Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Accidental Joy

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

Devotions Anyone?

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

  1. According to Deut. 29, who stands in danger of God’s wrath?
  2. According to Deut. 29 and Rom. 1, what will God’s judgment look like?
  3. What is God’s judgment designed to accomplish?
  4. 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?
  5. 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

Sacrifice of Praise

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

The Press of Time

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...


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