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Archive for the ‘of doorposts and of gates’ Category

Love this quote?

Then I bet you’ll love the free itunes lecture:

 http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/n.t.-wright/id404625689

Sound familiar?  I’ve posted this quote before at:
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The problem with home schooling is that there are, at every given moment, too many good books to read, too many interesting things to do, and too many lines of thoughts interacting with each other whether in harmony or counterpoint.  At present we are reading II Corinthians, memorizing James, listening to N.T. Wright’s lectures on Romans, reading Primeval Saints by James Jordan, and covering the Babylonian time period with Vision Forum History of the World Lectures (see the end of this post for a great giveaway offer).  My mind is having a conversation about one book, hopping to another author’s point of view about a related topic, wondering what this author would think of that one, etc…

Reading James Jordan’s Primeval Saints aloud to the children, we have been analyzing our family’s thoughts, words, and actions, through the series of contrasts between the way of the pagan and the way of true faith presented in the introduction to his book Primeval Saints, an introduction which, in my opinion, begs to be classified as both poetry and prayer and, well, a beautiful, convicting rebuke (see here for more). And now, he’s got us analyzing our mealtimes, our arguments, and our schoolwork in other ways too.  In the first chapter, Jordan delineates an inescapable six-fold rite in which we engage throughout life:

 I. Laying hold of

II.  Giving thanks

III. Breaking down and restructuring

IV. Distributing work to God (tithe), self, and others

V. Evaluating by God, self, and others

VI. Enjoying the work by God, self, or others

      I particularly like this observation he makes:  “Adam’s sin lay precisely at the second step of his rite.  He refused to give thanks to God, because he could not do so.  With the forbidden fruit in his hand (the act of taking), and intending to eat it (an act of restructuring), Adam could not give thanks to God.”  This giving-thanks theme is also woven into N.T. Wright’s lecture pointing out the connection to Adam and Eve in Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  It is also woven into what we are studying about the Babylonian Empire, of Nebuchadnezzar, thanking himself, glorifying himself for his impregnable city walls; of Belshazzar, his son, laying hold of the plundered Israelite tabernacle goblets and thanking gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

    In contrast, God calls us, his creation stewards, to lay hold of this world and give him thanks—not to abandon it to the pagans, who can’t and won’t give him rightful thanks. Do we engage in this task?  In his lectures on Romans and elsewhere, N.T. Wright correctly scolds that we Christians too often have been mis-occupied with an ethereal heaven in the sky, and not engaged in the task before us— “heavenizing” the physical world, or, in more familiar phraseology, Thy Kingdom Come on Earth As It Is In Heaven.  And so, Christians unwittingly embrace pagan gnostic philosophy, mindlessly muttering excuses like, “Oh I don’t care about that, it’s not going to heaven…”, and shamelessly living out “I’ll Fly Away” theology, abandoning our God-given task to lay hold of and to take dominion of the cosmos.  (Wright humorously states that when folks insist on saying that they are going to heaven when they die, he rebuts, “Yes, but you won’t be there forever.” 🙂 See his book Surprised By Hope)  We are called rather to actively lay hold of this real, physical, fallen-but-being-redeemed garden-world, and after having laid hold of all that is ours in Christ, albeit broken by the Fall—the arts, the sciences, culture, politics, architecture, technology, medicine, business, homemaking…the whole wide world—we are called to give him thanks for it, break it down and restructure it, gift it to him, to others, and ourselves in order to bless the world, so they can evaluate and enjoy.  World Transformation in Six Easy Steps, One Task at a Time.

     In Chapter 2 Jordan points out that, helping to restore us to our God-given pattern, our weekly worship is centered around the same six-fold rite of sacrament and Word. And, essentially, through worship, God ultimately is laying hold of us and restructuring us (God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword) as we are broken down, reformed/transformed more into his image, and delivered back into the world  as a restored  new (re-) creation, again, and again, and again.

 I. Laying hold of bread, wine, and God’s Word

II. Giving Thanks for it

III. Restructuring (breaking & renaming bread & renaming wine, breaking the Word)

IV. Distributing (giving bread, wine, delivering sermon)

V. Evaluating (Tasting, Psalm 34:8, hearing the word)

VI. Enjoying (integrating resurrection, life, & applied Word into the lives of self & others)

       Christ’s body and blood (communion) and God’s Spirit-Sword (the Word),  continually come to us, breaking us down and recreating us, transforming us week to week, year to year, from glory to glory.  And more than that, he sanctifies the humblest of callings and accomplishes world transformation through all his image-bearing children with these thousands-of-times-repeated, sometimes mundane, six-fold processes in real-world-time (not I’ll-fly-away-to-glory-time).

     I am a homemaker.  My social security update rates my contribution to society for the last fifteen years at an echoing zero decimal zero zero US Federal Reserve Notes.  I cook, I clean, I organize, I teach, I love, I scrub mud and grime off tubs, toilets, small feet, and stinky bums.  I even leaf blow and mow sometimes.  So, theology like this, to me, is utterly practical and essential.  Why?  It’s essential because, while my government tithing statement says I’m not delivering a recognizable contribution to society, books like this one remind me that God is the One for whom I ultimately labor.   So, laying hold of a dish rag, laying hold of a book, laying hold of a bad attitude, laying hold of bread dough, laying hold of a cup of cold water to distribute to a little one—in laying hold of these small things, and in giving thanks, I take part in the recreation dance of heavenizing earth.  Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!

* Here’s something to lay hold of:  Vision Forum has a Christmas giveaway going on.  What a great way to stock your personal or church libraries  with rich resources and Christian Books.  Helping families seeking to be transformed by the renewing of their minds!  For more information, go to Raising Olives!

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Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty. I have a Key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That’s good news; good Brother pluck it out of thy bosom and try. — from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

(An open response to a comment, hopefully for our mutual encouragement):

 

First, have you seen Voddie Baucham’s dvd  Children of Caesar?  It’s so encouraging and insightful. Here’s part of it I found online :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuXFGsy6UBY  

 I mention this because in it there were some very inspiring statistics that I think Christians need to heed regarding the success of children who are home schooled  by moms with “only” a high school education.   So, if your feelings of inadequacy stem from a sense of academic inadequacy, I think that watching this dvd in its entirety may put them happily to rest.
Secondly, if you are like me, academics is less my ‘Giant of Despair’.  Trying to juggle homemaking, cooking, cleaning, all alongside of teaching minds and hearts (especially my own!) to love Christ, each other, and His world seems a well-nigh impossible task most of the time.   In my ideal world, I’d love to be supermom, able to do it all effortlessly on my own and still have time for a long steamy bubble bath everyday [sigh].  But, in God’s wisdom and grace…I can’t get it all done, and in order to even attempt getting it all done, I necessarily have to involve my kids.  But  this turns into blessing too— that my inability to do it all makes more room for them to learn. They have to learn how to deal with me and siblings in a biblical manner, we have to learn how to serve others, arrange priorities, cook, clean, adjust schedules…  It looks different for each family, but far beyond mere curriculum, the process of being and learning and doing together are developing in ALL of us skills, teamwork, problem-solving, relationships, and most importantly, a Christian worldview, which should be the ultimate goal and priority for Christians.  That doesn’t displace academics or skills or service—it justifies them, inspires them, produces them.  Look at the statistics yourself.
 I don’t exactly feel encouraged in my culture or even the church at large regarding this calling and I know many families who feel similarly discouraged.  That doesn’t help when we are in the midst of feeling “How can I possibly do this?”.  I’ve bought many encouraging friends (books) to advise and counsel me when I am discouraged (ultimately pointing my thoughts to The Good Book).  I think one that provides a very convincing logical and biblical defense of home schooling against all other educational options is Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorns.  And when my feelings aren’t lining up with the biblical reality that this is kingdom work of highest priority, thinking through the arguments biblically and logically helps to revive my faint spirit and to spur me on in this great task, relying on God’s strength, grace, and that Key in my bosom called promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock.  More and more, my children themselves are becoming encouraging friends to me as well, a glimpse of some fulfilled promises incarnate, reminding me to give thanks for what God has already done and encouraging me to keep persevering.
 I think home school parents do feel the weight of this calling acutely because we necessarily can’t assume anybody else is going to take care of our responsibilities that God has laid out in His Word.  And we should feel the import.  We have every opportunity we want.  We can choose any educational philosophy or method or curriculum we want.  We can study ANYTHING. And we can do it ANYTIME we want.  Amazing freedom with amazing responsibility.   Both.  We feel it, don’t we?  And we own that we will be held accountable.
So here come all those overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. Whooosh. And on one hand they are right and true feelings…  we are  so hopeless on our own.  And on the other hand, don’t we know by now (with 8,000 years of history to boot) that God loves to lift up the bent, broken, weak, frail, and stumbling so He can resurrect and renew and bless and get the glory?  It’s a glorious opportunity set before us to prove our inadequacy and prove His strength in our weakness. And usually it involves waging ongoing aggressive wars against our own idolatrous thoughts of what education really is and being willing to submit to God’s wisdom in training up our children in the fear and love of the Lord.

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t h e   h a r v e s t   o n   m y   l a p

The culture says you can’t do it (it’s too hard) and it’s not worth it (it won’t make a difference).  It appeals most effectively to our own selfishness: (send those kids to someone else to deal with; take care of yourself; get more me time).  Or  it nurtures our fears and falsely decries our ineligibility for the task…(you’re not qualified to parent/teach…a professional needs to do this for you).   Bosh.

I’m so thankful for those women who have the conviction to speak and live out the reality that home schooling our children is doable, that the lived-out-day-by-day gospel does have power and does make a difference, that more time for “me” is merely an utterly captivating invitation from Satan as enticing as his proposal to Christ to receive from Satan “all the kingdoms of the world”  without the ‘burden’ and ‘suffering’ of  the cross.  We aren’t really surprised at that  savvy ancient sales pitch, are we? All the blessings without the sacrifice?  All the harvest without the work?

 That’s always the temptation.  Glory–hold the cross–if you don’t mind, please.  In fact, I’ll order two or three of that kind.  But not for Christ.  He spoke meek syllables of warfare with the doubly-sharp sword of the Spirit Word and plodded on.   Easy was not the way Christ chose.  Christ did receive the glory, and the power, and the kingdoms, but not through abdication of His calling to be sacrificed, to bear the humiliation of the cross.  He endured insult and accusation even for the hurt He healed and the hunger He satisfied.  People smothered Him, surrounded Him, hardly respected His “me” space or time (sound familiar, moms?).  There were times of getting away and prayer, but not weekly visits to massage His body, His ego, His appetites.  He gave up Himself thoroughly, completely.  His schedule was highly affected.  His entire life.  Even his young death.  And probably his hair and nails and shopping habits as well.

Nurturing children in the fear of the Lord is a privilege, a calling, a ministry, the responsibility of Christian parents, and one for which God has and will fully equip parents.  We can sing and boast all day long about contrived, glamourous crosses we elect to erect for our own memorials (bible studies led, foreign mission trips…); the challenge is embracing the not-so-glamourous ones God has called us to carry for Him:  the commonplace, real, rugged, splintery, mundane crosses—the ones that our culture and our own selfishness and pride despise.  Among them, this one: parenting, teaching, laboring in our child-harvest with biblical deliberateness.

There are a million enticing opportunities in this world.  But there is a harvest right here on my lap, sucking her thumb and pulling at my hair and looking into my eyes with her near black ones, exchanging kisses with me, and now pulling the tape out of my desk drawer and wrapping it messily around her head.  Sisters, harvest with the workers in your Kinsman-Redeemer’s harvest as Ruth did.  He will see our  hands full, our aprons overflowing with His fruit.

The harvest is plenty; shall we surrender our responsibility and privilege of laboring for it?  And if we do, will those who take our place in training up the hearts and minds of our children do so to the glory of the Master?  And when the Master comes, will he say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” when He reviews how we have invested what He entrusted to us?

These reflections follow observations and conversations my husband and I have shared over the last few weeks; and these articles below, sent to me by a friend this week, echo the same ache we feel as we pray for more laborers in a largely neglected harvest .

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nth drilling tap holes in the maple tree

I’m not sure that it’s going to be successful this year.  But now that we know that it can be done, we are thoroughly excited.  Some Canadian friends shared some maple taps with us last year, and a friend in Knoxville successfully tapped a maple tree this year and boiled the 5 gallons of sap down to a quart of maple syrup.  We put in our taps and so far, we think we’ve collected mainly a rain shower with a slight hint of maple sap.  But we’re anticipating… He said there are three weeks left in the season.  Maybe…

ekh snitching a sap snack

jdh securing buckets on taps

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a   r e d e m p t i v e   g l i m p s e

f o r   a   1 5 -p a s s e n g e r  v a n

I wasn’t exactly thrilled at upgrading from mini-van to 15 passenger van.  I called it the Great White Ark.  Chris’s employees called it Moby Dick.  I cringed every time I passed someone coming the other direction the first few months, not out of embarrassment, though I might should have, but out of fear of side-swiping them. Whenever I had to drive it, I felt as insecure as a fifteen year old with a driver’s permit, only I was on my own now, with five kids in tow at the mercy of my driving skills and, more importantly, the goodness of God.  I parked in the farthest parking lots.  I literally stopped at a low tunnel bridge to ask assistance of a road construction worker:  “Sir, can you tell whether this thing will fit under there?”   He laughed, but he wasn’t so sure either…he told me to pull up slowly and helped me to decide.  It did.  Tunnel height signs had never meant anything to me before.

Despite my initial lack of confidence and skill in driving it, in the short months of owning the Ark, I have (amazingly) only caused incremental damage:  I backed into a bike leaning against our retaining wall; the handle bar broke a fragment of our brake light cover.  I went on my merry way down the road in the early-darkening night of winter to get groceries only to be pulled over by a cop.  I was flustered.  I docked the boat in the nearest shopping mall and upon finding out my crime—the important one regarding fragmented brake light covers—I commenced to look for my papers.  Next came my new-found discovery.  I had no interior lights, a luxury I had always formerly taken for granted.  I managed to feel for the car papers and give them to the policeman who, noting my nervous concern, tried to alleviate it by saying he’d just give me a warning and that frankly, the reason he pulled me over was because my van fit the description of another that had committed felony in the area—the five children and I on our way to get groceries just didn’t fit the suspects, I suppose.  Chris and I saw that same description of the suspect vehicle posted on a downtown restaurant a couple of days later and had a hearty laugh at our Great White Ark’s twin: broken light cover (yep), dent on the side (yep), tinted windows (yep)…  Yes, not flattering, but a very honest description of our own Great White Ark.  The other day,  Chris, who looked inconveniently shady himself, wearing a black toboggan on his cold, bare head, (not a sled, mind you, but a “toque”, for all you Canadians with translation problems here) waved at a passing pedestrian friend on the UT campus and offered him a ride.  Our friend, not recognizing him from across the street and in our “suspect” van, looked a little concerned for his safety as well. (:

It isn’t a thing of beauty, true, this van; and I sarcastically exhort others to tame their temptations to covet it.   But lest its ugliness be despised altogether, I must relate its redeeming values which endeared this former church bus and this former Mexican landscaping van and brought it into our family.  It’s paid for.  And its utilitarian tool value was high because not only can it haul more than twice our family size, it could haul all our family and everyone’s bike; or, in a pinch, it could pull Chris’ work trailer.  It has vinyl floors which can handle the wear and tear of its hauling vocation and be hosed down fairly easily—a car feature any one with children can appreciate to some degree.

But Sunday was a very redemptive day for our Great White Ark. It had borne my sarcasm and ridicule long enough, awaiting the glorification that only God can bring to those dented, dirtied, and large gaping spaces in our lives. Pastor Grimsley had noted earlier this week in the Wednesday Bible study how, as we see in the order of creation, God first creates spaces, then fills them appropriately, meaningfully fulfilling their purposes.  This van was one such space begging for His filling. And fill He did.  A college student with connections to a ministry with Section 8 housing in downtown Knoxville brought her two little friends two Sundays ago.  The next Sunday, six more little people eagerly awaited a ride to church.  We met them and invited them home for lunch, but they had plans already and so we rescheduled for the following Sunday. To our delight, plans were made to fill the corridors of our Great White Ark  with the next Sunday’s additional children who needed a ride to church and our house afterwards.

It was filling for us too.  We had been praying, Josiah joyfully reminded us all, that God would do just that—that he would open up doors for our family to share more of Christ’s love in our community.  I was  giddy with excitement.  I expressed it to Josiah.  He could understand, “That’s just how I feel about squirrels,” he admitted sincerely to me.  He’s been avidly defending our bird feeders against squirrels and raccoons, fulfilling some Y-chromosome based instincts that I don’t wholly connect with, despite the fact that I enjoyed shooting in my free time during my childhood, too.  The two nights before he had set a trap for a raccoon; this morning he had accidentally caught one of the neighbor’s cats who had been posted as missing for a month with a reward.  I understood his delight too, and laughed at our out-of-sync way of  connecting.

So Sunday came and the van filled.   Then it unfilled.  Then we filled two pews, then three, then two again. The filling and spilling were verily a little messy.  We filled, I hope, with God’s Word.  Then we spilled out of church, filled the van again, then filled up our home.  Fifteen children washed hands in turn.  Three or four girls, with sparkling exclamations about all the new smells and textures pulsating about them, passed Eden around and rolled and shaped the risen dough into four long baguettes with me in the kitchen.  They helped bring in logs for the fire.  One girl came in from the barn cradling a warm chicken egg on her cheek, explaining that she was going to keep it warm and hatch it.  Chris later tried to relate the comical barnyard introductions he had seen firsthand.  “That’s a real chicken?  I’ve never seen a real live chicken!  That an egg?  That [egg] came from the chicken?  You aren’t going to eat it are you?  Don’t eat it!  Yuck!” (:.

After the stray ends of lunch preparations came together, we filled the long harvest table, sang the doxology, ate till filled, then filled the house with more song.  Our cups overflowed, truly, since one dear little helper found such delight throughout the meal in being sure that everyone’s glass was filled with ice.  Dessert followed and I also made good on my outstanding debts to everyone—I had promised dark chocolate chips to all who memorized the first phrases of the Lord’s prayer on our trip home from church.  We spilled into house and yard again, filling it with abundant movement and noise, then back into the van, then back to apartments where we had met this morning, the place where this particular van seemed so specially suited.  I hope the filling and spilling don’t stop there.  There are so many spaces awaiting His redemptive purposes.

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e g g s  f r o m   s h e o l

“There’s nothing worse than cold eggs.”   I read that in a Martha Stewart magazine once and we frequently repeat that  to announce that it’s eggs for breakfast and they’re hot and ready.  I wish I lived in that world with nothing worse than cold eggs.  Unfortunately, there are many things far worse than cold eggs.  Even in the limited  sphere of eggs there are worse things.  I know.  I ate a helping this morning.  They were hot and ready. And they were eggs.  And I’d have taken heaping casserole dish of cold eggs in their place.  So would Josiah, this Saturday morning’s cook.  We have a play kitchen full of wooden play food and pretend kitchen equipment for toddlers.  But as we graduate in life, we use the real kitchen; we use real ingredients and tools; we learn real skills and make real mistakes with real consequences that we have to eat.  Like most of the mistakes we eat in life, they are usually the result of sin:  being wise in our own eyes, lacking self-control/moderation, not seeking or carefully heeding the wisdom of authority.

Here’s a recipe that you won’t want to repeat.  We decided to call it: “Eggs from Sheol” but Josiah wisely declined to include this recipe in his personal treasury of tried and true, worthy-of-repeating recipes.

(1) one young budding cook with skills for cooking eggs quite deliciously in various forms (quiche, easy-over, scrambled, omelette-style, or hard/soft-boiled).

(2) a dozen eggs (yes, clearly too many for the only three people who had not left early to work with dad at the shop)

(3) the zeal of culinary spices, without the knowledge of ratios or the wisdom to ask:  1 heaping tsp of oregano, 1 heaping tsp of thyme, 1 heaping tsp of basil

Serving Size:  It makes more than you’ll need or want and there’ll be plenty of leftovers for the wiser and repentant cook to finish up for lunch. Garnished with repentance for our sins, forgiveness, laughter at our foolishness, and more wisdom for the next time.

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