is fair game, and everyone is expected to bring a topic of interest to the table. Our sobre-mesas range from poetry recitations to political debate to plans and hopes. It is a time when we can try out controversial proposals or work out knotty problems without fear of censure. It is an opportunity to practice supportive candor and to delight in the minds and characters of those around the table.

Over the years, our table has become rather shabby. Scorched, scratched, stained, the abused cherry wood had become a liability. The last time Elizabeth brought home a drop-in guest from her community college class, I squirmed as we poured the chai. All the tablecloths were in the washer.

But last week, the children and I drug home (much later than usual) from our debate club to a pungent fragrance that wasn't the dinner that should have been simmering. It was the smell of fresh varnish. Gleeful mischief shone in the children's faces. They had conspired with my mother to keep us out as long as possible so that mother could complete the table refinishing as a Christmas surprise.

Our table glows like a tiger-eye, not just a wood finish restored, but a tradition restored. It was my mother who passed to me the table-top traditions that she recieved from her mother. We have each added our own improvements. But our traditions all trace their lineage back to a Father and Son who conspired to restore the whole Creation in order to spread their Feast of reconciliation. May our table be a taste of that Table.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Rare Gem

"Where's the Mercy Seat?" demanded 4-year-old Anne, outraged by the dearth of detail in the Tabernacle diagram we were stdying. Anne has always had a talent for putting us in touch with the esssential question. Isn't this the BIG ONE?

Is there any mercy?
Where will it be found?
With the gods of the Egyptians?
In our own ways and demands?

No, only in the perfumed mystery, gory and glorified, of the Mercy Seat.

We were in the surgery pre-op. 7-year-old Anne shivered in the thin hospital gown, dreading the surgery that would repair the kidneys that had caused her screaming pain and chronic illness. Our pastor had come to pray with her. Leaning down to her level, he asked, "Is there anything you are afraid of?" Wordlessly, she nodded, gulped, and whispered, "God"!

And, actually, she did understand what she was confessing. She had been taught that all things come to her from God, even the difficult things. And that was the hope for her in those difficulties: that the God who had visited the trial upon her would rescue her in it and beautify her by it.

Anne was the one who, at age 9, crept away from the books and games set out to amuse the little ones to crouch, hidden, on the stairway during our ladies' Bible study lest she miss some treasure of learning. Anne was the student who couldn't wait to be old enough to join the debate team, and who earned a spot at the national tournament the moment she turned 12.

Yesterday, Anne turned 16. As she approaches adulthood, she is as much a joy as a friend, as she has been as a disciple. She will always be one of my chief blessings. May God strengthen her with joy for the years ahead, and may she be blessed one day with a child who is as rare a gem as she is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mary's Choice

We've all heard the story so many times. The characters become cardboard and take their proper places at the proper times.

I re-read the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55) today, following the cross references to try to get an idea what meditations had inspired Mary in the early stages of her strange pregnancy.

"My soul doth magnify the Lord"... A quote from Ps 34:2,3. This is a Psalm that David penned when in such desperate fear for his life, he fled to his enemy, Philisitia, where he was recognized as the hero of Israel. So he feigned madness, and was driven out, but he lived.

"My soul doth magnify the Lord"... also a quote from ISam 2:1-10. Hannah's song of thanks as she left her treasured son at the Tabernacle, to be God's dedicated servant.

So as Mary was composing this beautiful poem, she was identifying with the hunted and the despised, and making her choices. I wonder how much of the warm, happy delight that we usually think of as gratitude there was as these three poets offered their praises. Praises in fear. Praises in loss. Praises in rumor and rejection. I think it was a choice, not a feeling.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Creation's True Voice Part 2

Surely, as Christians, we should be looking for ways to give Creation its true voice. The voice that declares the glory of its Creator (Ps. 19). Advent and Christmas give us special opportunities to do so.

So the evergreen tree becomes, not the mere human fertility symbol of the pagans' religion, but the sign of the Divine imparting impossible, eternal Life on a dead world. The pagans' decorate their trees with fruit, symbolizing (again) a hope for fertility. We decorate ours with fruit (what did you think the glass balls were?) as a reminder of our losses in the Garden of Eden, and as a token that once again we are offered the Tree of Life by the One who died on a tree to give us this fruit.

Or perhaps we decorate our trees with Chrismons, emblems of the many titles and honors our Jesus has earned. Our family learned to make Chrismons with our dear friends, the Dows, this summer, while brainstorming a women's retreat on family traditions and holiday merry-making.

And how about those old carols? The Christian tradition was to imitate the angels who could not contain their joy and wonder at the Incarnation. We take to the streets, singing the good news. Actually, our family likes to take gifts and baking to shut-ins and families in need on a caroling night during Advent. After all, we are declaring the coming of the Bread of Heaven, the Gift of God.

What stubborn tangible will you loose to speak its true meaning this season?


Not since croned Adam cast Creation's burning orb
To harpy-hands' lust for kingship's harvests,
Has this stale world warmed to man's will
Th' immortal meanings it might have held.

Flesh is flesh, grappling visibles whose incorporeal fulcrum's lost,
Steming, aching. Noting more. Never full, never
Speaking the renewing word. Stock answers to the stabled darkness,
"Fodder", "Fold", the dread familiar.

Nt til that one Obedient th' occulted world descried...
Now darkness burns with Beings, Facts far brighter than His star;
The humble, the trembling gil, dirty straw, flesh itself are hallowed here
To God, glad to speak at last the language of His glory.

Incarnate Speech, this simple Child, schools our Yule obedience:
The commonplace gives tongue in candled home and caroled thanks.
So taught, we tame the stubborn tangibles,
Since Bethlehem's Babe first brought the sacrifice of praise.

All rights reserved. Copyright 1980. Kim Anderson

God's Promise vs. Our Fears

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my sprirt hath rejoiced in God my saviour, for He that is mighty has done to me great things, and holy is His name...and His mercy is upon them that fear Him from generation to generation..." (Lk. 1:47 - 55)

I've been following with much interest the discussions about the Ludwig/Borden murders. By far the most edifying comments are over at the Common Room under God is Not Your Vending Machine, at Heart Wars by Anne on Choosing Home, and Extreme Parenting on Spunky Homeschooler. And I've written a column about it for a secular audience over at the American Chronicle. But so much that needs to be said can't be said to a secular audience.

The Common Room article is especially helpful in pointing out the warning signs that were evident in the lives and blogs of Kara Borden and David Ludwig. The Headmistress there advocates expecting more from our teens than banal adolescent gushings over Christian rock bands as evidence of a solid faith (here, I oversimplify), and publishes an excellent summary for young people on how to recognize the gravity-well of lust.

Earlier, the Rebelution posted a controversial article accepting Kara's and David's protestations of genuine faith at face value, and opining "there, but for the grace of God, go I". The young men who write the Rebelution are men of integrity and faith, and I commend their spiritual humility. However, their approach has many teens circling the unproductive question: "Am I really saved? If teens who give all the 'right' signals like David and Kara did, could do such terrible things, how will I ever be certain that I will stay the course?"

There are some certainties we can hang on to, but they won't be found in the 'right signals' nor, indeed, in anything based solely in ourselves. But God has made promises to those who fear Him. HE can be trusted even when we cannot trust ourselves. Even when the accepted formulae for success fail.

We can act with confidence, working as parents to raise our children well, and as young people to acquire maturity and usefulness because God is faithful. Not because we are.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Christmas Story

Here is a bedtime story about giving things their true voices. God rest ye merry!

An Epiphany

We've never been rich, but we thank God. There really is something about scarcity that sharpens the sensibilities. When it comes to gift-giving times, the desire to be able to gift the ones you love with something of real value is almost a physical ache.
And it brings into clearer focus some of the reasons why Jesus came to us in poverty and lowliness - not only to feel our weaknesses, our miseries, but also to feel that sharp longing to have something to give...

On my birthday, three little packages shone bravely from the festive table. The first, urged upon me eagerly by Elizabeth, our eldest, was wrapped in an origami envelope of Byzantine complexity. The shining contents cascaded and clicked sensuously into my hand: a necklace gathered of all the lost and secret bits of the jewelry our sometime princesses have worn in their day. She had even sacrificed a couple of real Venetian glass beads that had been handsome vases in her dollhouse. Together they were a talisman of childhood's delights.
Then Winston, with ingenuous grin and self-deprecating wag of the head, thrust two carefully folded sheets of paper into my hand. "I love you, Mommy!" he breathed. The papers showed a four-year-old's pen and ink jungle inhabited by an ark-full of dinosaur stickers. Just days before, feeling wealthy with the proceeds of her first babysitting job, Elizabeth had bought each of her siblings a small present. These dinosaurs had been Winston's.
With a miserable sigh, Anne pushed her offering closer and handed me another origami envelope. She plopped down next to me, studying my face as I read the careful second grade script, "I didn't have much to work with. Love, Anne". I blinked and swallowed hard. Inside her box was a bird, soaring wings outstretched. It was too large to make a convenient ornament, but its curves whispered, "touch me". Anne alone had seen hidden possibilities in it as it lay in a jumbled garage sale box last summer and had rescued it with her last nickel. Now it wore fairy tale colors and sparkled with a crusting of make-believe gems that would have done credit to the Emperor's nightingale.
Anne glowed like a star next to me, urgent with the hope that I, too, could now see the fabulous beauty in this homely bit of plastic. And those wings arched with a burning radiance, thundering accompaniment to the heartbreaking "Gloria!" blazing from otherwordly throats, the love song of the Bridegroom, argent with the hope that we, His beloved could see our ransom, our resurrection, our Redeemer in a pauper's newborn.
With such gifts, we shall never be poor.

December 1996

All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Holiday Reading

Today is the last day to vote on the Blogs of Beauty finalists. Check Two Talent Living's site for details. The finalists' blogs are a holiday in themselves. Even the nominees are a treat (just like the amazing site you are currently reading). Find a new friend or two for yourself.

And don't forget to visit Spunky Homeschooler to nominate your favorite homeschool blogs. Spunky's categories are:

Best Homeschooling Mom Blog
Best Homeschooling Dad Blog

Best Homeschooling Family blog
Best Homeschooling Teen blog
Best Informational Homeschool blog
Best Inspirational Homeschool blog
Best Homeschooling Humor blog
Best Team / Group Homeschool Blog
Best Homeschool Curriculum / Business Blog
Best Homeschool Blog Template Design
Best Canadian Homeschool Blog
Best International Homeschool Blog
Best Current Events Homeschool Blog
Best Homeschool Arts Blog
Best Homeschool Photo Blog

And her deadline for making nominations is Dec. 11.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Identifying with the New Adam

You will really enjoy Peter Leithart's meditation on Joseph, Jesus' adoptive father. Leithart compares Joseph with his Old Testament namesake and contrasts his treatment of Mary with Adam's treatment of Eve. Definitely food for thought.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Creation's True Voice

It is no surprize that Christians of days gone by filled pagan symbols symbols with new meaning. We have always been about smashing idols. We have always been about giving created things their true voices. It is equally unsurprising that a generation that has spent its youth smashing symbols would misunderstand their meaning.

Remember the ten Plagues of Egypt? The Egyptians taught that the Nile, the sun, the frog, the earth/dust were gods. God's curse on them taught that they were created things, which would accomplish their Creator's will. The Egyptians used stinging flies as symbols of their infantry. God sent these creatures against the Egyptians, symbolizing the supremacy of God's armies over those of Egypt. Pharaoh was revered as a deity with power over life and death. God's final plague, the death of the firstborn, showed Pharaoh to be a human being subject himself to death.
"The earth is the Lord's." He defines its meaning to us. The same cloud that lead Israel from Egypt with glorious light by night and hovering shade by day, was darkness and confusion to God's enemies (Ex. 14:19, 20). The Egyptian cult ornaments that the Israelites took away as plunder when they left, became the gold and silver furnishings of the Tabernacle. (Some of them also became the golden calf, which Moses had ground to dust and then made Israel drink. This, too, gave the gold its true voice: blessings abused become curses.)

In this this vein, the apostle John used the buzzword of Greek philosophy, "logos", to express the extreme communication from God that is Jesus (Jn. 1:1-18). The living Word. Philosophy in flesh. Jesus is not a prophet; He is the prophecy. John gave this word its true voice, and the Greeks were able to hear.

Can we do less when it comes to our observance of Christmas? In the last Advent posting, we explored the meaning of Christmas' timing. Time itself speaks God's meanings (Gen. 1:14-19). Why not trees and candles and gifts and roaring fires?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Breaking News

You can find consevative, Christian commentary on current events in my new nationally-syndicated column at the American Chronicle.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

God's Historical Revisionism

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ....
(Christina Rossetti, music by Gustav Holst)

When I was younger, I wondered why we celebrate Christ's coming in the bleak mid-winter, when anybody who reads the Scriptures carefully figures that He really was born sometime in the spring. Sometime at any rate which was warm enough for shepherds to be keeping flocks out on the hills. And then I began to reflect upon what else was going on in the world, when the Church began to observe Christmas.

Christians found themselves working towards a new culture in the midst of their pagan kingdoms. Kingdoms and cultures which every mid-winter held religious festivals honoring the sun as a god. Winter was then a time of real fear. Would the days continue to grow shorter? Would light and warmth never return? Would the Sun-God abandon them to darkness and death? The winter solstice observances were attempts to appease the Sun-God, to entice him to return. It was an attempt to ensure that the cycle of seasons would continue. The best that could be hoped was that the wheel would turn once more.

The Christian celebration of Christmas at this time rather than at some other was a bold, immediate, emotionally-satisfying declaration that the power of darkness has been broken forever. Christ, the Light of the world, has come and will come again. This is no thin hope that the wheel might grind on. The hopeless treadmill of time has been given an end and a purpose. History is no longer a meaningless succession of events and interchangeable characters. Christ is the Lord of Years, the Potentate of Time.

He is re-writing history, giving it His meaning. He is re-writing my history. In the bleak mid-winter.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rejoice & Sing

Hymns and psalms have, from time out of mind, been a source of strength and solace to God's people. They model for us the attitudes that please Him, both in adversity and in triumph. They take our minds off of the gravitational well of Self. They teach us to pray.

It is a great poverty that our generation knows only the Top-Ten Christian radio hits of the moment. I have rarely found even a whole day's worth of those to be as nourishing as a single psalm.

Thanksgiving and Advent are a wonderful time to recover some sense of what we have lost, by revisiting an old American custom: the Psalm-Sing. We discovered this custom when we lived in the Washington, DC area and had friends in a church which sings nothing but psalms in worship. Whatever you think of that practice, we found that it makes amazing musicians of ordinary folk. They could sightread chorales in four-part harmony without accompaniment!

But a psalm-sing is simple to host.

In keeping with a theme of recovering our spiritual heritage, invite everyone to bring to bring potluck dishes that have been in their families for a generation or more - and bring the recipes to swap as well.
Have on hand a goodly supply of hymnals, psalters (psalms set to music), and/or psalter-hymnals. Our absolute favorite is Cantus Christi. It begins with a section which offers most of the psalms set to the most beautiful music from across the centuries, continues with an incredibly sumptuous selection of hymns both ancient and modern, and finishes up with service music (music that allows a congregation to sing the elements of worship: gathering, confession, prayer, thanksgiving, etc.) to die for. Follow this link to hear some of this heavenly music.
Invite some instrumentalists. While folks who are used to singing the psalms can sightread just about anything with no more support than a pitchpipe, most of the rest of us have never developed this ability. Don't despair! Just invite a pianist.

Start in the mid- to late-afternoon. At our psalm-sing, my husband kicks things off by piping in the hymnals. Sing a while. Feast. And sing some more. Our voices usually give out around 8 or 9pm. But everyone goes home joyfully filled, body and soul.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Still Thankful

The day opened with coffee and hymn-singing. I love waking the children by playing hymns on the piano until everyone has gathered with a glass of throat-waking tea or juice to fit together a three-part harmony. Of course yesterday I waited until almost 10am to become the alarm clock.

Then a leisurely brunch and conversation. The sunroom was filled with the golden Rocky Mountain morning, and the talk turned from literary discussions to news analysis to holiday hospitality planning. The menu was the brainchild of Petra, who innovated by pairing the Curried Fruit we usually serve with ham for dinner, with Sausage-Scrambled Eggs and a glorious crisp German Pancake (which we stuffed with the fruit).

Yes, gentle readers, the recipe:

Curried Fruit
6 c. sliced peaches, drained (or 3c. peaches and 3c. apricots)
3 c. sliced pears, drained
2 c. pineapple chunks, drained
1 c. craisins
1/4 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. curry powder
1 c. pecans, chopped & toasted
Preheat oven to 325F. Pat fruit dry. Arrange in oven-proof casserole. In another dish, melt together butter, brown sugar and curry. Spoon over the fruits. Bake 1 hr. Sprinkle nuts over the fruit just before serving.

German Pancake
3 eggs (2 will do in a pinch)
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. melted butter
Liberally oil an oven-proof skillet. Preheat oven to 450F. Beat eggs until foamy. Add everything else and beat smooth. Pour into skillet. Bake 20 min. Reduce heat to 350F. Prick the bubbles that rise in the center of the pancake. Bake 10 min. more. The pancake will rise up the sides of the skillet to form a crisp, golden brown bowl. Fill with fruit of your choice for brunch or dessert.

The family humored me by posing for hours for a family portrait. It ended up being great entertainment trying for a shot in which everybody looked normal at the same time AND the camera on delayed exposure cooperated by leaving everybody all body parts. Then we treated ourselves to long Skype conversations with as many of our long-distance friends and family as we knew would be home. There was time for naps and sketching and reading aloud together. We snacked on Chloe's luscious savory shortbreads: Blue Cheese & Chive and Cajun Cheddar, and Petra's Mulled Cider.

Dinner was late and was an immediate-family affair, so the menu was pretty scaled-back:

Cream of Peanut Soup with Swiss Almond Bread
Roast Turkey with Pecan Sausage Cornbread stuffing
Lemon Poppy Seed Brussels Sprouts
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Cranberry Orange Salad
Blackberry Pie
The Cream of Peanut Soup is the recipe everyone has requested.
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 sm. onion, chopped
1/4 c. butter
Saute the vegetables until tender. Add to make a roux
2 Tbsp. flour
Add, stirring until smooth
1 c. peanut butter
(You may freeze the soup base at this point. Be sure to thaw in the microwave rather than on the stove. This scorches easily.) Slowly add, stirring constantly
2 c. chicken broth
Just before serving stir in
1 c. milk
1 c. light cream
Heat thoroughly, but don't allow to boil. Serve with a garnish of chopped peanuts topping each bowl.
As the evening purpled into a glittering night, Dad and Robert built a fire, and we gathered for more conversation over each one's favorite hand work projects: sketching (Chloe & Petra), scrimshaw (Robert), jewelry-making (me). Dad had his hands full nursing the fire along. We discussed historical revisionist views of the Puritans, the pagan take-over of Christian holidays, and reminiscences of good times past. We talked over the mercies of God to us in the past year.
We found this rare quiet family-only day not only delighted us, but also strengthened us for the hospitality-intensive days ahead. In fact, our Thanksgiving celebrations aren't complete until after the Psalm-sing to which we invite everybody and his brother.
Next time: How to host a Psalm-sing

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I'd Like to Thank the Academy

Well, it's about time. Wouldn't you like to be able to thank the bloggers who contribute inspiration, beauty, encouragement or just plain entertainment to your life? Sallie of Two Talent Living has come up with a blogging award for women, the Blogs of Beauty Award. Her aim is to encourage articulate women.

Blogs of Beauty Award categories are:
Best Biblical Exhortation
Does the best job of bringing biblical truth and exhorting others to walk closely with the Lord Jesus. (Blog does not have to be exclusively a theological blog.)
Best Design - Contemporary

The most beautiful blog of a contemporary design.
Best Design - Traditional

The most beautiful blog of a non-contemporary design.
Best Discussion

Has the best discussions in the comments sections.
Best Encourager

Has the most encouraging blog content.
Best Frugality

Has the best content regarding frugality. (Blog does not have to be exclusively about frugality).
Best Homemaking

Has the best content regarding homemaking. (Blog does not have to be exclusively about homemaking.)
Best Homeschooling

Has the best content regarding homeschooling. (Blog does not have to be exclusively about homeschooling.)
Best Humor

Has the best humor.
Best Meet for a Mocha

The blogger you have never met and would most like to meet in person for a mocha.
Best Motherhood

Has the best content about being a mommy. (Blog does not have to be exclusively about motherhood.)
Best Quiet Spirit

Demonstrates a beautiful, quiet spirit through her blog entries.
Best Recipes

Has the best recipes. (Blog does not have to be exclusively about cooking.)
Best Variety

Has the most enjoyable variety of content.

Nominations are open until Tuesday, November 29 at 8:00pm EST. Visit Sallie's uplifting blog to nominate your favorite feminine blogger(s)- and a good read! Sallie plans to publish a list of winners which links to those blogs, so that you, gentle reader, will have some good holiday reading!

Just around the corner, Spunky at Spunky Homeschooler, has also designed a blog award for homeschoolers. Her categories?

Best Homeschooling Mom Blog
Best Homeschooling Dad Blog
Best Homeschooling Family blog
Best Homeschooling Teen blog
Best Informational Homeschool blog
Best Inspirational Homeschool blog
Best Homeschooling Humor blog
Best Team / Group Homeschool Blog
Best Homeschool Curriculum / Business Blog
Best Homeschool Blog Design.
Best Canadian Homeschool Blog
Best International Homeschool Blog

Spunky is still accepting ideas for categories, and will open nominations soon. I'll keep you posted.

I will be giving thanks this season, not only for the mercies of the Lord, but also for the people by whom those mercies come - among them some bloggers. I expect to be introduced to a whole list of engaging, delightful blogs. More cause for thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2005


We have always been a clannish lot. I suppose it is the heritage of those generations of pioneers who even into the 1930's were setting out in extended families to carve a home out of hitherto wild and uninhabitable places, expecting to support and depend on one another to survive. We have not been able, in the uninhabitable wilds of urban America, to shake that expectation. But sometimes we wonder whether we'll survive each other. Take Thanksgiving Day...

We had gathered in all our extented glory the night before at the Montana home of the clan patriarch - Great Grandparents to newborns. Breakfast was a hubbub of hungry tots and pre-adolescent wanna-be chefs. My sleepy and distractible Grandmother was methodically toasting frozen waffles. Impatient of the creaky toaster, I efficiently popped a whole trayful of waffles in the broiler and turned to urgent matters of justice concerning too few warm waffles among so many little mouths.
No one liked the squeal of the nervy smoke alarm, protesting mother's bacon frying. Roger, my sister's husband, cheerfully disarmed it. By then the entire clan had crowded into the kitchen, pouring coffee and hoping for a stack of the bacon-crowned waffles the Grandmothers were turning out so enticingly.
"What's this?" blustered my Granddad, indicating the blue tendrils of what could only be smoke vining up the wall from the broiler. Roger jerked the oven open. It belched smoke and flame like a dragon with indigestion. He quickly closed it again. "I'll just turn off the gas. It'll burn itself out in a minute," he chirped.
A shocked hush fell in response to this bit of cheerful denial.
It was my mess..."Stand back!" I said, laying about me with towels and potholders, "I'll take 'em outside!"
Impressed, the wide-eyed children pressed back into their chairs from which they had an excellent view of the dragon. The grown-ups in disarray were equally unwilling to miss the spectacle.
I, with burning eyes and wild hair illuminated by towering flames, swung around narrowly missing my startled Granddad. "Move!" I shouted in terror of the shimmering waffles. He scrambled backward, treading Roger's toes, bouncing off the packed wall of onlookers. But wherever he turned, there I was with those hellfire waffles, bellowing, "Move! Move! Move!"
I was enjoying the fresh air and the satisfying sizzle as the offending pan sank slowly into the snowbank, when I heard my husband quieting the children, "Tend to your breakfast, now. It's not like you've never seen flaming waffles before."
Not to be outdone, Roger quipped, "Hey, Liz, do you think you could make us some of those Billings Waffles Flambe when we get home?"

Unhappily, my thrill-a-minute brother, Jim had missed the waffle excitement, so he determined to make his own by offering rides in his new business helicopter. We soared above the spectacular rims and rivers of the Billings environs. Four-year-old Winston excitedly found the toy-sized train huffing by below. Piloting, Jim turned to check everyone's seatbelts with what, I realized a moment later, was a mischievous gleam in his eye.
He slanted the copter over the rims in a gravity-enhanced dive that trailed delighted shreiks and whoops of laughter. Grinning Winston declared, "That was better than a BIG rollicoaster!"
Walking back to the car, Liz and I exchanged opinions about our rides. "Care for a toffee?" I inquired by the way. She turned a polite shade of green. "No, thanks," she hesitated delicately. "You remember the part where Jim plunged over the cliffs?" I nodded helpfully. "Well, as we went down, my waffles... rose to the occasion... I think I said something like 'Gack' or 'Urg'. I hoped nobody noticed, but then I realized that with those hearing-protector earphones and mikes, I had broadcast it through the entire helicoper!" I patted her sympathetically as she paused uncomfortably. "Whatever you do," she groaned, "don't tell Jim!"

Thanksgiving Day turned out to be one of those magical days that have room in them for all the lovely things you hoped would fit. The children made cornhusk pilgrims with Liz, and illustrated books of their thank-you notes for each family at my kitchen table scriptorium. We feasted on turkey and old stories. The daddies did the dishes in gratitude to the cooks.
In the evening, we gathered by the light of glowing harvest hymns to tell what God had taught us to be grateful for in what we had never thought to be able to give thanks. Youngest to oldest, four generations unfolded treasures of God's graciousness. And as Granddad prayed over each family, pouring comfort and strength over the broken, sore, unfinished places of our lives, I hoped I wouldn't survive this bunch.

November 30, 1996
Kim Anderson

Friday, November 18, 2005

Radical Response

My world literature students are studying satire. Sometimes, though, the news couldn't be more howlingly absurd if Jonathan Swift himself were writing it. Take those Islamic youth in France, rioting, killing, burning, and generally terrorizing all and sundry...all to prove to a skeptical French public that they (the youth afore-mentioned) aren't terrorists.

These young people may feel that they are in the vanguard of a cutting-edge movement to highlight the plight of poor immigrant Muslims in France. But rioting in the streets as a means of redressing percieved wrongs has a tradition in France, going right back to the Terror. It's so 200 years ago.

Everybody's doing it. Unhappy with something in your life? Find somebody to blame, and torch something. Hardly a radical response. Ho hum!

No one can deny the reality of oppression in the modern world. Much of it is based on ethnic and religious hatred. But taking to the streets with death and destruction in mind will never change the hearts and minds of the oppressors; nor will it heal the wounds of the oppressed.

In the same week that the French riot story broke, there was another story that broke with little fanfare. But it was a truly radical response to oppression.

A Palestinian 12-year-old was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, who mistook his toy gun for a real one.
Ahmed Ismail Khatib might have become one more statistic in the long and bloody history of Israeli-Palestinian relations, one more flash-point for internecine retaliations. But Ahmed's parents chose instead to make their son's death a seed of healing They donated his organs for transplant. And not to just any transplant recipients. No. Six Israelis now have a new start in life because Ahmed is dead.

But is he really? I think not. His legacy of love, bold love, sacrificial love will live on in those six Israelis. And it will be a seed of healing. You will not read about it much in the limelight. (Seeds sprout in the dark.)

Now THAT is radical!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Real Grown-ups Part 4

Melissa's interview continues....

Mother-Lode: What ambitions do you have beyond high school and what has most shaped those ambitions?

Melissa: First, I want to be a godly woman; second, if God wills, to be a godly wife and mother; third, to raise godly children. But you already knew that!
My two other main ambitions are 1) to teach a world-changer and 2) to write at least one really good book—one that challenges and informs and educates in a witty, pithy package.
My first goal has been shaped, in part, by the realization that I have a real gift for teaching. My ability to communicate well is an enhancement of that gift, but merely an add-on nonetheless. And since it has always been my goal to be the best at whatever I do, I started to think about what is the highest goal for a teacher. Sure, to be a good teacher is nice, and to be famous during my lifetime would be pleasant, but what would be the most effective thing I could do as a teacher? I could teach someone who took what they learned, left the cave, and civilized the world. That would be a worthwhile legacy indeed.
My second goal has been shaped by, unsurprisingly, reading great books and wanting to be like the authors. My hope for this future volume is that it would be something set on people’s shelves next to works by the Inklings, because the members of that fabled club have influenced my writing and thought life deeply. There are other writers I admire, but I really like the way Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, G.K Chesterton, and Charles Williams wrote, and I choose them (especially the first two) as my literary role models for their accessibility of style and mastery of English, and for the intellectual rigor of their content.

Mother-Lode: Do you plan to pursue higher education? Why or why not?

Melissa: Most definitely. My vision for the purpose of my college education was given to me when I was about 14 and Dr. Michael Farris spoke at our state homeschool convention. On the first day, he was given an hour and a half to plug the college he had just founded in Virginia: Patrick Henry College. Dr. Farris spoke of his goal to provide a college major that would prepare young women to be home schooling mothers, and about the classical liberal arts major that PHC would offer to fulfill the need he saw.
Since then, I have focused my quest for higher education on one idea—that my college education should train me to teach my own children. It’s really that simple. There is a world of knowledge out there that isn’t mine (yet!) that I want my children to have, but I can’t give it to them unless it is mine to begin with and I can’t lead them where I haven’t already seen the track. Hopefully, my education will give me a head-start on my children so that I don’t have to read the lessons the night before class until my children are mature enough to have patience with me.
To that end, I am hoping to attend New St. Andrew’s college in Moscow, Idaho beginning next fall. NSA is a trinitarian, reformed, classical college with one major: Classical Liberal Arts and Culture. When I looked at their course outline, I fell in love. They teach languages, rhetoric, and music (among other courses), and the capstone of the entire program is a two-year in-depth look at Thought and its expression in Western Civilization.

Mother-Lode: Do you feel a tension between the careerism that pursuing a college degree usually implies, and your desire to be a wife and mother?

Melissa: I do, especially when asked by well-meaning friends and co-workers “What do you plan to do with your degree?” They mean, of course, “What job will that screwy degree get you?” This is where I get to have fun messing with people’s minds. I start by saying that I want to be a teacher, and most people nod their heads and mumble something about ‘that doesn’t pay very well, but we need good teachers’; then I hit them with the punch line…my “job plan” is to teach/tutor from my home, so that I can work the schedule around my children and family life.
My own method of resolving that conflict, then, is to have a strict value hierarchy. When a “career” and my family are in conflict, my family will come first; nay, they must come first, for this is what I believe to the core of my soul. Still, denying career-ism does not mean that I shun the possibility of a long-term money-making endeavor (whether you call that a career or cottage industry or something else), especially before I am married. I relish the idea of providing extra income by doing something I love, and I believe that I should use God’s gifts both before and after marriage, both in raising my family and in single-mindedness.

Mother-Lode: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to decide whether to homeschool in high school?

Melissa: First, pray--earnestly seek to know what God’s will is for your family. Second, clarify your family’s vision for education. Why do you teach your children? What do you most want them to learn?
Third, inform yourself. Before you automatically reject or accept homeschooling through high school, find out what it involves in your area, what you will be able to do, and what you won’t be able to do. I know dozens of families in our area who put their children back in the government school system because they didn’t know about all the opportunities for their children as home schooled high schoolers. On the other hand, if you expect activities and programs as your entitlement and you want a traditional high school that is just set at home, you may want to ask yourself why your child isn’t at a private school or in the government system.
Of course, this is all directed at the family who is facing that sit-down discussion asking “Should we? Or shouldn’t we?” If you’re like my family was, secure in your calling as a homeschool family, don’t fret about homeschooling through high school. Ninth grade follows Eighth just like Third followed Second, and the process is still basically the same (or so my mom tells me); only the subject matter changes.
A fourth piece of advice comes to mind: don’t worry if your children will turn out “normal”…since when was that ever the idea?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Real Grown-Ups: Part 3

Returning to our series on young people who have rejcted modern notions of adolescence, Mother-Lode is pleased to introduce Melissa, Bev's eldest daughter.

Melissa is a high-school graduate, currently taking a gap year to save up for college so she won't go into debt. She was the third place value debater and first place debate speaker in the nation at the 2003 NCFCA national tournament. In the fall of 2003, Melissa was a Communicators For Christ intern, speaking and teaching at 12 conferences in 12 states. During her tenure with CFC, she co-wrote the first Value Debate track offered to beginning debaters. For three years, she has been a contributor to a nationally-recognized value debate textbook, Lincoln-Douglas Debate: Guidebook for Debating the (current Year) Value Topic, and has been a debate club organizer and tournament administrator. Melissa was the youngest member of the Executive Committee for Chaves County Republican Women, serving, at various times, as Newsletter and Legislative Alert committee chairs. Last year, Melissa interned at her state capitol, where she used her debate skills to aid statesmen who support homeschooling ( a rare breed in her liberal state). In August 2004, Melissa travelled to New York City as a page for the Republican National Convention. Ultimately, she aims much higher than politics; she plans on changing the world as a teacher, one child at a time.

Mother-Lode: How did your family decide to homeschool you through high school?

Melissa: I actually had to ask my mom about this one! From my perspective, there was never really any choice--I simply followed where my parents led, and eventually that meant homeschooling in high school.
Even my parents, though, never said to each other, "We're coming up on high school now...should we keep doing this or not?” The just continued their commitment to obey God’s call for our family, which meant homeschooling (unless otherwise forcefully notified from above).

Mother-Lode: Many outside the homeschool community assume that homeschoolers either have a very affluent background or an extremely limited background - possibly abusively so. What part has adversity played in shaping your character and education?

Melissa: My mother has for many years alternately battled, suffered under, and succumbed to a disease called Fibromyalgia. Simply, her body doesn’t repair itself at night from the stress of the day as efficiently or as well as yours and mine do. Instead, she wakes up every morning with the previous day's wear and tear already pulling on her joints and muscles, which means that most days she is either in serious pain or desperately tired.
This has forced my sister and I to learn a lot of character traits by necessity. Compassion, especially, is a character trait that I’m sure I would never have learned half as well if Mama hadn’t struggled so much. Independence, or Self-Reliance, is another character trait that I was taught very early because Mama simply couldn’t make breakfast every morning as soon as I woke up, or teach math when she had a migraine; ergo, I had to sink or swim very fast. Of course, I wasn’t abandoned without guidance, but I learned how to study on my own sooner than many of my friends.
Besides requiring a lot of independent study, Mama's Fibromyalgia meant that a great deal of my high school education was much more hands-on and practical education than most. My transcript includes several long “practica” on home management (basic repair, home economics, lawn maintenance, interior design, time management, etc.) that started as “just helping my mom” and developed over time into true courses.
There’s another important area where our family adversity has shaped my character—it’s brought me a lot closer to my dad that I would have been otherwise. In facing our family’s difficulty, and in working to keep the house running when mama wasn’t able to, we’ve learned (the hard way!) how to really communicate with each other. Through the really tough times a few years ago, Daddy was the one encouraging me, teaching me and guiding me through the process of keeping our house in order. I've learned to rely on him and trust him more than I would have if Mama had been able to run things all the time.

Mother-Lode: What projects in your high school career have seized your imagination?

Melissa: Teaching public speaking and debate to students and parents has been one of my biggest projects and my biggest loves in high school. I love simplifying the difficult concepts of academic debate and putting them in understandable terms, and I love encouraging students with feedback and critiques. I loved my five years of competition in the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association, but this past year I was able to finally be on the side where my heart truly lies—coaching and helping run tournaments.
Now that I’ve graduated, and will probably be going off to college, I’d like to help other tournament administrators, especially new ones in states that are just beginning to have NCFCA competition, by sharing what I’ve learned behind the scenes at a large variety of tournaments. I’m not sure yet if it will be by writing a book or over the internet somehow (since I’ll be away at school), but I definitely want to stay involved with the NCFCA. I also want to do something along the same lines for value debate teachers and coaches—give them the support I never had as a “loner” in the debate world. The other project that I thoroughly enjoy is desktop publishing, especially layout and design work. Several years ago, I helped my parents edit/compile the handbook for our state convention, and discovered that I have fun making words look good on a page. Actually, I’m continually fascinated by all the capabilities of technology (not just professional-quality layout from a home PC), and one of my hobbies is to keep abreast of technological innovations.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Standing on Titans' Shoulders

November 1, All Saints' Day. Today is the day when Christians have traditionally remembered all the faithful who have gone before. It's a practice which most Protestants have relegated to the scrapheap of superstition. But reflection need not be superstition, and there is much we could learn by remembering and reflecting upon the lives and deeds of our spiritual fathers. Indeed, without thoughtful reflection, we live on their legacies like squatters rather than like sons.

Last week's San Antonio Christian Independent Film Festival was food for some of this inter-generational reflection.

When I was in college, my peers and I, like every young generation, wanted to change the world. We talked and prayed about taking over academia, achieving political influence, capturing the culture's imagination through the media, bringing down Communisim with the Gospel, and financing it all through our own private businesses. We haven't gotten very far.

Most of my generation had no desire to connect with those who had gone before, and to be fair, most of the previous generation had nothing much to pass on. As Francis Schaeffer put it, they were concerned chiefly with "personal peace and affluence". (Though my parents were an exception to the rule.) We had to learn to look farther back for shoulders on which to stand.

However, at the Film Festival, most of the filmmakers were my generation's children. And they were consciously standing on our shoulders, working to accomplish those things we had only dreamed and prayed. Probably the one thing my generation has been able to do, is to raise children on purpose, training them in the vision we have not been able to attain. But we have been able to give them shoulders on which to stand.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Conquering Sons

If art is warfare, then praise would be the most devastating weapon in her arsenal. What other weapon is inhabited by God? (Ps 22:3 "Thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.") What other brings down city walls (Joshua 6), busts up prisons (Acts 16:25 ff) and scatters armies without a blow (2Chron. 20)? The cherubim who guard the throne of God, wall it around with chants of "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come!" (Rev 4:8)

Where are the strong young men who will learn to wield this weapon with skill and finesse?

We have become such a limp-wristed bunch! Gone are the days when strong men sang poetry in public in order to brace up the troops for battle. Gone are the warriors who knew they would prevail if the bagpipes led them into the teeth of the fray. And it should come as no surprize to us, that praise in worship is no longer percieved as a manly thing.

Our sons will conquer by praise as we train them to think of it as a sort of swordplay. They already know how a put-down cuts. We must show them the true use of the tongue's cutting edge. Every word of worship and praise to God a cut to His enemies. Every song a death-blow to the despair that characterizes our present age, and a clarion call to rally the juggernaughts of Heaven. Until the accumulated praises raze the strongholds of the evil one, free his prisoners, and scatter his minions in shame and confusion.

In my speech club, we have an exercise we call "heavy-lifting", in which we practice introducing one another with praises. It is the inverse of the put-down, a cut to Satan's enticement to us to use our speech to cut each other. It is the only exercise for which prizes are awarded on the spot. Praise is becomming cool, and more importantly, it is becomming a habit.

This coming holiday season, I will be working to teach my son, who has recently come into his bass voice, to sing the bass lines of the hymns and carols of the season. I hear him flailing around trying to find a line that is comfortable in his new range, and realize that this voice change handicaps young men in praise at this vulnerable stage. Perhaps we can use this as an opportunity to train them to think of praise as their weapon of choice, and to expect to work out on the sparring ground as a regular feature of life.

In mediaeval times, it was a woman's office to gird a young knight with his sword. All around us are men who have forgotten the use of the sword. But while it will necessarily fall to men to perfect the skills of praise in our young men, I hope I will be belting on plenty of swords. I want to see the wicked strongholds fall.

Worship and Conquest

The San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival is in full swing. In its opening ceremonies, organizers expounded the theme of art as warfare, a juxtaposition that may seem jarring. However, I think it is an apt comparison.

In his
exposition of Old Testament bibilical themes, Peter Leithart points out that the first battles of Joshua's conquest were fought on the same ground where Abraham had built altars centuries before. This means that worship consecrates the land on which it is conducted to God. It becomes holy ground, set aside for Yahweh's use and pleasure. "Worship is the pre-conquest of Canaan..." as Leithart says.

The line between worship and art is a fine one. Certainly art participates in worship. Art is the handmaid of worship. Everything that God established in the Old Testament worship templates drips with art. Embroidered tapestries were the walls and doors of the Tabernacle. The furnishings were finely wrought gold, silver and brass. The air was perfumed with incense. The priests wore gorgeous robes. The rituals performed by the worshippers formed a stately dance of repentance and redemption, which ususally climaxed with a banquet in God's presence.

In our day, our culture's imagination is an un-conquered pagan stronghold. It will not fall to the haphazard efforts of un-connected individualists, who are in it for the fun or the fame. No, it will need an army of true artists, who will craft their work as both worship and warfare.

Jericho fell to the trumpets announcing the arrival of the True King, Whose throne was carried on the shoulders of the Levites. The swordplay that followed was a mop-up operation. King Jehosaphat (2 Chron 20) turned the tide of a hopeless battle by sending out Levites singing the praises of God. We would do well to follow their example.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Professional Mothers - Bev 2

Today, we continue the interview with professional mother, Bev. Just for the record, Bev notes that her work with the InterVarsity Urbana conferences was done as a stay-at-home wife BC (before children).

Mother-Lode: In the course of your work as a mother, what kinds of things have you done?

Oh, goodness! All kinds of things!

The longest and most challenging thing I’ve done is home schooling my two daughters, who are now 19 and 17, for the past 15 years. My oldest, Melissa, graduated from home school this past summer and Margaret has two years to go before graduating. This has stretched me beyond anything I would have imagined when Melissa came to us at age 4, begging to be taught to read. I’ve gotten the education I never had or simply forgot, and I’ve come to realize how much more I still have to learn.

I have taken great pleasure in learning to do new things and challenging myself to do things I already know better. If I say so myself, I’ve become a really good cook. A year ago, I found out that I’m allergic to all foods containing gluten (wheat, oats, barley and rye) and have learned that it’s possible to cook wonderful meals without any of those ingredients. In addition, I have to try to find recipes that don’t include dairy (or where it can be added on the side) or tomato because of the girls’ allergies. Try matching that challenge! In the past couple of years I’ve begun an herb garden, which has been a lot of fun and has added to the flavors I use in my cooking.

I’ve taken a course in Interior Design at our community college, and put those new skills to work in making our home beautiful. This has included re-upholstering our couch, learning faux finishes for the walls, and making drapes. The best part of our biggest design project was that the girls and I did all the planning, shopping and work ourselves while Tom was out of town taking care of his mother. It was so fun and challenging to make it a “girls project” and to learn how capable we really are.

We’ve traveled quite a bit around the U.S. for speech and debate, seeing all kinds of new things and making friends. When the girls were quite small (2 & 4) we lived in American Samoa for two years while Tom worked for the Samoan Attorney General. The girls don’t remember much of it, but living in another culture and making friends from around the world enriched my life tremendously.

Mother-Lode: How have you dealt with the feminists' view that a career is all-important for the full development of women, and with the pull of careerism in your own life?
The feminists’ view of a career being necessary for the full development of women needs to be seen for what it is: a false dichotomy. They hold up a career as the means of women developing themselves, because they have failed to see the challenge of parenting done well. I believe they think of a housewife as someone who sits around watching soap operas and eating bonbons, failing to use her mind in any productive manner. Ultimately, I believe feminism is selfish, setting up the plaint I frequently hear, “But what about me?” In a hierarchy of values, what I want to do is more important that what others need from me.

Being a good mother and wife is hard work; it takes a lot of energy and creativity and know-how. How the feminists can say that all this isn’t fully developing my mind and isn’t fulfilling is quite simply beyond me! Titus 2:5 says that among other things, women are to be busy at home and a repeated character trait of the Proverbs 31 woman is that she is industrious. However, she isn’t just “stuck at home”; she has a business selling linen and sashes to the merchants, understands how to make wise land purchases and how to grow a vineyard.

There are so many possibilities of things a mother can do that are fulfilling both at home and outside her home. The trick is to find those things in which you can include your family. I will admit it may be hard to see anything fulfilling about changing the umpteenth diaper or doing another load of laundry, especially when our children are very young, but even in those years it can be done.

God had generously given me gifts in the area of administration, and using those in the areas I chosen for involvement has definitely settled the question of “careerism” in my life. I have good, intellectually challenging work to do in a variety of arenas, including my home and family. A benefit is that as my family changes and my interests change, I have the freedom to move on to the next arena without the fear of any employer giving me a poor job reference.

In the realm of home schooling, I was the leader of a local home school support group for several years and am called on annually to speak to a group of community leaders about home schooling. I have volunteered in several capacities for the NM home school convention, doing the desk-top publishing for the convention handbook and leading several workshops. In our community, I have volunteered at the Community Kitchen , teaching adult Sunday School, coached the Bible Quiz for AWANA, and been Superintendent of the Arts and Crafts building at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair.

In learning along with my daughters, I have become a public speaking coach and have learning to coach and judge debate. These skills have put me in place to help run the NM speech and debate tournaments, primarily working with the community judges.

I am also a past-president of Chaves Country Republican Women, one of the largest Republican Women Clubs in NM. This was a tremendous challenge, because it covered the time frame of re-electing both President G.W. Bush and a highly effective freshman representative to Congress. It involved educating women about the political process, raising funds for candidates, walking precincts and lobbying legislators in Santa Fe.

Every one of these activities included the girls or came about because of home schooling them. The support group was a family activity, the girls were runners at the Fair and later moved up to taking in exhibits and arranging them for display. Republican Women welcomed them with open arms and put them to work, and even created a new category of membership for girls who are not yet 18.

Mother-Lode: How would you advise a young woman about to graduate from high school?

Don’t just “settle” for what our society may be telling you to do. Life is fulfilling and challenging when you go about it purposefully and intentionally. Think about what you are doing and the choices you are making. Are you only doing it because everyone else is doing it? The better things in life come when you choose to do those things that are inherently difficult, because the rewards and satisfaction are so much greater.
Mother-Lode: What have been the returns of your labors as a mother?

First and foremost, I have grown in my relationship with the Lord. I have been pushed back into Scripture time and again, and I have had to rely on Him daily. I don’t want to sound like everything is sunshine and roses – there have been many, many days when I have started the day simply asking for the strength to get out of bed and open my eyes (in that order!). Overall, my knowledge of Scripture has grown because I have wanted my girls to have a greater knowledge of God and His purposes in the world than I had growing up.

I have become much less selfish, much more competent and much, much more confident in my personal abilities. I used to have a lot of ideas and opinions but was afraid to express them for fear of what others would think; as you know, that doesn’t seem to be a problem any more!

In teaching my daughters to respect their father, I have gained a far deeper respect for all that he does, which in turn has made my love for Tom all the stronger.

I have a wonderful relationship with my daughters; I count them among my dearest friends. I know so many women who have teenage daughters, who look at them rather helplessly and murmur “Oh, well, this too shall pass. We just have to let her get this [whatever ‘this’ may be] out of her system” or they ring their hands feeling impotent as a parent to have any influence in the lives of their teens. We have not had this experience, and I’m convinced it is God’s blessing in response to our obedience to home school, and the constant 24/7 input we have been able to have in the girls’ lives. We sit up late at night and talk and giggle and frequently talk about the things that are on their minds, and this has built trust between us, so that the girls will talk to me about all that is going on in their lives, whether it is fashion, theology, work or relationships with their friends. What a tremendous blessing for a mother!

Overall, I can’t imagine NOT being a mother. My life is rich with experiences, but most of all, rich with the love of my family. Through being a mother, I know, too, that my life has made a difference in the lives of others. I already see results through the influence of my daughters on others’ lives, and can’t wait to see what they are going to do as mothers. (Actually, I can wait. I’m just looking forward with great anticipation!)

Mother-Lode: If you had it to do over again, would you make the choice to be a professional mother?

Absolutely! Only…. Would I get to keep all the things I’ve learned this time around?!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Professional Mothers - Bev

Meet Bev. Wife of Tom, mother of Melissa and Margaret. Homeschool teacher for 15 years.

In the course of her stay-at-home career, she has worked for
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Urbana conventions, organizing small group Bible studies, seminars and exhibits for 18,000+ attendees. She has won so many cooking, sewing, canning, and arts awards, that they finally gave up and made her Superintendent of Arts & Crafts at the Eastern NM State Fair. Bev served on the Republican Party of NM State Central Committee, and was precinct chair of Chaves County Republican Party Central Committee. Citizen lobbyist and invited advocate for home school and family issues at the NM Legislature and at Leadership Roswell for 10 years. She is the National Christian Forensics & Communication Association's State Representative for NM, and has run more high school tournaments than you can shake a stick at. As a local speech & debate coach, she has worked with middle schoolers, high schoolers, the Optimist Club, Communicators for Christ, and has assisted forensics programs in Texas, Arizona and Colorado.

Bev is currently the Republican Party's best hope for winning state office - but NOT, she says to Party officials who come, hat in hand, to her door, until Margaret, her youngest, graduates.

Lest you dismiss her as just another financially fortunate Type-A show-off, realize that Bev accomplishes all this on Tom's modest public-defender's income, while living with
Fibromyalgia (a debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome).

If you came to her door, she'd invite you in for tea and something astonishingly scrumptious from her gluten-free kitchen. So if you'd like to join us, grab your tea-cup.

Mother-Lode: Did you purpose to become a mother? Why or why not?

Overall, I can’t say I “purposed” to become a mother. Being a wife and mother has always seemed to me to be the highest calling for a Christian woman. I’m greatly blessed to have multiple generations of strong Christians in both my parents’ families, and even in times of great extremity, these women managed to stay home to care for their families and raise their children.

I do remember in high school purposing to be a stay-at-home mother. This happened as I looked at the lives of several friends whose mothers worked outside the home. Almost without exception, those girls faced difficulties I didn't because my mom was home, problems that seemed directly attributable to the fact that their mothers weren’t home when they were. Watching them, I promised myself that, short of death, my children wouldn’t be put in the situation of having to manage without me.

Before Tom and I were married, we had long talks about having children. One of the things that had impressed me about him one of the first times we did something together was watching him get down on the floor and spend a long time playing with the children who were there, children he hadn’t previously met. So I knew that when we married, motherhood was part of the plan. If Tom and I hadn’t been in agreement before marriage about wanting children, I wouldn’t have married him, because it was far too important an issue to me.

Mother-Lode: When and how did you begin to prepare yourself for this life's work?

I haven’t ever thought of it as intentionally preparing myself, but instead that I was prepared by others for being a professional mother.

My mother did an outstanding job of training my sister and I to be mothers. From the time we were little, she began teaching us the things we would need to run a home – dusting, ironing (a penny for each of Dad’s handkerchiefs and a nickel for every pillowcase), cleaning a bathroom and how to cook. She always made cooking look like so much fun; I remember particularly being fascinated by watching her make crabapple jelly after dragging us all down the street to pick a neighbor’s tree. (Making good jelly is something I still haven’t mastered.) Mom also taught us to sew and do all kinds of needlework, not just because it was frugal, but because those skills help us bring beauty into our homes.

Now, quite honestly, I don’t know that she always thought of it as training us for motherhood! She has lived with severe pain most of her life, and we needed to be able to do things such as clean the house and cook meals because many times they simply wouldn’t have been done any other way. As I’ve thought about that over the years, though, I think God used her pain to force her to pass on these skills. It’s tough teaching kids to clean a bathroom properly or to cook a meal, and if it weren’t for necessity, she might have been tempted to just do them all herself.

Most of all though, she instilled in us the idea that doing these things brings glory to God. She would often talk about reading A.W. Tozer, who first opened her eyes to the idea that God doesn’t just call us to “ministry”. He calls us to be homemakers, and realtors, and carpenters and truck-drivers, and in each of those we should do our work in a way that brings glory to Him.

Dad made sure I knew how to make household repairs. He and I often worked together on projects, partly because his vision is poor and I could help him see, but also so that I wouldn’t always have to call a repairman. He taught me to change a light switch and an electric outlet, and when I went away to college, he gave me a toolbox with the basic tools I would need. A family joke is that I learned to repair extension cords because I kept running the lawnmower over its extension cord, until the cord began to look like a python! Dad didn’t let me get out of jobs because I had difficulties like mowing over the cord, he simply taught me to fix the cord, and go on and finish the job. He also set a standard for things like a well-tended lawn, including trimming hedges and bushes, that sticks with me today.

Dad also made sure that we all were skilled and knowledgeable in music. I am adequate on piano and played bassoon very well. As a friend of my mom’s used to say, I think of music as “a pearl in my apron pocket”. A band director I had in 5th – 8th grade expected excellence from us. We played music in his band that I didn’t play again until UNM, and I learned from him that children will rise to the challenge of excellence if only the adults in their lives will give them that challenge.

I also have a college degree, one of those rather eclectic “University Program” types, but the major emphasis was in small business management. I’ve always been good at organizing things, and this degree gave me a number of skills that I’ve continued to use, including accounting and marketing. After college, I worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on the Urbana Missions Conventions. That work taught me to stick with things through exhaustion, the necessity of good organization, and the great personal satisfaction of work well done.

Next time: More Bev...


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