Saturday, December 31, 2005
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
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!
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
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
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
For He that is mighty has done to me great
and holy is His name and His mercy is upon them that
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
Friday, December 23, 2005
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
"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
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
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
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
Here is a bedtime story about giving things their true voices. God rest ye merry!
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.
All rights reserved.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
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
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
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?