Tuesday, August 14, 2007
And my friend Arden has an interesting series going about reading hard books with your children. See her dumbed-down-resistant reading list at Woman Come Home.
Me? I'm writing personalized PowerPoint presentations for two different value debate camps, a college prep workshop and a book fair. Well, and a Bible study for publication. Wanna peek? Come back tomorrow!
Monday, August 13, 2007
God inhabits the praises of His people. By praises, battles were won and cities were overthrown. By praises, David established the kingdom of Israel, Paul freed prisoners and won the Praetorian Guard.
Recently, I have had occasion to witness how much the Evil One fears and resists the praise of God.
Anne spent most of the summer at the famous Interlochen Arts Camp, studying music composition. Throughout her work there she made no secret of the religious impulse for her pursuit of music. For the culmination of her six weeks of work there, she set a portion of the psalm David composed for the inauguration of his tabernacle at Jerusalem, the forerunner of the Temple proper. (The text is found in IChron. 16: 8-36) She was the only composer to set text for the human voice and hers was the only Scripture slated to be sung by any of the nearly 2,500 music students over the entire summer.
Well, composition students at Interlochen are responsible to recruit and to rehearse musicians to perform their pieces at the three New Composers' Forums. And the quality of the performance has to be approved by their composition faculty.
Throughout the summer, Anne was particularly plagued by difficulties with getting everybody to the right place at the right times. First, one cellist after another forgot or double-booked the faculty demonstration hour or didn't have time to practice. Then the harpist forgot to reserve a harp for the Forum hour. None of her early pieces appeared on the Forums for which they were scheduled. And these were the non-religious instrumental pieces.
For the Chronicles piece, she kept the musicians required to a minimum: two sopranos, a baritone and a piano. Things went along swimmingly until the pianist failed to show up for the warm-up rehearsal for the faculty. Her professor graciously gave her an extra hour to find her pianist before the professor went home for the day.
Anne covered the large Interlochen campus personally and with the help of friends. She called me at Winston's Shakespeare play in great distress. And the whole cast did the only thing we could; we prayed. But the pianist seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth (as far as we know, he was never seen at camp again. But this was the last two days...).
Finally, she was sitting outside her professor's office waiting to tell him the sad news, when another student saw her long face and asked if she was OK. She looked up and realized that this young man was a piano/organ major who is the music minister at his home church.
"How's your sightreading?" she asked. "Pretty good," he shrugged modestly.
'Pretty good' (Ha! I've seen the music. It's challenging.) was good enough. Not only did this young man con the score in 15 minutes, but he had it well enough in hand to help cue the singers from the keyboard - as he so often did back at his church.
So on the last Forum on the the last day of camp on the last Sunday of Interlochen, the praise of the Lord rang from a bastion of secular arts. And I got to hear it!
Whenever God promised Abraham a part of Canaan, Abraham built an altar there and offered the sacrifices pleasing to the Lord. It was a declaration that this land was marked for conquest by God. Interlochen has been so marked by the sacrifice of praise. Won't it be interesting to see the conquest?!
Thursday, August 09, 2007
You may be a Wonder Woman, but you're not God. There are some things that are beyond our strength and wisdom. There are some things that aren't our job. How will we tell when we're over the line - without actually fizzing into burn-out?
Well God isn’t a slave-driver, and He doesn’t want you to behave like He is. Slaves never rest; free men do. God calls us to be free in Him, and that includes resting – about one day in seven.
For most of us leader-types, this really goes against the grain. We are certain that we’re able to do just about everything we are asked to do. And we are equally certain that if we don’t do it no one else will. Fools’ gold!
The Sabbath principle reminds us that we are not gods, able to accomplish everything we desire. We rely utterly upon His strength in our work, anticipating God’s completion of what our finite abilities will never finish. God calls us not merely to work, but to celebrate as well. The Sabbath gives us perspective on a God who is mighty and joyful.
If that proposed responsibility means that you can never take a Sabbath, you can be sure it isn’t God’s calling for you. Just say ‘No’ to playing God and to working like a slave. And say ‘Yes’ to joyful action.
Don't miss this week's Carnival of Beauty at Through a Glass. The theme: the Beauty of the Lord's Day.
“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Why is it that when you are already filling multiple leadership roles, you are the one everyone asks do the next thing? How can you distinguish what God is calling you to do, and what is merely a temptation to overload?
Is this new proposal a golden opportunity or not? How can we test the demands made on our time and energy so that we can sift out the fools’ gold and seize on the real thing.
What season of life are you living just now: the preparation season, the productive season or the preservation season? Each season of life comes with its own set of primary goals. Each season offers unique opportunities to be of use to God and His people. These are the things we definitely know that God has called us to be doing.
As a young woman our primary focus should be developing skills, contacts and resources. These are school and apprenticeship days, when we are exploring and gathering the treasures we will mine and invest during our productive days.
As a young-to-middle-aged woman the bulk of our time can no longer be spent acquiring new skills or branching out into completely different avenues of inquiry. During this strength time, we are principally working, bearing and raising children, applying those skills and resources to build Christ’s Kingdom.
As a middle-aged-to-older woman, our focus shifts to preserving the wealth God has given us to steward: the hope of the young, the courage of the middle-aged, the advances the Kingdom has made in individuals around us and in the culture at large. Our work must center on equipping, praying, defending and advising as our physical strength wanes.
When a new demand is presented to us, put it to this test: Does it fit with my principal calling during my present season of life? If I have children, does this proposed activity require me to go back to school or to spend lots of time and energy doing something that doesn’t directly benefit my children? If I’m a student, will this activity interfere with my ability to prepare for my productive season? If I’m older, will this activity prevent me from supporting and empowering those who are building and preparing? Will I be the principal builder in this activity or will I be mentoring those who will build?
If the proposed activity impairs your ability to attend to the core activities of your season of life, just say ‘No’. If it is something that enhances your ability to fulfill the calling of your life season, it may be the next golden opportunity God has for you.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Do the grocery clerks survey your bevy of children at checkout and give you a pitying look? "Do you need some help getting out?" they ask.
"No thanks," I used to grin, "I've got plenty of help." Then I'd enjoy the clerks' astonishment as my tots cheerfully gathered up the bags and toted them out of the store. (It works even better now that my children are teens.)
I'd have to say that this is the first secret of Wonder Woman. Children are your bionics.
When I needed a day of quiet in order to plan out the next semester's homeschool studies, well-meaning friends used to offer to babysit my little ones so that I could really work. Truth to tell, I couldn't really work without them. While I was planning lessons, they were doing the laundry, watering the garden and cooking supper - all the stuff that would have intruded upon my planning in any case.
Now before you call the authorities about child labor, take note. While they watered the garden, they picked flowers and ran through the sprinkler. My girls loved experimenting with new recipes whenever they cooked dinner. And folding laundry was a counting and sorting game for the littlest boy, punctuated by the opportunity to operate machines larger than himself.
I remember their looks of smug satisfaction as I would explain to said friends that I really couldn't spare my 'bionics'. They weren't in the way of my productivity. They were the reason that I could get three times more work done than everybody else.
And while my bionics didn't cost 6 million dollars, they did require an investment of time. We had to work side by side for a while until they learned the ropes - and the attitudes that would give them pride in work well done, and the revolutionary idea that working together could be fun.
Weren't there ever times when they didn't cooperate? Sure. Every organic system is constantly growing and changing. The delights offered in the work matured as the children did. And young slackers were offered the dreaded nap and appropriate discipline. But for the most part, they do cooperate.
They understand that this work together equips them for their own work. They see with increasing joy, that this homely labor is the key to their adult effectiveness and independence. And they look forward to the time when they can grow their own bionics.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I'm not sure how I got here.
I've just been working the problems before me, taking care of home and family. Just doing what God and the day demand.
Suddenly, when I show up, people look startled, like I just appeared out of an invisible airplane. They ask me, "How do you do that?" with disbelief in their voices. And I'm thinking, "Do what?" They wave their arms and sputter.
I check myself for dangerous objects and social faux pas. Wrist-rockets? Rolling pins? Curlers? Spinach between my teeth?
Then I realize that I have arrived with a three-course meal, a book in-search-of-proofreaders, an invitation to participate in a college campus ministry effort, a baby gift, an original arrangement to practice for next week's worship service, a mural design for the church nursery and three highly-effective, infectiously gracious, relentlessly positive teen-agers.
But their question intrigues me. It is just dawning on me that this is unusual. I've never owned an energy lasso or even a star-spangled leotard and red knee-boots. I struggle with headaches, middle-age spread, dying lawns, teaching the fine points of cell division and difficult relatives just like everyone else.
So, I intend to tell my secrets...
Just as soon as I figure out what they are.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
When I was studying American History in college, my professor was awe-struck by the American War for Independence. He was not so amazed by by colonies' willingness to rebel against tyranny. Plenty of people have done that. The French did it only a few years later than the Americans - with disastrous results. The Russians did it in 1914 - disaster again. Colonial Africa. Colonial Mid-East. Chaos. Bloodshed. Tribal genocide.
No what amazed and rather mystified my professor was the American patriots' ability to stop rebelling. The American Revolution was unique in its ability to go so far and no farther. Aside from the war itself, there was very little residual violence. No inter-colonial warfare. No general chaos. No campaign of terror. No violent imposition of radical social experiments on the public.
Check the rhetoric of those Founding Fathers. The American Revolution was unique in being a conservative revolution. The Patriots were calling people, not to some brave new world that none of them had ever seen, but instead to return to the law they all loved. For the Patriots, independence did not mean being able to define right and wrong for themselves, but being able to follow established law without interference.
Unlike all the other revolutions that come to mind, the American Revolution defined its end in its first principles.
Similarly, people have begun to ask my husband and I how our children have managed so successfully to become independent young people without rebelling. Our answer is that we have pointed our children to a different definition of independence than the one our culture offers. For our children, independence is not the freedom to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. Rather, independence is the ability to take initiative to serve those God has put in your sphere.
True independence isn't a self-serving free-for-all. It is the power to follow established Law without interference - whether you are looking at nations or at individuals. And that is power indeed.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
I've lately run across more than my share of folks who maintain, either explicitly or tacitly, that mothers shouldn't try to teach their sons anything after the age of about 12 or 13. They think that only fathers can have a positive impact on sons at that point. Many of them think that moms teaching teen boys is not only unproductive, it's ungodly.
As a homeschooling mom of a 14-yr-old son, this concerns me. Am I damaging my son by continuing to teach him? Will he fail to launch because he doesn't know how to be a man? Will he rebel or revile women because I've overstepped the bounds of godly womanhood? Am I dishonoring God?
I decided to put some of these questions to my son. We have a good relationship and can generally talk about anything.
Me: You know, a lot of people think that it's wrong for a mother to teach her son after he is older than about 13. What do you think?
Son: (snorts) Where do they get that? It's ridiculous! What's magic about 13?
Me: (surprised at the zest of the response) Well, they think that boys can't learn to be men if women are teaching them through their teen years. A lot of boys rebel against their mothers at that point.
Son: Mom, you're teaching me math and history! That has nothing to do with men and women. I learn skills and facts. I learn to respond well to women - OK, that's about learning to be a man, but a man doesn't necessarily have to show me that. I have to decide to respect my teacher whether that person is a man or a woman. What if my Dad doesn't know everything? He doesn't. And neither do you. If I only learn from one of you, I'm missing half of what I need to know.
Me: Well, what about spiritual things. Does it bother you to learn Bible or how to follow God from a woman? Women aren't supposed to teach men in church. Does it bother you when I initiate our morning family devotions?
Son: But, Mom, we aren't IN church! I like our family devotions. Besides, you usually ask me to read out the Scriptures and to lead in prayer. And when Dad is home, he's the one who leads family worship.
Me: Is there anything about becoming a man that you would not want to learn from a woman?
Son: (blushing) Well....there are a few things...You know...
Me: Right. Sure. I do know. But other than that?
Son: Other than that, I don't know what their problem is.
I love that boy!
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Her voice was stiff with unshed tears. “Mommy? Somebody hit me. I was just sitting at the light and this big truck knocked me into the SUV in front of me. I’m OK. He just plowed into me. The police are here. He never even looked. I think my car is totaled. Can you come and get me?” The last word sheared up on the ragged fringe of her courage.
Anne had won an appointment to a state legislator’s staff as a high school junior. And she had won a grant for the car that would take her to the capitol past our most dangerous neighborhoods every week. Together, they had been her God-given respite from the money worries that threaten to swamp our children’s hopes; the reward of long, diligent work. And now both internship and car were the wreckage of another man’s neglect.
“Oh, God! Let her know with complete certainty that You have meant this for her benefit. Let her know that You are good, even in this,” I breathed as I navigated the patchy ice of downtown side streets to her rescue. I was furious; worried that she would feel mocked by God. I could just hear Him laughing.
This weekend, I dropped Anne off at one of the nation’s most well-respected music camps for a six-week one-on-one music composition intensive with a famous American composer, and a new computer, and a new (if somewhat humbler) car. The long-delayed insurance settlement had principally financed them all. Somehow, we had managed to get Anne safely to her internship every week without her car.
Her assessment of the whole episode? “Well, God certainly has a sense of humor!” And we are all laughing now.
Friday, June 08, 2007
I have been working lately on a series of celebration kits that follow the church calendar. I have a number of them just about ready to go. An optional module for each kit is a set of devotionals for personal or family worship or for small group Bible study. These devotionals are based on the Lectionary, probably the oldest Bible reading system in the world. A version of the lectionary system was in use in the synagogues in Biblical times.
With some slight variations within the major branches of Christianity, the system takes you through the Bible in a three-year cycle. The unique feature of the Lectionary is that it has three readings per day: a Psalm, a New Testament and an Old Testament selection. These selections are arranged so that they help us to see the parallels and resonances between the Old and New Testaments.
In celebration of Faithful Friday, I am looking for some test readers. If you would like to receive email previews of these devotionals as I compose them, and if you would be willing to comment on them so that I can make them more useful, please email me and I'll put you in the loop.
Here is a sample to whet your appetite:
Seeing and Hearing
Ps. 139, 146; Romans 11:1-10; Deuteronomy 29:16-29
Discussion & Study
- According to Deut. 29, who stands in danger of God’s wrath?
- According to Deut. 29 and Rom. 1, what will God’s judgment look like?
- What is God’s judgment designed to accomplish?
- Compare God’s abilities in today’s two Psalms with the abilities of the false gods Israel worshipped. How do your ‘false gods’ measure up?
- What difficulties in your own life, would you like to re-assess in light of God’s goodness and might?
Deuteronomy is a reiteration of Israel’s original national constitution, which was first instituted at Mt Sinai. This second pronouncement is Moses’ exhortation to the generation that survived the forty years of wandering to ratify the constitution for itself before it entered the Promised Land.
This second generation had been children at the time of the Exodus. They had seen and heard everything God had done. They had witnessed the humiliation of the gods of Egypt one by one as each of the plagues targeted a major deity; each one as powerless as the next against Jehovah. They had witnessed, too, the judgment against their parents, who had also seen but had refused to see. They were cursed to die in the wilderness without ever seeing the Promised Land. These grown children had seen God’s unbelievable provision for them over forty desert years; they had clearly heard God’s gracious Law and His glorious promises to them.
For Israel in Paul’s day, as for God’s people in any day, there was no escape from God’s searchlight gaze. They had become like the gods they truly worshipped, the sawdust gods of their own imagination. They had eyes, but couldn’t see. They had ears but couldn’t hear. They had watched while Jesus had reversed the work of those demonic false gods, opening the eyes of the blind, the mouth of the dumb, the ears of the deaf. He had cast down and bound the demons just as He had in the plagues of Egypt.
The question to that generation of the Conquest and to the generation who would face the destruction of the Temple was, “Which God will you worship, and therefore, imitate?” Would they see and hear without understanding like the gods of wood and stone? Or would they begin to see like Jehovah, beyond mere appearances, beneath the surface, in the dark?
The question to us, two thousand years later, is the same. Will we choose to see only the surface appearances: the suffering, the widows, the fatherless, the hungry, the wicked’s prosperity? Will we worship our own wisdom, becoming increasingly rigid in our righteous indignation against God’s administration of the world? Or will we learn to see as God sees? Will we understand that suffering reveals to us the might, justice and love of God? Will we see what God has revealed or will life remain a locked secret?
Find other springboards to faith at Faithful Friday.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Did you ever notice how often David's Psalms say, "I will praise the Lord..." Not, "I feel so wonderful! Praise God!" Not "I can't keep from busting out with happiness!" Just "I WILL".
I am reading I Samuel with my son, and we are finding it instructive to read his poetry along with David's life story. From the perspective of suburban American comfort, David's poetry doesn't jibe with his experience.
He was the overlooked, un-promising youngest son. He spent most of his adolescence shouldering adult responsibilities with spectacular success and provoking growing envy. He spent his young adulthood living hand-to-mouth in caves, hunted as a criminal by the very man who had been his role-model. When he came to power, not only was his kingdom surrounded by external enemies, but it was wracked by internal factions stirred up by the insane policies of his predecessor. He sinned grievously in one terrible abuse of power, resulting in revolt in his own family. David's own son led a (briefly) successful coup...
But his poetry is laced with "I will praise the Lord..." Seems to me that feeling good wasn't the motivation for that praise. David himself calls it "the sacrifice of praise." He simply chose to focus on God's rescues, not on his own difficulties. And so will I.
Have a look at others' praises on this Thankful Thursday at Sting My Heart...
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
In my absence, Firefly and I have had some conversation. She brings up a good question about the pace of high school.
We have become somewhat behind in our lessons and are having to try to get things caught up before the summer. I only have the two girls but with one in high school, finishing certain subjects on time has become a more pressing issue. I wish it weren't so. She wants to go to college, though, and I worry about her transcript being acceptable. I miss the more carefree days when the girls were in the early years. Maybe you can share your insight into these things when you return to blogging.
I, too, miss those golden days when we could follow the delight-driven bunny trails that beckoned of the beaten track of our studies. You know, making cookie dough sea-floor relief maps or sewing chitons and playing Hector and Andromache while reading the Illiad or laying out 17th-century style herb knot gardens or building your own computer or playing Abraham's version of Cribbage...
Still, beneath that seemingly endless stroll through all the wonders of God's works, there was always the determination that those delights should drive more learning. They were never merely time-wasters. So at some level, we were already aware of a terminus. We knew the endless character of those early days was an illusion.
In high school, that terminus looms large. So one of the most critical and least-recognized skills we need to give our children before they launch out is professional-level time-management. Without good time-management skills, our children will forever be at the mercy of other people's timetables. As I tell my son these days, "If you don't schedule your own time, someone else will." It is one of the most important habits of truly free men (and women).
Certainly, the drudge-work of meeting the deadlines necessary for a high school transcript figures into this. But there can be a high level of delight in time-management as well. Our children need to learn more than how to follow a schedule or punch a clock. They need to establish routines for life that allow them to breathe, to worship, to celebrate and to protect the time that nurtures relationships. They need to learn to imitate God's use of time in order to create and to rule.
Far and away the best time-management curriculum I've found is Gregg Harris's Noble Planner Time Management audio series (now available as an MP3 download or on CD), and it's companion, Seasons of Life. This series will help you to train your children to escape the tyranny of the urgent in order to preserve both joy and productivity by studying biblical models for time-management and productive people of the past. They walk your family through the process of setting goals appropriate to your seasons of life and translating those goals into manageable daily plans.
The next resource I'd recommend, which is specific to setting goals in high school with an eye to preparing for the next phase of life, is my own Countdown to College. The new second edition with expanded instructions for college and scholarship application, more examples, an FAQ section, and a new section on one-stop resume building programs, is now available at my online store and on the HSLDA Marketplace. I now have a companion CD that allows you to create professional-looking academic records on your own computer, and to search for scholarships using the disk's dozens of live links to scholarship websites and search engines.
Now there is a certain level of delight for young people in learning to use the tools of adulthood: daytimers, PDAs, Microsoft Outlook, etc. And there is certainly a level of delight for homeschool moms when we begin to see our children taking up ownership of their own deadlines, because we do understand that their ability to do this is a huge predictor of their future success and effectiveness.
At the same time, we want to be able to have time to reflect and to celebrate. I have been doing a good deal of research on the ancient Church calendar as a means of ordering my awareness of and enjoyment of God's goodness. It is a fantastic way to turn the rat-race into a dance of delight!
But that's a topic for another day...
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
"Something in the cosmos speaks to the deep places in us." Just not the same message Carl Sagan claims to have heard in his wildly popular Cosmos series. No the cosmos speaks the identity of its Maker.
Suns blaze His glory. Stars clock His precision. Wind whispers His omnipresence and His upholding power.
But we are here today to praise the beauty of Red. In the heraldry of the rainbow, red speaks to us of passion, heat, fire, rage, love and sacrifice.
Red is the color of Pentecost, when the Spirit's passion burned into the hearts of Christ's followers and blazed out across cultural boundaries, language barriers and spiritual blindness to spark new life in the thousands gathered for the old feast.
Red is the color of transformation. As the bloody sacrifice was burned on the altar, that dead meat was transformed into something ethereal and glorious: the glowing red-gold flame and curling smoke. Passion and prayer. A model of the glory-cloud that led Israel through the wilderness.
My guest this week for the Carnival of Beauty, Susanna at Through a Glass, reflects on the many shades of Red and the blood of Christ.
This week, I hope you'll see red. Really see it.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Today's Carnival of Homeschooling references a riveting article at The Thinking Mother about a state proposal to ask homeschoolers to "monitor" or to "police" each other for educational neglect. Talk about poisoning the well!
I help to run a high school level homeschool co-op, and I have seen some pretty strange things at that level. Many parents simply feel overwhelmed and either consider putting students in public schools or sort of throw up their hands and abandon students to their own devices.
I am finding that it is indeed in our interest as homeschoolers to work hard at building a community of caring and accountability. Not just because the state will be encroaching for the slightest reason, but also because we need to encourage each other not to grow weary in doing well. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart under any circumstances. But turning the homeschool community into a police state is not the answer.
Surely that concept of encouragement needs to be foremost, rather than an idea of monitoring. "Monitoring" and certainly "policing" do assume that those under scrutiny have done something wrong or are under suspicion of wrong-doing. However, "encouragement" carries none of those connotations, but cannot be done unless there is an appropriate amount of transparency between encourager and encouragee.
Building a community of encouragement not only effectively "polices" possible educational neglect, but also solves it within the community without state involvement.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Recently, I've been asked how one nurtures children towards responsible independence, particularly as a home-schooler.
We all want children who exhibit a level of independence that allows them to move out into productive lives, but most of us haven't really thought about what we mean by 'independence' beyond a vague cultural norm. Often we miss the mark because we can't see it very well.
In our household, 'independence' is not merely being able to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it, which is what our culture tells us we ought to pursue under the heading of independence. It isn't even 'being able to take care of myself without help'. With these definitions of independence, home-schooling would rightly be perceived as a hindrance to developing those qualities.
In our house, 'independence' means being equipped and free to serve those God has put within my sphere.
In these terms, home-schooling is the ideal laboratory for developing independence. In a home school, your community is present to sense and to mind all day, every day. It is a practice realm of manageable size, but it contains a wide variety of needs.
Some of those needs are so simple that the smallest child can meet them. And as soon as he does so, he realizes that he does not have to wait until he's 25 or 30 to make a contribution to others' lives. This is the first step towards independence. Real life begins right now.
Suddenly, learning becomes the means to improving one's ability to solve problems, to meet needs, to be useful. Learning that has immediate application to service is instantly engaging and endlessly delightful. The basic instinct of independence is developing the habit of finding ways to use what has been learned in order to help someone else.
Next time, we'll explore some methods to help children develop the habits and instincts for true independence.
To learn how this kind of independence is vital to earning college scholarships, check Countdown to College Launch: a Homeschooler's Guide to Winning Scholarships.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
All Creation speaks to us of God and His works. That is why no occupation, no matter how mundane, is merely drudgery.
Others may feel trapped on a treadmill of meaningless repetitions, but children of the Creator should understand that it isn't a treadmill. It's the stairway to heaven. Every task can speak to us of something He has done for us or in us or by us.
It's a fractal universe. Every shape is made up of shapes just like the larger shape. Our gestures echo, in microcosm, His. He uses our own small hands to teach us the cosmic textures of spiritual realities.
Take bread. For most of the world, it's the strength-for-the-day staple. Bread and salt; the invitation to life. Bread is the foundation of hospitality. The aroma of baking bread draws us into "Welcome home!" and "Remember when?"
It is the mystery of secret growth; sin and righteousness, the Serpent's seed and the Church. Revolution hiding in plain sight. Penicillin and the death of men's plagues.
Bread is the appetizer for the Lamb's wedding feast. It is the memorial of Christ's ordinary, gracious, invitational, mysterious, nourishing, healing sacrifice.
Break it. Drink in the steamy fragrance. And, with the disciples at Emmaeus, recognize Him.
This recipe was a gift from a dear friend, who brought it to our Thanksgiving feast one year. Isn't female bonding all about food 90% of the time?
Cheese Bread Knots
10-11 cups white flour
4 pkgs. Dry yeast
Heat in saucepan until just warm:
4 cups milk
12 oz. Swiss Cheese
1 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2 tablespoons salt
Combine milk mixture, flour, and 2 eggs. Beat for ½ minute at low speed of mixer. Beat at high speed 3 minutes. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough, then knead until smooth and elastic (5-8 minutes).
Shape into a ball and place in greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled (1 ½ hours). Punch dough down and turn out on floured surface. Divide dough into four equal pieces. Shape each into a ball. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
Roll each ball into a 12x16 inch rectangle. Cut crosswise into 6x1 inch strips. Tie each strip into a loose knot. Place on a greased baking sheet.
Cover and let rise until doubled (about 40 minutes). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
These freeze well.
Monday, January 15, 2007
In my mother's home there hangs a mysterious pen and ink drawing. Two overlapping faces. A weeping toddler rubs his tear-stained cheek on one side. On the other, a dark wolf snarls out at us. They share an eye. They are the same face.
As parents, it is important to remember that sometimes bad behaviour comes from physical or emotional pain rather than from bad character. And it is important for us to learn which is which.
I knew a toddler who had chronic urinary tract infections. She had no vocabulary to describe the agony she felt. She just screamed and cried for the slightest discomfort - a wrinkled sock or a tight waistband. It took some time for her parents and her doctor to discover her illness, and meanwhile, no amount of reproof could stop the screaming. When the illness was treated, the child became a cheerful, reasonable, delightful person.
While pain should not be allowed to become an excuse for inexcuseable behavior, godly discipline must take circumstances into account. Comfort must be as present to sense as firm, familiar boundaries. If a child knows that Mommy always puts him down for a nap when he is irritable, perhaps the nap is exactly what he is asking for when he throws a tantrum. The embrace of a familiar routine and expected cause-effect relationships are part of the comfort we can offer to those who are hurting.
However, we must take care to keep in mind the whole object of discipline. Discipline should restore the soul, not woodenly apply the law. We need to lean on the Lord to show us when to address the wrong first and when to address the wound first. Setting up a test of wills which the hurting child will fail again and again in her wounded state, is abusive.
And is this really so different from our dealings in our adult relationships? Consider this bit of wisdom from John Piper:
"Let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind--spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul, not reproving the sore, is the aim of our love..." A Godward Life
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
"Wherever you are spiritually whatever you have been through emotionally, you are already wrapped in the Lord's embrace. Held close by nail-scarred hands." ~ Liz Curtis Higgs~
I believe in a sovereign God. So when I look around (or inwards) and see all the suffering, it is often difficult to reconcile His power with a loving God. Surely a loving God who is all-powerful would do something to relieve the suffering of His people.
But no. Our suffering is called chastisement. It is given by God Himself, according to Scripture in order to strengthen us and to lead us to greater understanding.
Psychologists tell us that this is exactly the argument of an abuser. An abuser, in the midst of his torments, tells his victims, "This is for your own good."
So what's the difference? The difference is the Cross. Our sovereign God is also a suffering God. One who has taken on Himself, undeserving, all the destructive power of Hell. He endured infinite torment, closed in a frame just like mine, to crush the head of the serpent. To draw the deadly poison from pain. So that now, the suffering He serves us is in the character of the pain inflicted by a surgeon saving the life of a cancer patient. Or of an Olympic trainer preparing an athlete for victory.
Christ Jesus does not view our suffering from a safe distance. He does not even enter the suffering with us. He is there already, waiting for us to join Him in the 'fellowship of His suffering'.
So when you find yourself tossed into the furnace, expect two things. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, expect to see Him there, and expect your bonds to go up in smoke.
I commend to you a study of Hebrews, where Jesus' identification with us in suffering is explained as a supreme credential qualifying Him as our High Priest.