Archive for the ‘the chalkboard’ Category

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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r i g h t   n o w ?   p h o n i c s.

It had been a long phonics lesson.  Every word seemed to be just the segue for some diverting Matthias-tic explanation or definition and I had to some degree permitted it.  We were reviewing short “e” sounds and had meandered beyond the word “bread”, that Matthias excitedly noted was “just like we read the other day when Jesus fed the too-many people!”; and we had savored the word “steadfast” where he naturally broke out into the scripture song of Lamentations 3:22,23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning, new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord!”  And while the word “dead” wasn’t on the list, something jolted in that head of his–I think it might have been my permissiveness with the former diversions—prompting an all out random diversion:  “Are we all going to die?”  “Yes, we’ll all die someday” was my extremely short answer, for my determination was not to get side-tracked yet again (though admittedly, one of the reasons I am here, right now, home schooling with him, is for seizing with intention the opportunities that many of these diversions provide).  With a grin, a wrinkled nose, a furrowed brow, and a shrug of the shoulders, he recognized and admitted his inadequacy, “I don’t know how.”  I encouraged him that God will make us ready on the way and reminded him that right now, his job is to do phonics.

You just told him to do phonics?  Yes. I did.  Unapologetically.  For even phonics can be a lesson in dying, can’t it? Perhaps I didn’t seize the opportunity to explain the theological nuts and bolts of Christian death and resurrection, but I was still teaching it:  I was teaching a little one to die:  to embrace the seemingly hard way, to die to the urge to do and say and think about whatever I want. And I was teaching him to be resurrected, to live, to force his action, his lisping syllables, and tend-to-stray thoughts to stay cheerfully focused on the command God carved out clearly and especially for His youngest image-bearers:  Honor your father and your mother, the first commandment with a promise, that you may live… (Ephesians 6).  And if mom is calling you to do phonics, then right now, phonics is the way of life. (:

Teaching little ones to die requires a lot of teacher prep in dying and resurrecting which I’m learning, largely by field experience. I need to hear God’s directing Word and heed it, look hard and long in the guiding eyes of my own Father, at His Word and His Word Made Flesh; when I don’t hear and heed, life smarts with His discipline for my sin, often through my children, my emulating students.  Sin brings an emptiness—

I prioritize other gods (usually self) before Him and don’t work and live in a sense of coram Deo—and I taste the emptiness of my vain worthless pursuits and see my children following suit right behind.  I have not rightly served, or worshipped, God as God, but rather serve these false priorities or serve God in my own way while belittling the humble ways and means He has directed me to worship Him in His Word—and I taste the emptiness and share its bitter fruit with my children.  I use His name in vain because I bear His name and image,“child of God”, but I slander it by living a life grossly misshapened and distorted by sin—and my children and I, with the watching world, who are looking on for an answer to their own void, feel empty.  I don’t work diligently at my given calling when He says to (six days)—I feel fruitless, empty while I scold rather than teach my children for lazily neglecting their work.  And I don’t remember and rest when He says to–because, I say, justifyingly, “I will remember all the time”–so I don’t take any time, and in particular I neglect this one time lovingly, divinely set apart at creation and redemption, to look back and rest and celebrate deliverance from bondage and invite everyone in my spheres to do the same—I rather choose bondage and its emptiness and use this time in bondage, serving, worshipping other gods carrying God’s children, a stolen sacrifice to pagan altars. I have cursed and mocked God-given authority and taught my children to disregard God’s authority by allowing them to disobey, ignore, and disrespect their parents—I think I am being benevolent and I justify it and may even call it grace–but I am the one being disobedient to my Father, I am the one guilty of the disrespect; the dishonor that comes upon His name in the eyes of my children is rightly mine.  I kill with thoughts, with looks, with words, cloaking my murder in a thousand guises—and I feel the depths of hate in sharp words and insults, our bloodless but hate-filled pools of emptiness.  I have not regarded with due honor the sanctity of sexuality and holy matrimony, a holy vow to abide in love as one; watching child eyes are filled with tears as they see empty love.  I teach my children to be a thief of blessings God lends me, a thief of His glory which I claim as my own—and despite the hoarding of money, time, & glory—I am empty.  I am a slanderer of the Truth, and slanderer of others usually by blame-shifting rather than owning my faults–and I feel so empty.  I covet. I want and want and want some more, something I wasn’t given, something that isn’t there; I am a gaping unsatisfied hole of discontent of grumble and complaint and why can’t these kids just be grateful?–I feel empty.

And that excruciating empty means something. It wants something.  It’s craving something. The Bible has an interesting way of presenting itself:  A stumbling block for the wicked, life for the righteous.  Foolishness to the wise-in-their-own-eyes, wisdom for those in Christ.  Parables to confuse; parables to enlighten the wise in heart.  For those who reject Christ, that emptiness drives them in pursuit ad nauseum of the infinitely unsatisfying.  For the righteous in Christ, that very emptiness itself is part of God’s blessing—His discipline calling us home to be satisfied, calling us to leave behind the false idols and pig sty dung, calling us to the good mud, the mud on knees on holy ground in homage to Christ, the good mud that even the knees of the self-righteous-clad-in-his-good-enough-morality-elder-son doesn’t know and in his blindness, he can’t give thanks for.  A welcoming Father embraces prodigal with open arms of grace in spite of the sty fumes that linger.  But he bathes us. Clothes us.  Feeds us.  We are His children, sons and daughters of the living God. We are starting to smell like it too. We don’t return to sty life (we think: “I can’t believe I used to eat that stuff!”), we’re resurrected to live on thankful knees.  We still get dirty (very), but here we know the blessing of cleansing well water (or indoor plumbing as it were) and the bread and wine in His house.  And unlike the older brother with slave mentality to the house rules and loving parameters, we are thankful. The Bible doesn’t carry the prodigal parable ad infinitum to tell us how the sin struggle ensues with these two sons.  But it comprehensively does.  Those who stand in their own righteousness boast in their own grave clothes.  And those who receive the righteous covering of Christ to replace their grave clothes ought to wear them.  Unrepentant wallowing-in-the-past immorality and slave-mentality ingratitude meet the same fruitless empty end because neither live in the present embracing love and obedience of Son to Father.

I have this quote above my desk, in my window:

It is not the case that God does the initial work of salvation and then stands back and we have to do the rest all by ourselves.  But the logic of God’s grace goes deeper than the question imagines.  God loves us as he finds us—which is more or less messy & muddy—but the grace which meets us where we are is not content to leave us as we are.  The whole New Testament insists that it’s not so much affirmation as transformation, a transformation shaped and energized by Jesus’ death and resurrection and by the work and power of the Spirit.  That, after all, is what the New Testament insists on as the meaning of baptism. Learning the Language of Life, Wright

God’s Word is a double-edged sword; a sacrifice tool. Piercing. Dividing. Discerning thoughts and intentions.  Exposing.  It prepares, cuts, empties, kills.  But it doesn’t leave me there… empty.  It empties and kills to bring fullness and life.  It resurrects, transforms, renews mind, raises, and draws me out of the formless void waters, takes me to Hebrews 4  & 5, to Jesus–able to sympathize with us in our weakness, in every respect tempted, yet without sin—takes me with confidence to draw near to Him for mercy…the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

The little people in my life are home schooling me.  We had hunch that would happen. They are always asking the good questions that drive me to God to ask good questions, too: How do I die? I am so uncertain.  But God takes my hands and leads me through the right now.  Right now, Rach, you learn to die by teaching phonics.

I’m almost sixteen years beyond writing a decent bibliography, but these authors have fueled and shaped thoughts, though I’m sure they’d pray for more of that on my part, and I’d like to tip my hat to them (which is far easier than finding my book on MLA documentation which is most certainly out of date.)  And it’s the nice thing to do because they brought some great things to my attention–albeit some  of them 13 years ago–that have been simmering since then as daily reminders in my right now.

Convicting implications, positive and negative, of the Ten Commandments:

Johannes G. Vos  The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary

Hebrews and sacrifice language:

Peter Leithart, A House for My Name

Slave versus Son mentality in the Prodigal Parable:

Sinclair Ferguson, Children of the Living God

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This is very serious school work.  Elijah and Nathanael are performing a” lab” for Zoology.  They are learning about the way wings and tail feathers can slow the bird down using my whimsical umbrellas.

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Before the boys could write fluently, I would sometimes (and not enough!) let them narrate experiences or stories back to me and I would write down every word just as given by them.  The older boys thumb wistfully through these old notebooks full of stories that they’ve dictated, stories full of the charm of a child-like perspective, stories that have consecrated some very special memories better than any photograph or scrapbook ever could.  When my mom stopped by today, Matthias was drawing and wanted to show Grandma his  collection of drawings.  This narration was tucked inside his notebook and stole us back to autumn days and a lovely hike we had at the Ijams Nature Center in October.  And if you know Matthias and have an ear for authenticity, read every “s” as a “th”. Though he is working on this daily and deliberately, it’s a tough habit and I can’t help but find the “th” endearing still.


An October Narration By Matthias:

At the nature center we went on a walk up and down hills.  Climbed up hills, and down hills.  And slid on the leaves.  And there were also prickles which I poked my hair and body with.  I tried to climb the mountain, but I was sliding down, but Josiah helped me up and Elijah helped me too–natural mountains are VERY hard to climb.  And we found big snail shells and we also saw good smelling leaves [interesting pods that were similar to a honey locust, but about as long as a banana].  And write what God did [“What?” I ask him].  God created everything, the birds the clouds, the earth, the sun, the moon, the planets, the trees, the waters below the earth, cows, pigs and farms, and all sorts of animals, the water, the seas and all that he created!  We swimmed in the water with everyone and their walkingsticks and we pretended the mud was peanut butter [and spread it on each other] and we also wanted to slip and throw rocks and kick the water.  And we also wanted to get our clothes wet [and did they!].  Now let’s talk about….hmmm…Let’s do the one where we slide down the hills.  Want to talk about that?  And we also liked to jump in the water.  Did we jump?  No actually we didn’t.

[THE (abrupt) END].


a well-loved yard, bearing the sacrificial scars of our joy

Although his description is a perfect impressionistic glimpse of this day, I’ll explain a couple of things.  First, the boys climbed a steep mountain (off the trail, which I think is what inspired Matthias’s coined term “natural mountain”) and realizing that the dry leaves made it so difficult to climb up, they spent much of the time crawling up it on all fours, then body sledding and rolling down the intoxicatingly crispy autumn leaves; we unintentionally stole a great deal of good black dirt, leaves, and cockleburs in pant pockets, cuffs, and any spare crevices.  After they realized what a great sledding medium dry leaves were, they came home and got the real plastic sleds out and literally went sledding on our leafy front yard hillside.  (That poor yard has borne and worn with a lot of boyish amusement.  It has weathered bikes and ramps and large children and even a few similarly reckless adults riding small Tonka trucks with gravitational abandonment until its poor grassy mantle’s been severely gashed.  It weeps and bleeds its relentless orange clayish blood on the boys’ laundry.   I sometimes weep back.)

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JDH pic of American Robin


We’re back to the full schedule at school.  I dreaded it, then we start back and I wonder why I ever did.  I think it’s just an innate rebellion against the discipline of it all.  So we’re in full swing again, and in science we’re using Apologia’s Exploring Creation Through Zoology 1: The Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  In the previous semester we used this text as we studied the flying insects; this semester we’re studying the chapters devoted to birds.  It’s really fun.  The boys are kind of giddy.  Which makes me kind of giddy too. Josiah has confessed that, among a long list of highly diversified callings, ornithological photography is now one of his aspirations.  He is persistently and passionately stalking birds, including our domesticated ones, with the camera in his free time.

JDH pic of Buff Orpington Rooster, otherwise known as Chicken Nuggets

So, we’re bird watching, marking up field guides, sketching and labeling birds, observing nests and eggs, and having a pretty fine time.  If anyone has expertise and enthusiasm, abandoned bird eggs, abandoned nests, or anything else to share with us in this realm of birding, let us know.  We can pack up in our great white ark (my [dis]affectionate name for our large white van) and go exploring.

JDH pic of Eastern Bluebird

JDH pic of Eastern Bluebird

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A   S I D E   N O T E   (S P I E L)   O N   S I G N   L A N G U A G E

We’ve combined sign language with many other memorization activities around here and have found that it makes a lot of memory work fun and easier.  Sign language has all sorts of complexities, theories, approaches, dialects, and styles, and I  haven’t fussed to delve into these myself since I’m not making a career of it.  Most of the words that we use are obtained from my book, Sign Language Made Simple, which as a matter of nostalgia, was the first book I ever purchased full price from a book store. (Thanks for the birthday ’89 money, grandma.) When this book didn’t have a sign I needed, we went to a second book, The Joy of Signing or this really helpful link that will take you to a digital ASL dictionary that might be everything you need if you want to add sign language to some scripture, song, or poem of your own:




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