Friday, February 28, 2014

Have Mercy

I'm at the tail end of a cold this week.  The part of the cold that, in my body, lasts forever.  Coughing, gasping desperately to get oxygen deep into my lungs (reactive airway disease, I've been told) -- just flat out exhausting.

So, it was dumb of me to repost an article on my Facebook page that I knew would be controversial -- I even specifically asked my friends who disagreed to comment.  What was I thinking?  I didn't have the physical, mental, or emotional wherewithal to deal with any of that right now. I ended up getting snitty with everyone and being disappointed in myself for doing so. I was just so frustrated and angry.  But those emotions were my cold talking.

In actuality, I'm just sad.  So terribly, terribly sad.

Our world is SO broken. Our country is so broken.  The church is so broken. There are people starving in this world -- thousands of them -- and in America we are dying of diseases that are direct results of obesity, eating too much food.  Lord, have mercy on us.

Human trafficking flourishes all over the globe, even in our own nation, right under our noses, and we ignore it all, numbing ourselves to the value of human life while giggling over stupid people on reality TV and obsessing about the daily doings of celebrities.  Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.

Paul asked the Philippians church to make his joy complete by "being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."  The church? Like-minded? Good heavens.

Jesus said people would know we were his disciples when they saw the way we love. The church grew exponentially in its first few centuries even as Christians were being brutally martyred because people noted, "Look how they love!" Because they treated the pagans better than other pagans did. Because they suffered and died well. We aren't like that anymore.  I'm not like that. We don't even love each other well.  Heck, we don't even love our families well.  Forget about gay marriage and all that . . . over half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce these days. And the last statistics I heard were that the divorce rate for Christians is even HIGHER than the average.  Forget loving the world -- we can't even bring ourselves to sacrificially love our spouses.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!

There are days (like today, and yesterday . . . ) when I wonder why in the world God puts up with us at all.  How can he stand us? I can't imagine why he doesn't look down on our selfish, rebellious, sinful little selves and say, "Okay, that's quite enough, people. End of story." Go all Noah on us. Get it over with.  Because honestly, folks, these days, nothing sounds more inviting than that new body in a new heaven and new earth where "there shall be no more death, or sorrow, or crying, or pain, because the former things are passed away."  Amen, I say with John.  Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Yes, I know this is my cold talking, too.  If I felt better, I  wouldn't be so focused on the bad things in the world and would see the good things that are happening out there. I realize God doesn't want us to sit around wallowing -- joy is a fruit of the Spirit, after all. But the Spirit also convicts . . . deepens our sorrow over sin . . . leads us to repentence.  I think a bit of sorrow over the state of our world is warranted.

As long as we respond to that sorrow appropriately. With action. With self-examination. With a sincere falling to our knees -- or even on our faces.  Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on your world . . . have mercy on your church . . . have mercy on me.

And that's why I keep making myself post those controversial articles and ask for conversations. Because as distressing as the conversations are sometimes, they need to happen. Because as much as they make me want to crawl back into my safe, little evangelical cocoon and never face the world again, they ultimately drive me to my knees . . . where I should have been all along.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Standing and Continuing to Stand

My youngest is reaching that age.  That age where she is realizing what a broken world we live in.

I remember when my eldest reached that age, and it was kind of a sad thing to watch. Of course, she has such anxiety issues that my biggest concern was that the realization would cripple her with fear. The youngest isn't necessarily experiencing anxiety -- just distress and disappointment.

It is disappointing, isn't it? When you've grown up in a safe, loving home and the only bad guys are pretend people on TV and in the movies who all either get their dues or come around to the good side in the end, it's a bummer to find out that bad guys are real. And they sometimes flourish. And they sometimes hurt the good guys in big ways. And they sometimes go to your school.  Live in your neighborhood. Even in your house.

Even in your body some days.

And it's distressing to find out that even when you are a good guy and do all the right things, you are going to suffer. Everyone suffers in some way in their lives.  Sometimes it's the consequence of our own wrongdoing, sometimes it's the backsplash from someone else's wrongdoing, and sometimes it is just a seemingly random thing . . . cancer is no respecter of persons.

As I write this, a couple friends come to mind -- friends who I know simply dote on their children and cry with every milestone that comes along to remind them that these younger years are moving swiftly.  They have made every effort to shelter their children from any evidence of evil or suffering in the world, because they see the childhood years as an idyllic time to be innocent and carefree. And I think most of us have that image of childhood in mind (although these moms take it a bit to extremes). Santa Claus, lollipops, playgrounds, toys, friends, happy, happy, happy . . . this is what childhood is supposed to be.

Only maybe it's not.

I fear that we might -- just might -- be doing a grave disservice to our kids by protecting them so much from the harsh realities of the world. I wonder if maybe -- just maybe -- reality coming as such a shock is a sign that we have totally failed to prepare them for reality.  And perhaps -- just perhaps -- that was our job as parents after all.

When I taught honors sophomore English, I noticed that I had two types of students.  One type believed that if they worked their butts off now, when they were young, they'd be able to get a good job later, make a lot of money, and then they could relax, have fun, and enjoy life.  The other type were convinced that when they grew up and got jobs, life would be nothing but miserable hard work, so they needed to enjoy themselves now, in their youth, while they had the chance.

It was hard for me to convince them that they needed to learn to balance both the work and stress AND the rest and fun because life -- all of their life from now until the day they die -- consists of both.

Both pain and fun. Both suffering and joy. Both evil and good. Like learning to control both of the wayward water skis strapped to our feet that want to run in separate directions, we need to learn to stand on both extremes and continue to stand.

And maybe -- just maybe -- the reason we do such a lousy job of teaching our kids how to do this is because we do such a lousy job of it ourselves.

Monday, February 24, 2014

This Is Why I Don't Teach Science

There's a meme going around Facebook these days (see it below): it's a display board a mother made up -- spoofing those done for science fairs -- that explains how families hate to do science fairs. I've been tempted to share in on my own wall, but I've resisted.  My bad attitude doesn't need to be spread.

Because the science fair is driving us crazy right now.  Actually, we haven't even gotten to the science fair part -- the display and all.  The experiment alone is doing us in.

And feeling rather guilty about it all because I'm convinced that the only reason my daughter is struggling through this is because she inherited my science-deficit genes. Science doesn't work for me. Oh, I can understand the concepts . . . in fact, I enjoy reading and hearing about it.  But my experiments never work.  Never.

I think I've already shared my high school Chemistry woes. Mr. Judd told us that, if we wanted an A or B for the final semester grade, we needed to come after class and do an extra experiment. He gave us a test tube with a substance in it, and we had to determine what the substance was and how much of it was in there.  Every time I did this experiment, the empty test tube weighed more than the test tube with the substance in it.  Every time.  And I stayed after school several days to repeat that experiment five or six times.  Once, I had Mr. Judd walk through the whole process with me to see what I was doing wrong. "You must have discovered a negative weight," he said.  I couldn't tell if he was mocking me or not.

In any case, several years of failed homeschool science experiments later, I have come to the logical conclusion that there is something in my genes that makes this stuff not work. It's a sad thing. Pity me. And thank the Lord that your medical well-being is not in my hands.

But as I said, my youngest seems to have inherited this deficiency. Her experiment is about the effects of caffeine on heart rate. She chose three caffeinated beverages -- diet Coke, McDonald's coffee, and Monster -- and did three trials on each, testing how a cup of each affected her heart rate.

The first aggravation was trying to control all the potential variables. We had to do each trial at the same time every day . . . she had to get up at the same time each of those mornings and eat the same thing for breakfast . . . and when you add the trials with the control beverage of water, that's twelve days we had to do this. Twelve days where our morning schedule was dominated by this stupid experiment.

But what's even MORE aggravating is that her results are the OPPOSITE of what she hypothesized. Her heart rate went down with the Monster (dramatically on her last trial).  It went down with coffee (although she has one more trial with that today).  Diet Coke was more variable: down the first trial, the same on the second trial, and up on the third.

And get this: every trial with her control beverage, her heart rate went UP.  Water increased her heart rate. And Monster made it plummet. Go figure.

We don't know what to do with this. It's possible there were other variables involved that we weren't aware of and didn't control. (I suspected from the beginning that the thought of having to drink the coffee -- nasty stuff! -- sent her heart rate soaring before she started those trials.) It's also possible that she just has a wonky heart. But her results are due in class tomorrow, and next week is the science fair; we have no time to redo it or do something else.

Sigh . . . I hate science.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Guess I'm Just a Sorry Excuse for a Modern Woman

A comment thread on a friend's recent FB post prompted me to make the following declarations:

- Although I'm a bit fuzzy on the current definition of a feminist, I'm still pretty sure that I'm not one.

- I don't believe I've ever been in a situation where I have been held back or mistreated simply because I'm a woman. However, this is most likely because I chose a career field that has historically been dominated by women.

- I don't at all doubt that there are women out there who are held back professionally or mistreated simply because they are women. But I also believe there are men out there who are held back professionally and mistreated simply because they are men. Example: I can't tell you how many times over the last twenty-five years my husband has been one of the last couple candidates for a job and lost it to a woman or a minority . . . but it's enough to convince me that it's not a coincidence. And I'm quite tired of television shows portraying all men as either violent sex maniacs or wimpy buffoons dominated by their wives.

- I have no problem with the term "mankind", even though I am not a man. None at all.

- I also have no problem with masculine pronouns being used to refer to a generic person. In fact, I find "s/he" and "his/her" and all their ilk to be quite annoying. They are MUCH more disruptive to effective communication, I think, than just saying "he" and assuming your reader has a modicum of common sense.

- The only time I recall experiencing any direct discrimination for my gender (and even this wasn't really direct) was at a church Hubby and I visited several times when we first moved to Hutchinson early in our marriage. He actually was the one who pointed out to me that women were never asked to pray in the Sunday School class, and did that bother me? (Not really.) When the church had a missionary couple come in to speak for a weekend -- and the men gathered to hear the husband speak of the mission efforts while the women gathered in another room to hear about the country's food and clothes -- that's when we decided to move on in our church search.

- There are a lot of super-conservative Christians that have a lot of super-conservative views on women that I don't agree with.

- That said, I think the Bible teaches that wives are to submit to their husbands, and I agree and do so, to the best of my ability. It's not a question of inferiority and superiority. I am "inferior" to my husband in some aspects, and he is "inferior" to me in other aspects, and we are equal in value before God. It's simply a matter of position; someone needs to be in charge in any organization. I knew when I married my husband that I was hiring a CEO for my family; if I didn't trust him to do the job well, I wouldn't have married him. Rarely has he ever expected me to "submit" to him because we rarely disagree on important matters regarding our family, but I'm prepared to do so. Anyone who uses the Bible to make women doormats has not thoroughly read their Bible.

- Men (as a whole) are physically stronger than women (as a whole). This means that men (in general) are better suited for certain jobs than women (in general). There are many other differences between men and women, and I like my men and women to be different. Again, it does not mean they are different in value.

- I had male OB/GYNs deliver both of my babies -- and I loved them.

- I prefer not to attend a church with a woman pastor. But I don't know that this has to do with Biblical admonitions against women in the ministry -- I think it's just a personal preference.

- I'm still not sure what I think of women in ministry roles as a whole. I had a friend once (a woman Sunday School teacher of a couples class) who believed that the church made a big mistake when they allowed women to take leadership positions in the church because this gave men permission to sit back and stop leading -- which they did. I tend to think there's something to that. I also know that if I were tapped to teach a class at church and I knew that there were several men who would not attend or who would give less credibility to the teaching because of my gender, I would step down and give the job to a man . . . because it is far more important that these men hear the word of God with an open heart than it is for them to get over any misogyny I suspect they suffer from (especially because getting over their misogyny would require them hearing the word of God with an open heart first).

- I was uncomfortable with Sarah Palin running for Vice President because she had young children -- and especially a very young one with special needs -- and I felt she would not be able to give her family the attention they needed if she were Vice President. It did occur to me at the time that it was hypocritical of me not to apply the same standard to men running for office . . . which has contributed to my belief that high-level offices in the national government (President and such) really need to be filled only by people who do not have children at home. Everyone should put their families first, and a President really can't.

- When a man opens a door for me or stands to give me a seat on a bus, it never occurs to me that he is implying that I am incapable in any way. I'm just terribly impressed at his good manners.

- I understand that many women have experienced genuine abuse based on their gender. This is abominable. I also think there are many women (and men) who frankly are just too darn sensitive. There.  I said it.

- Please feel free to call me a "lady". I strive to be one. I think I can tell when you mean it in a pejorative sense, and I'll get over it if you do.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Killing Ourselves in the Name of Happiness

My daughter was watching an episode of “Sam and Cat” on the Disney channel. Sam and Cat's favorite soft drink, Blue Dog, was declared illegal in the state of California because it had too much sugar in it and "some people drink too much of it." Folks from the Federal Bureau of Interference came to confiscate all the Blue Dog soda out of the store they were in.

The Federal Bureau of Interference. Yes, the producers had a statement to make here.
Interestingly, my daughter thought this was a spoof on Prohibition. Glad to see she's been paying attention in history class. But her dad and I filled her in on the current issues this was about.
Here's the thing, folks. Is there anybody out there who doesn't know that drinking too much pop is bad for you? Really – anyone?
Okay, maybe there are a few clueless folks. Eliminate them from the discussion here. The bulk of us are well aware that drinking too much pop is bad for you. Too much sugar. Leads to obesity and diabetes. Rots your teeth. Messes with your blood sugar. We know this.
So, why do we keep drinking so much pop?
Indeed, why do we continue to consume all the crap out there that's bad for us? Coffee, candy bars, refined sugar, transfats, red dyes, beer . . . how many times do we have to hear this stuff? How many dress sizes do we have to increase . . . how many illnesses do we have do endure . . . how many drugs do we have to be prescribed . . . how many premature deaths of the one we love do we need to witness before we understand that we are literally killing ourselves with the way we eat?
Those aren't really rhetorical questions, either. As I've mentioned before here, I am a hopeless carb and sugar addict. I'm well aware of how bad this is for me, but I continue to eat this way. A few weeks ago in BSF, the teaching leader said something on a completely different topic, but the Lord turned the words around to say to me, in my heart, how many times do you need to hear that all the sugar you eat is keeping you from the life I have for you?
Uh . . five more?
The unfortunate answer is that hearing the truth and knowing the truth doesn't always result in acting on the truth. We eat crap (and smoke, and watch trash on TV, and gossip, and . . . and . . . ) because it makes us feel good. And feeling good has become the purpose of existence in our modern times, the thing that gives meaning to life. A book I'm reading talks about how in past cultures, people found meaning in life through honor, or community, or "leaving a legacy", or even through enduring suffering well. In this age of technological advancement, comfort and happiness is our idol of choice.

Which, as this book discusses, gives us no "spiritual" resources for dealing with the inevitable suffering of life. The only salve our god can give us is escape through more overdose of comfort and happiness . . . and thus we have a nation of addicts.
It's crazy, isn't it? We know that doing this stuff in excess is bad for us. We know that continuing in this path will ruin us.  We know that what gives us pleasure today will eventually take us captive and end all real pleasure in our lives. But we keep doing it.
What pitiful saps we are that we require laws to force us to do what we know will make us truly happy. Sad.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blind and Comfy

The pastor used this Linus quote from a Peanuts cartoon to start his sermon yesterday. “I love mankind. It's people I can't stand!” Apparently, our eldest feels the same way.

She spent about an hour at lunch after church raging about how stupid people are . . . specifically, how stupid teenagers are. How in high school, you are nobody if you don't play sports. How girls she knew who were very sweet became absolute brats as soon as they joined the cheerleading squad. And so on and so forth.

Basically, she was complaining about the social hierarchy in school and the stupid games that ensue because of it. Hubby and I tried to assure her that a lot of that comes to an end when you grow up. (But not all of it. Hubby described meetings where someone will bring up an idea that nobody pays attention to . . . until it is brought up again by someone else later and then gushed over. The difference, he said, is that now the hierarchy is not based on looks or athletics – it's based on position. The same brilliant suggestion can be made by the CEO or the marketing intern, but nobody listens to the marketing intern.)

I vividly remember my daughter's first class in our first homeschool co-op, the year I pulled her out of public school. My daughter was a good kid – a really good kid. But I watched her in that class and was afraid she would end up being the problem child and I would be embarrassed by her behavior.

Not because every other kid in the class was a little angel -- they were not, by any means. They were restless and squirrelly. They didn't always pay attention. They were thoughtless. Some of them seriously got on my nerves.

But what you didn't see is the social hierarchy. The battling for supremacy. Nobody tried to build themselves up by pulling someone else down. It didn't even occur to them.
I have contended for a long time that our school system is broken. Broken in many different ways. It doesn't educate our kids like we need them educated, first of all, and that right there is a shameful fact in “the greatest country on earth”. But more than that, I sincerely believe that there is something in the culture of the school system – public and private schools – that creates and feeds some really unhealthy interpersonal and intrapersonal patterns. School messes up our children.
And I believe that we all know this. Deep in our gut, we know that that something isn't right about what happens to our kids when we put them in school for seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for thirteen formative years of their lives. Yet we continue the game. We allow ourselves to be blind to it all and comfortable in our blindness. We inwardly scorn and mock those who refuse to subject their kids to the system, and we even fight the efforts of the few with open eyes who try to reform the system and make it right.
I really wish I understood why.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Queen of Appearance

I kind of like this picture -- don't you? Woman Sitting on a Throne of Clothing (my title). It's not representative of me at all, but it's very symbolic of many women in the western world these days. The Queen of Appearance seated on the source of her majesty and power. I am Woman; see my dress. And its accompanying accessories and sky-high pumps.

The second month of Jen Hatmaker's "experimental mutiny against excess" (which I referred to in my last post) was about clothes.  Out of her vast wardrobe, she chose seven items of clothing:

- a pair of nice jeans
- a dress
- four shirts (of varying levels of dressiness and formality)
- shoes (one pair of sneakers and one pair of cowboy boots -- see note)

[NOTE: Ms. Jen's "Council" (a circle of friends whom she drafted to help her set the parameters of her experiment and to keep her accountable) all agreed to make "shoes" a single item, but limited the scope of that item to two pair.  And undergarments were excluded from the fast. Understandably.]

As the month progressed, Ms. Jen found herself enjoying the fact that she didn't have to waste time and energy making decisions about what to wear (something my eldest has enjoyed about having a school uniform). She also learned a lot about how much importance she gives to her image -- and how little most people really pay attention to what you wear -- and how ridiculously much others DO pay attention.  And about the importance of regular laundering.

As I was reading this chapter, though, I kept thinking, this would be a breeze for me. I've gotten to a point this year where I seem to wear the same seven items of clothing all the time anyway.  (Okay, more than seven items, but still.)  And that was a bit of a rude awakening.

I do have excuses for my limited wardrobe, though. For one thing, I'm home most of the time. Nobody sees much of me except when I go to church, go to BSF, and drop the kids off at school. And until about a month ago, we were visiting different churches almost every week, so I could wear the same outfit to church each week and nobody would know the difference (and even if I wore the same outfit to the same church twice in a row, we didn't know anybody there yet, so nobody would pay any attention anyway).

But I realized that the biggest factor is EXERCISE. I have put "exercise" as a permanent item on my to-do list every day because that means I may actually get to it three or four times in a week. This means that when I get up in the morning, I dress for exercise; if I don't, I just cut the chances of my lazy butt actually going out to run by about a fifth. And on the days that I don't run, I end up wearing my t-shirt and sweat pants all day -- and putting them on the next morning so I'm again ready to exercise.

However, it's still kind of sad that I've come to look like a frumpy housewife every day. I'm sure my husband would appreciate my looking a little nicer when he comes home in the evenings . . . or at least would appreciate some variety in my appearance. There has to be a happy medium between needing to dress to the nines to feel good about yourself and not giving a flip at all about what raggedy threads are hanging off of your limbs.

This week, I substituted at my daughter's school two mornings. Which meant that I suddenly had to find "work clothes" in my closet. Wow! It was kind of exciting and kind of annoying and kind of frustrating, all at the same time. And it also made me wonder why, in a school where the students are required to wear uniforms, the teachers are given the "freedom" to express their individuality in their dress.

"Freedom". I think if I were teaching there, I'd find it more freeing to have a uniform. Maybe if I start teaching there, I'll impose one on myself. Standing in solidarity with my students. Yeah.

But it won't be a pleated plaid skirt. I haven't killed my pride that dead yet.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A 7-Food Fast . . . Wow

I'm reading a book by Jen Hatmaker called 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess.  I expect to write about this book several more times, so you may as well go out and buy it for yourself.  It's a pretty amazing book.

The premise is, Ms. Jen decided to do some radical fasting in seven different areas of her life for a month each.  The first was food. For one month, she ate only seven foods:

- chicken
- eggs
- whole wheat bread
- sweet potatoes
- avocadoes
- spinach
- apples

She did a bit of research ahead of time to be sure that these foods would give her a good balance of the nutrition she needed. She allowed herself salt and pepper for seasoning and a little bit of olive oil for cooking in when necessary.  But nothing else. Only water to drink.

Like I said, radical.

This was difficult for her because she's something of a foodie. I think it would be difficult for me because I'm not at all a foodie. I'm a rather picky eater. I can eat all of these foods, but only when served just right. I like my sweet potatoes fried. I like my avocado with salsa and chips. I like my spinach doused in dressing -- or if it's cooked, layered between lasagna noodles and tomato sauce. Each of these foods are fine, but to eat only these foods would be awful.

So, why did she do it? Well, as I said, it was a fast. And she got all the benefits out of it that one gets from a fast, particularly a recognition of how much excess there is in her life (note again the sub-title) and the freedom of surrender and submission and giving up idols. She also commented on the extra energy she had . . . that her allergies were gone . . . that her skin was so much cleaner and brighter.

It reminded me of when I changed my diet a few years ago. I was seeing a holistic kind of doctor for help with my sleep issues, and he got me changing a lot of things about how I ate.  I blogged about it at the time (here). About how I was trying to eat more variety of foods, more natural foods, etc.  (I also immediately blogged about crashing and burning on it all one day. Hubris.) I lost a good amount of weight during that time. Felt a lot better. Looked a lot better. (Didn't sleep a lot better, but I guess you can't win 'em all.)

I've been aggravated at myself for what my eating habits have become again. And something about Ms. Jen's 7-food fast appealed to me . . . but then I know if I actually tried to do that, I would want to shoot myself within a couple days. That was for a month -- I need to make changes that I can sustain for the long-term. Changes like I made before.

Sigh. Why can't the lessons I learn stay learnt?

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Bible Know-It-All

"So, is it a good thing or a bad thing when you know all the answers in Bible class?" my eldest asked me.

After a fleeting moment of pride at my daughter's brilliance, I consider countering with, "Maybe the question should be, is it a good thing or a bad thing when you think you know all the answers in Bible class?"

But I didn't, partly because I'm trying to learn not to shut off valuable discussions with my ill-timed sarcasm, and partly because I know where she's coming from. She has not only been raised "in the church", which means a plethora of Sunday School classes, Vacation Bible Schools, youth evangelism rallies, and what all . . . but she was homeschooled by a Christian mama who thought it important that her kids knew The Book thoroughly. She's heard a lot of sermons -- listened to a lot of Christian radio -- asked a lot of questions and gotten a lot of answers.  She's a mini-me, in a sense.

Her point was, in her Bible class at school, when they have days where they are just supposed to bring up questions to discuss, things that trouble them or that they wonder about, she doesn't have much to bring up.  And the stuff that gets brought up, she doesn't find troubling. If she thinks about it long enough, she knows the answer . . . or she at least knows what the Bible teacher is going to say about it.

This has been an issue with Hubby over the years. Finding a Sunday School class or Bible study or small group that satisfies him is a challenge. It all seems old hat.  Been there, heard that, did the exegesis. "There is nothing new under the sun," as the Preacher said. As I've written about before, when you've heard this stuff from toddlerhood, even something as phenomenal and radical as God becoming man and rising from the dead loses its wonder.

So, yeah . . . I knew where she was coming from. We're supposed to be in the Word, constantly learning, but what if you don't feel like you're learning anything?

That's where the old James passage comes in, I think.  "Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only." (Get over the old English . . . I will forever have that in my head in the King James.)  This has been where God as convicted me a lot in the last several years. Sure, I know a lot.  I mean, I know a whole lot to be really frank. The question is not what I know; the question is what difference has it made.

I know all about the nature and attributes of God -- his sovereignty, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his everlasting love -- but has that stopped me from worrying about my future?

I know all about idolatry and the modern manifestations of it and the great effront it is to the Almighty -- but has that stopped me from setting food up on a pedestal as the Great Comforter in my life?

I know the second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself -- and that "my neighbor" can be defined as anyone out there in need -- but has that led me to seek out the hungry and the homeless and the hurting to show them love?

Yeah . . . who really cares what I know. I live like an ignorant heathen.

One thing I like about Bible Study Fellowship: they always push you to application. "What does this passage teach you about prayer, and how does that change your own prayer life?" "When have you behaved like the Pharisees in this passage, and what will you do differently now?"  "What have you learned from this chapter this week, and how have you applied that to your life?

So, that's what I told my daughter . . . what I try to tell myself . . . what I'm trying to say to you, my faithful reader. Shut up with your arrogant "yeah-yeah-I-know-all-that-already". Are you living it? Do you look different than the world because of your living it? Are you closer to God and more like Christ because of your living it?

May we be livers of the Word, and not knowers only.

Friday, February 7, 2014

International Snack Fest!

In case you haven't heard, the Olympics have started! Hubby is a big Olympics fan, so I expect to have them up on our TV most of the next two weeks. (Personally, I fear we're not going to get through this round of competitions without something ugly going down security-wise. Guess I should start praying now.)

But tonight is the opening ceremonies (well, yes, I realize they actually happen this morning, but they are broadcast in the U.S. tonight), and I hope nothing happens to disrupt that because we have a new family tradition that I'm looking forward to.

International Snack Fest!

I came up with this two years ago for the opening ceremonies in London. We wanted to have a family night around the television enjoying the event, but I suspected my girls would get bored. So, I brought out a different food item every twenty minutes or so:

- Fortune cookies from China

- Ravioli from Italy

- Pretzels from Germany

- Bread dipped in olive oil from Greece

- Croissants from France

- Bacon from . . . Canada (Mm-hmm)

- Swiss cheese (yes, really)

- Cinnamon buns from Sweden (kinda stretched a bit there)

- Empanadas from Panama (because we'd just been to Panama – although the closest I could get in Siouxland was Totino's pizza rolls)

- Lettuce dipped in Russian dressing (REALLY stretched for that one)

- Sweet potato chips from Zimbabwe (just cuz the internet said they have a lot of sweet potatoes in Zimbabwe)

- And, of course, chocolate chip cookies from the good ol' USA.

This year, I'm going to look for some Swedish meatballs and some real empanadas (I think I've seen them here – we're in Texas now, after all). I'll replace the fortune cookies with crab rangoon and leave out the Russian dressing (even though it's in Russia this year . . . that was just kind of lame). There's a Pasha Express in the local HEB, so I might look for something better from them. The other big change we're making this year – we're not eating dinner ahead of time because by bedtime we were stuffed.

I can't tell you how much fun this was! And how much we're looking forward to it again this year!     U! S! A!     U! S! A!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bad Religion or Bad Science?

If you're a homeschooler or a serious science person, you were probably aware of the big evolution debate last night between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis. I had BSF, so I couldn't watch the debate live -- I'll be watching it today with my youngest while she's home from school.

I'm anxious to see the debate, but I'm not anxious to deal with the fall-out on both sides, because I'm confident nobody came out a clear "winner" here, as in the other person left the stage saying, "Good points, Jack -- I'm convinced."  I fear that such events only rile up each side of the argument with more ammunition to attack the other side.

And I'm tired of the attacks. I know, for all my talk, I should be prepared for people to dismiss me at best and attack me at worst because of what I believe, but it still rankles me when people who claim to be the top of the evolutionary chain of mankind behave so ridiculously.

I'm willing to concede that there are those on the creationist side who don't approach this scientifically -- they believe what they believe because it's what the Bible says and no scientific findings will convince them otherwise. But I would hope my "opponents" would concede something similar on their side: many of their people refuse to listen to anything that a creation scientist or intelligent design theorist might say simply because it smacks of a supernatural god which they refuse to believe in up front. These scientists bring up some genuine problems with the evolutionary theory, and evolutionists only weaken their stance be refusing to address those points and simply ridiculing the messenger.

The ridicule is the real problem here. There is something wrong when, the moment a scientist brings up actual scientific evidence that calls into question the validity of the theory of evolution, scientific inquiry ceases. Evolutionist scientists do not take that evidence, examine it, test it themselves, and come up with a calm rebuttal of the facts (if one can be made). They ridicule the scientist daring to go against the mainstream. They deny him tenure -- even cause him to lose his position. I've heard before that, in anonymous surveys, the vast majority of people who work professionally in a scientific field find the theory of evolution an unsatisfactory answer to the question of the origin of life . . . but if you asked your average university physics professor about it, he wouldn't say that because he knows he would immediately lose all of his professional standing, if not his job.

That's not religion gone bad. That's science gone bad.

And there is most DEFINITELY a problem when my eldest's physics teacher feels emboldened enough by the arrogant stance of his professional community to publicly shame the Christian students in his class for being stupid and ignorant and small-minded -- before they've even said a word.

That's not science. That's prejudice and boorishness, and it has no place in a classroom at any level.

Can we all at least start with the agreement that NOBODY knows for sure how life began? No evolutionist or creationist, Christian or atheist, scientist or layman. None of us were there. We all are making intelligent guesses based on what was left behind. That kind of humility really must be at the basis of any scientific inquiry if it is to have any validity at all.

Because science is about finding the truth, and truth does not need to be defended by shaming its detractors. Truth is strong enough to fight its own battles -- just let it fight.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Oo! Oo! I'm All Bubbly Just Thinking About It!

I could not go to sleep last night. It wasn't pity for the Broncos or elation for the Seahawks that delayed my repose (although you can't help but feel sorry for poor Payton -- wow, that was a painful trouncing). It was the prospect of a new English teaching position this fall.

Nothing certain yet -- I just had a casual talk with the principal about the matter with further talk on the way. But already my brain started cranking. A brand new class! Starting from scratch! Oh, the thrill of it all!  A chance to build a curriculum and a system to be whatever I want it to be.

What do I want it to be?

Well, I'd start with the writing curriculum, and fortunately, these kids already have a base in IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) training. IEW is great; it's kind of like running drills in basketball practice, or painting the classics by number, or acting through strict imitation. It teaches you the basics of what the deed looks like and FEELS like when done well to train that feeling into your bones.

But by 9th grade, it's time, I think, to step beyond the drills and into the real game of writing where those skills are applied and modified to fit the situation, or writing assignment, at hand. I think it's time to introduce 6-Trait Writing Analysis. (Oooh!  Ahhh!) Papers will be evaluated according to the 6-traits of excellent writing: Ideas and Content, Organization, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Grammar and Mechanics, and Voice. (Is anyone else tingly? I'm tingly. Yes, I'm an English geek, and the idea of 6-Trait Writing Analysis makes me tingly!)

Also, since writing is a skill applied to information that is gleaned elsewhere, I would want to work together with the content area teachers (History, Science, Bible and Literature -- though that last one might be me also). I'd want to discuss with them short writing assignments (paragraphs) that they could assign over their topics which we could discuss in writing class. And the other teachers and I can grade them together -- they grade Ideas and Content, I grade the rest.

In addition, I'd want to have some regular routines dealing just with words and language and the fun and beauty of them. Like . . . one vocabulary word a week (not the ten a week my eldest is trudging through in AP English only to forget the minute the quiz is over). One good quality, practical word a week that we define, discuss the usage of, seek to plug into our conversations (with quickie rewards for that -- toss them a piece of taffy?), bonus points for using them in papers . . . and a brief "quiz" or activity every Friday over all the year's words to ensure none of them are forgotten.  To ensure mastery. If high school students master thirty new high-quality, useful, practical words a year that actually become a part of their active vocabulary and alter the way they think as well as write, that would be a great accomplishment right there. Wouldn't it? Wouldn't it be awesome?  (Pant, pant.)

Literature? I'm not as strong here as I am in the writing area, but I would want to start by making the distinction for the kids between reading for pleasure and reading to study. Both are valuable and necessary skills, but the trick is to teach the latter without killing the former.

The IEW program already taught them the Story Sequence chart which introduces the literary elements. It's a small step from there to analyzing a piece of literature by how the author uses those elements.

Oh -- another thing! Since I last was in the classroom, we've jumped into the computer age! I can have the kids send me assignments online, so I can read and evaluate and make plans for the next class day based on what I see. We can do chatrooms or something on homestudy days to answer questions about the literature their reading. I can create an online literary magazine to "publish" student work! Yeah! Oh, yeah! How cool would that be?

Oh, oh, oh!!! . . . and one of the biggest advantages of working with such a small class is being able to individualize. SO important in my book! Any checklist for a writing assignment I give will also have a item for the student's "Personal Challenge" -- the one thing he and I have identified that he personally wants to work on to improve his writing.  That may be increasing sentence fluency. It may be finding interesting ways to introduce your topic. It may be figuring out how to use commas correctly once and for all. It may be playing with figurative language. Again, if each student has two or three personal challenges during a year that he focuses on and meets to improve the weaker areas of his own writing, that right there is a significant accomplishment.

I'm SO excited about the possibilities here. Can you tell I'm excited about the possibilities here?  I really need to get squared away soon whether or not I have the job -- otherwise, I'll be up every night planning poetry units and grammar units and such for a phantom class I'll never teach . . . and that would be pretty lame. (Although it wouldn't be that different from what I've done in my spare time for the last fifteen years or so. I really need to get back in the classroom . . .)