Friday, December 30, 2011

Get Out of Our House

There are precisely two things that make the United States of America the greatest country on earth. There are two things that make people want to immigrate here and keep people from emigrating from here:

Our constitutional republic
and our free-market economy.

Together, these two things make possible what is known the world over as the "American Dream." Take away just one of these, and you can kiss the dream goodbye.

So it is vitally important that we elect representatives who leave us and the Hand alone. There is no room for pragmatism. Pragmatism is what got us where we are today.

Get Out of Our House: Revolution! is author Tim Cox's answer to the problem we currently have with career politicians who make deals, compromise with the enemy, and take the illscratchyourbackyouscratchmine approach to government.

His system just might work. Every potential candidate must answer a questionnaire of over one hundred policy questions with strictly yes or no answers. There is no wiggle room, no mushy middle. And that's just my speed. The candidates are locked into their answers two weeks before the election and are legally bound to cast all votes in accordance with their answers. If the candidate is legitimately concerned that his answer does not represent the people, he can call for a poll to gather information in order to justify a change in his answer to the policy question.

Sort of reminiscent of the Social Contract.

My problem with the book, however, is not so much its approach, which is quite realistic, but its author. His politics are a paean to pragmatism in its grossest form. Shame on Mr. Cox for sinking to the same level as those he claims to loathe.

The 'wealthy' are arbitrarily described as those having 250 times the income of the median national income. Why not 249 times, Mr. Cox? Or 251 times? And who gets to determine that? You? The 'wealthy', thus defined, are locked out of his process. No doubt, that's to help Cox in his agenda to pass the Fair Tax, which is still a progressive tax system that taxes the wealthy at a higher rate than the not-wealthy. So we're back to where we started in the tax mess, requiring the wealthy, who worked for their money, to fund more government than the rest of us. Um, that's

Cox thinks abortion should be illegal in the second and third trimesters--but legal in the first. Be consistent, Cox. Spare us this disgusting, arbitrary 'respect' for life. You are pro-life from conception to the grave of innocent people...or you are not pro-life at all. Your attempt to stop the vicious cycle of single motherhood and poverty is not going to be fixed by throwing murder onto the heap.

And his environmental approach is absolutely bizarre. Claiming a strong love of the environment, Cox asserts that it is part of the government's job to help protect it...but(and here's where it gets really bizarre)...the government should not protect any endangered species with a mass smaller than that of a golf ball.


I'm no tree-hugger. And I'm with Vaclav Klaus who said that conservation is science but environmentalism is religion. But even I know that the food chain will be affected by even the smallest creature breaking the cycle. Again, Cox, be consistent. I'm not for saving the cave beetle of Central Texas if it interferes with human quality of life. But I'm not for saving the Alaskan caribou, either, if we need a domestic source of fuel.

Drill here; drill now, baby.

And his economics are a little too 'Chicago' for me. Cox claims to want the government to leave the economy alone--unless the GDP dips too low. Perhaps we need the GDP and everything else about the economy to reset to get us where we need to be?

In the end, we need to stick to our ideals,
to--as my friend Bev says--make our decisions based on principles, not circumstances.
The ideals that a good government will protect are the constitutional republic and the free-market economy.
If the men we elect refuse to protect these two ideals,
no exceptions,
no compromises across the aisle,
no wheeling and dealing,
the United States is done.
If the men we elect protect more than these two ideals, it will muddy the waters and infringe on the jurisdictions of the Church and the family.

"This quest stands on the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail." (Tolkien)

Maybe if he had read more Locke, Paine, Henry, Jefferson, and Madison
and less Gingrich and Hightower, Cox might have better grasped those ideals.
I may support Cox's system.
But I'm done supporting Cox's pragmatism
It's a fail, Mr. Cox,
An epic fail.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Every red/white/blue bleeding, pledge chanting, flag-waving American loves this land and the liberty it represents. We love our country, and we love the Constitution that makes our country great. Despite the national debt and the on-going recession, we are still the richest country in the world. Despite the growth of government, we remain the free-est country in the world. We have the best trained and best funded military forces in the world. So it's only right that we are entitled use that might and that wealth as we see fit.


American Exceptionalism. I first heard the term from a friend about eighteen months ago. Then I read about it in a book. Then I heard politicians use the term. I suppose it means that America, and the unequaled liberty and wealth that she represents worldwide, is exceptional among all the countries in the world.

I suppose.

But I've noticed that there is a disturbing implication in the term. What it really means is that America should defend its 'interests' around the globe, despite the costs to other nations. What it really means is that while we get our panties in a wad over the United Nations being on our soil, we don't intend for national sovereignty to extend beyond our borders. What it really means is that 'collateral damage' is a small price to pay for oil that we are entitled to.

Columnist Ann Coulter once quipped, "What's wrong with a war for oil?"

Well, Ann, I suppose what's wrong is that the aforementioned oil happens be in someone else's country. And the very idea that they have to do business with us rather infuriates them. It's akin to Zimbabwe telling us that we have to sell our wheat to them...and that they're prepared to send troops if we don't.

American Exceptionalism.

When the Arab Spring was underway last year, and the world watched as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak's administration was toppled, Sean Hannity bombasted, "We have to get the right leader in there!"

Who's 'we,' Sean?
You mean America has to pick Egypt's next leader.
I'd a-thought, what with our being a constitutional republic and all, that we'd like to see other folks get to have a representative form of government as well. I'd a-thought we would respect other countries' rights to free elections, too.

American Exceptionalism.

When Hugo Chavez, our favorite South American Communist, was making idiotic comments regarding the United States, 'Christian' commentator and fruit loop extraordinaire Pat Robertson thought we should assassinate him.
Assassinate him.
As in America assassinate another head of state.
'Cause he doesn't work for us.

American Exceptionalism.

And now...what to do with Iran???
Those crazy Iranians are saying bad things about us. They might have weapons, too. And they might be pointing them at us!
So we, being the great respecters of national sovereignty that we are, would like to send in weapons inspectors--because their military is our business, I suppose. But Iran, like a difficult two-year-old, simply refuses to cooperate. I just can't understand it.
And we would like to, perhaps, take out their weapons with a pre-emptive strike.
You know...
Before they commit any act of war...
Because we can.

American Exceptionalism.
Might makes right.
This is the stuff of Arthurian legend.
And just as the Wart had to learn that 'might makes right' only served to make men animals, America should take note, too.

We installed the Shah--because that worked for us.
And the Shah set up his secret police.
And his secret police tortured and killed thousands of his own people.
No wonder the Iranians stormed our embassy.
We sold wmd's to Saddam Hussein--because that worked for us.
Hussein tortured and killed his own people.
And then we took out Hussein, not because he tortured and killed his own people
but because his regime no longer worked for us.
We took out Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz--who, by the way, was elected by Guatemalans in a free election--in a 1954 CIA-instigated coup, and replaced him with Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas
who--you guessed it--tortured and killed his own people.

We can do that
Cause we're America, by golly.

And we're exceptional.

Ah, but are we Biblical?
Every time we interfere with another nation, innocent citizens of that nation are killed.
These are real people.
Real people with real wives and children and jobs and homes and dreams and pasts.
Real people with childhood memories and mothers-in-law and allergies and favorite colors and hobbies.
Real people with real souls.
Every time we interfere with another nation in the name of national defense--which is just horse puckey--we make widows and orphans. We increase poverty for people who never knew us or loved us or hated us or cared either way.

The Biblical jurisdiction of government is to punish wrongdoers, not to punish people who might be wrongdoers some time in the future.
Part of the Biblical jurisdiction of the Church is to take care of the poor, the orphan, the widow.
But wow.
Most American Christians fist-pump for the flag
And as long as our foreign policy works for America, we're okay with that.
Shame on you. Shame on me.

You, my evangelical Christian friend, call it 'national defense.'
I call it Widowmaker.

I wonder if God's okay with that.
I'll bet He's not.
And if He's not...
why are you?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dreaming of a White Christmas

One of my favorite things in the whole world.

Free of all the things I can't stand in the world
like heat
or sand
or noise.

Memories from childhood of sledding
and snowballs
and opening my bedroom dormer window and climbing out on the roof with my dad to watch as it fell.
So quiet, it makes its own music.
So beautiful, it is its own art.

No, there is nothing like snow.

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow."
(Isaiah 1:18)

That is what the Incarnation set in motion.
It gave us hope that the stain of our sin will be cleansed
and that we will one day stand in the presence of our perfectly clean God.
It rescued us from the flames of Hell that were licking at our feet and beckoning us to our own destruction.
It silenced the noise of our flesh that tries to interfere with the voice of our Father.

There's just something about snow.
It is clean and cold and quiet whether it lies in the peaceful valley or on the rugged mountain. The constance of the properties of snow just stuns me into awe at my Creator and makes me fall to my knees in worship of my Redeemer.

We still do battle with the heat and the sand and the noise.
But it's temporary.
What the Incarnation set in motion
and what the Resurrection permanently secured
will one day, once and for all,
make a tangible reality.
Until then, I remember the clean, cold, quiet snow of my childhood,
and I dream of the clean, cold, quiet snow to come.

Merry Christmas, from my family to yours.

May all your Christmases be white.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

He is the God Who Sees (Part Two)

Mom tears.
They flow for so many reasons.
When our children are little, we agonize over sleep, health, motor skills, intellectual development, growth charts, safety, nutrition, and social development.
We try not to compare, but we find ourselves asking,
Is this a normal child?
Am I normal mom?
What is normal, anyway?

It's what we want for our children.
We want them to be just right.
And we lie awake at night worrying...
Too big? Too small?
Too social? Too quiet?
Too cautious? Too daring?
Too smart? Too slow?
Too passive? Too aggressive?

Moms of little children have such a difficult season to navigate.
We run on little sleep, little food, little experience.
We get advice where we are not looking for it
Or silence where we are.

And any time something seems to be 'not right,'
We are taken over with worry that our just right world
May not be just right, after all.
Most of our worries end up being unfounded.
But not all the time.

Mother of little children,
He is the God who sees.
He has not blinked.
He has not made a mistake.
He knows how the story ends.
He is sovereign and good.
He sees me.
He sees my children.

Days and nights...
Moons and months...

And I am the mother of growing children.
I worry less about their height
and more about their stature.
Less about their nutrition
More about their worldview.
Less about their social skills
and more about their relationships.

The things that keep me up at night are the words they say that bubble up from hearts that are wrestling with adulthood
or wrestling with God.
What are they reading, watching, and feeding to their spirits?
And do they like it?
Who are they spending time with?
And are they worth it?

Will they marry the right kind of person?
Will they use their talents for God...or bury them?
Will they not forsake the fellowship of the brethren?
Will they follow hard after God
And love Him with all their hearts, all their minds, all their souls, all their strength?
When we remove the scaffolding of house rules, will this building that is my child stand because it is built on the Sure Foundation?
Or will it collapse because it's built on sand?

Moms of growing children,
He is still the God who sees.
He knows I love my children.
He loves them more.
He knows I want what is best for them.
He wants what is best for Him.

He sees their struggles
and growing pains.
He sees them wrestle with life
and wrestle with the Truth.

We see obstacles on their journey,
Obstacles that distract them...
or divert them...
or defeat them...
And our hearts start to pound.
But He sees obstacles as momentary, sanctifying afflictions.
My children are on God's calendar,
Not mine.
And everything is right on schedule.

And moms worry about ourselves.
Am I a good mom?
What kind of example am I setting?
What am I teaching them?
Forget about reading and writing.
What am I teaching them with the way I spend my time
or who I spend it with?
What am I teaching them about character or integrity or longsuffering?
What am I teaching them when I submit myself to the Word?
or don't?

And, most of all, we can find ourselves worrying about their eternity.
But as surely as God alone raised dead men to life, He raises my children, who are dead in their sin, to eternal life through Jesus' work on the Cross.
And when I remember that,
When I preach the Gospel to myself and remember Who is in charge of that Gospel and responsible for that Gospel, I remember that He is El Roi...
The God Who Sees...

and I rest.

Monday, December 5, 2011

To Live Below With the Saints I Know

I'm an introvert. To my close friends--introverts all--that is beyond obvious. To those who are only acquaintances, that is a surprise. I think it's because of all the things I get my hands in. But, really and truly, I need to recharge at home.

All by my onesy.

Suffice it to say, I'm not a team player--which is probably why the only sports I participate in are cross-country and golf. But even those can present a challenge. A few months back, I was jogging with my 13-year-old. I could hear her steps landing in a different cadence than mine. It threw off my breathing; it threw off my pacing. I finished my two miles more exhausted than usual.

The next day I had a plan. "Since I'm a little faster than you are, how about if I give you a five-minute start?" I suggested happily. "Then I'll probably catch up to you about halfway, and I'll be able to keep an eye on you from further back." Grace looked a little doubtful but headed out. And I could breathe. And I could run at my own pace. Man, that was a great idea!

So when Brett later preached on the disciples, I was intrigued. This was a bunch that must have been like a powder keg. Can you picture Simon the Zealot in the same fellowship as Matthew the tax collector? Can you see cynical Thomas breaking bread with Bartholomew, in whom there was no guile? Can you see them all ready to throw James and John under the bus for wanting the best seats? Or Peter, who can't open his mouth except to put his foot in it (how I identify with Peter!)?

And then the crowds come. And they are pressing in around him.
And they were touching him.
I'm not a naturally touchy person.
I wish I was, but I'm not.
So I have to remind myself to hug the people I love.
And the thought of crowds pressing in on Jesus, well, it just gives me the willies.
When the woman who had been bleeding touched Jesus, he asked, "Who touched me?" as if He was just gathering information.
Not me.
I would have turned around and said, "Hey! Who touched me? Geez, can't you people keep your hands to yourself? Didn't your mother ever teach you about personal space?!"

Needy crowds...
No relief at home with the boys--who were probably ticking each other off--when they managed to remain on speaking terms.
No wonder Jesus went frequently to be alone!

For me, the challenge of the Christian walk is spelled p-e-o-p-l-e.
And just like running, I find it is much easier to run by myself than with someone else.
They breathe too fast.
Or too slow.
They make too much noise when their feet slap the ground.
They hit me with their elbows.
Or make my shoe come off by running into the back of my foot.
They forget the route.
They forget to start the clock.
Or they clock ME.
And I'm sure I return the favors.

I read a poem a few years back that set me to howling because it was so true:

To live above with the saints I love,
How that will be a glory.
To live below with the saints I know,
Now that's a different story.

Is it not true sometimes that you can't wait to meet saints of the past
like John the Baptist
or Peter
or Elijah
or Moses...
...but present-day saints like Jane Christian or Joe Bible drive you crazy???

I think a large part of sanctification is learning to run the race with the saints I know.
Extending grace,
Caring less about head-coverings on one side or nose-rings on the other
Or politics
Or flip-flops...
And more about their lives.
I think running the race with the saints I know is about Romans 14.
It's freedom holding hands with timidity.
It's strength carrying weakness.
It's intellect being patient with ignorance.
It's high standards softening the rebuke to low standards.
It's less pride
And more humility.

And as I write this, I am cognizant of the fact that I am really, really bad at this.
I still find that running alone is much easier than running on a team.
I don't play well on committees or leadership teams. I'd rather do it all by myself--or not at all.
But I have to think that living below with the saints I know
will bring God more glory than pining selfishly for Heaven.

The bad news is that the Lord has much work to do in me.
The good news is that anytime you see me getting along well with others, it's all Holy Spirit...
all the time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tyranny in a Small Town (or Mrs. Adams Goes to City Hall)

Our city has a curfew ordinance.
And what the Patriot Act is to our nation,
curfews are to our small towns.

When I first heard of it, the word "tyranny" niggled at the back of my brain. But I must confess that since it was just a little bit of tyranny, I was just a little bit bothered by it.

But all that changed last week. It was one of those mornings where the time just got away from me, so I asked my daughter to just give me the one mile lap and come back in--instead of running with me as is our usual morning habit. She's not typically a demonstrative person. Her idea of communication is drawing or playing the piano. So I was a little taken aback when she refused.

"Why?" I asked her.
"I'm afraid," she said.
"Of what?" I pressed.
"Of the curfew law," she answered.
"You're afraid a policeman is going to pull you over, aren't you?" I asked.
She nodded.

It was a turning point for me.
I was no longer apathetic; I was angry.
Suddenly, this little bit of tyranny was much bigger than I had originally thought!
And suddenly, the meeting for concerned citizens to discuss the curfew law with a couple city councilmen, the city attorney, and a representative of law enforcement (that was arranged by my friend and tireless behind-the-scenes political volunteer, Nita) became vitally important.

When I showed up, I was surprised but relieved to see about ten other adults in attendance, all there, like me, to protest the curfew ordinance.
But when the attorney started shuffling papers and explaining how the city "had only made minor changes to the ordinance," along with some hooey about this being a constitutional duty under police powers, I stood up.

"I just have some things to say first." And so I did. And it went something like this:

First, we don't care about the minor changes. We aren't here in this room to protest some minor changes. We are here to get the ordinance abolished. And I am not here as a 'homeschooler' or a 'concerned parent.' I am here because I am an American. This limit on my right to move about freely is unconstitutional (and, Counsel, I'll come back to you in a minute).
I told them about my daughter's fears and how my apathy has changed to anger. And I pointed at the policeman.

Gentlemen, I am no longer apathetic; I am angry.
There's no reason for my daughter, a law-abiding citizen, to be afraid of you.
There's no reason for my daughter to fear unwarranted search and seizures by you.

We are not an oligarchy ruled by a few.
We are not a democracy ruled by all.
We are not even an anarchy ruled by none.
We are a republic. We are ruled by law.
What's more, we are a constitutional republic. And our constitution recognizes natural law which recognizes the inherent rights of every human being to life, liberty, and property. Any law which infringes on those rights is bad law. It must be abolished. Curfew ordinances infringe on my right as a free citizen to move about at will.

And, Counsel, don't tell me that the Supreme Court ruled that curfews are constitutional.
The Supreme Court infringed on life when they upheld Roe vs. Wade.
The Supreme Court infringed on liberty when they upheld Dred Scott.
They infringed on property when they ruled on Kelo vs. New London.
The founders knew that the Supreme Court was as capable of tyranny as the other two branches of government, and those rulings proved the founders correct. The Supreme Court is no longer a reliable litmus test regarding the constitutionality of a law. So, no, Counsel, don't tell me about how this law is constitutional. It is not.

I'm told that (our chief of police) asked for this ordinance because it helps him keep vandalism down. But when he asks me to 'play nice' and 'do my duty as a citizen' and 'relinquish some of my individual liberty' for the 'good of the city,' there is one word for that. It is fascism. And that is a slippery slope none of us wants to be on. What's next, "Papers, please?" Where are we?! Cedar Park or Berlin?! You want to cut down on vandalism? Then prosecute vandals! But do NOT penalize law-abiding citizens.

When the attorney explained curfews were in place for the protection of my children (Huh, that's funny. I thought the police chief wanted it in place to reduce juvenile crime and vandalism), I had something to say about that, too.

"No thank you. I'll protect my children. You are stepping on my jurisdiction. I don't want or need you to protect my children! And just listen to yourself. Listen to the language you use. "When an alleged offender is approached by an officer..."

My child is NOT an alleged offender! That would mean she is guilty until proven innocent. This is America! And you've got it backwards!

The meeting continued for another hour and a half. And I learned a few things that day.
I learned that city officials are people, too. The councilmen were polite and listened to me. One of them even leaned over and said quietly to Nita, "Sounds like we may need to abolish this at the state level as well."

I could have hugged him.

I learned that there is no such thing as 'a little bit of tyranny.' A little bit is too much. And here at the municipal level is where tyranny takes place in its subtlest forms. If we turn a blind eye to it, or shrug at it, then we'll cook like a frog in a pot.

I learned that people involved at the municipal level

( Nita, who has worked at this as long as I have known her and is now the vice-chair of her party in our county Don S, who has served as city councilman, precinct chair, and election judge)

work very, very hard to develop relationships with our legislators. And like any relationship, these take time. There are people giving their time down here in the trenches who move and shake and protect and fight for our freedom...and we don't even know it.

I learned that we can't expect these people to bear the whole burden and do the whole work. Our local legislators need to hear from many of us. They need to know we are watching. And voting.

Most importantly, I learned that we need to talk to our officials about the Constitution often. Remind them how the three branches of government work. Remind them of the proper jurisdictions of government, church, and family. Remind them that it's their job to protect those jurisdictions from each other and to defend the Constitution--right here in River City. Sadly, many of them honestly don't know. And this was where I got the most traction with one of the councilmen.

Long before tyranny ever gets to Pennsylvania Avenue,
it is slinking around outside your city hall.
Keep your eyes and ears open.
Stopping it here is a whole lot easier than stopping it there.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Get Over It

One night last week, Brett was out of town, and I was holding down the fort. That's when it happened. War. Between the four year old and the six year old. It was the usual round of he-said/she-said. Drama. Tears. The whole shebang.

I got them tucked in, and though the tears had stopped, that indignant six year old lip was still stuck out.

I sat on the edge of the bed and brushed his hair back.
"Still mad?" I probed.
He looked away. "She's the worst person in the whole world!"
Scowl. Huff.

"Mmm hmm," I said. "And you did not respond correctly," I pointed out.

He looked at me like I had suddenly gone deaf.
He emphatically repeated, "She's the worst person in the whole world!"

Under my breath, I prayed, "Lord, make him a little wiser tonight."
Then I continued.
"Ethan, she did you wrong. No doubt about it. But, frankly, that's not what the Lord is concerned about. He's more concerned--MUCH more concerned--about how you reacted."

"No 'but' about it, " I cut in. "When you stand before the Lord, all He wants to talk about is how you respond when people do things to you. You will never be able to make her do the right thing. That's for the Holy Spirit to do. But you will answer to the Lord for how you react."

I could see the wheels turning.
Fresh tears. Fresh frustration.
"I wish Adam and Eve had never sinned!" he sobbed.

Here comes the wisdom.

"Yeah," I agreed. "That sin thing we inherited from them. Makes it tough, doesn't it?"

Nodding. Crying.

"And we all have to deal with that. So, people are going to hurt you because people sin. That's life. And life's hard. And you can't ever make people better. You can't ever make people behave. But you are still accountable for what you do in response. That, you CAN do because you have the Holy Spirit living inside you."

Understanding was dawning; I could see it.
The sniffles stopped. He breathed deeply.
The fresh air of wisdom.

A few weeks ago, I read something like this:
Meh, theology isn't all that important.

How sad, most especially from the pen of a believer.

Raising little people to be big Christians is nothing if it isn't theology!
How do I tell them about God
but leave out the part about Him being sovereign and good?
How do I teach them about themselves
but leave out the part about them being totally depraved?
and that every inclination of their hearts is only evil all the time?
and that, with that inclination, they must guard against responding to sin with sin?
How will any of us understand that God has only ever been about one thing--
His glory, not our well-being--without theology?

Without a proper understanding of theology, our children will be surprised when stupid sheep act like stupid sheep. They will be taken aback when God doesn't always intervene to prevent wounding. And they will justify their own sinful responses when they are sinned against.

In short, they will be victims.
You know victims.
They are walking wounded.
Their hurt is their most valued possession.
And they hang on to it more tightly than their favorite pair of jeans.

Instead of properly framing their lives in terms of the choices their own depraved souls have made--and the consequences of those choices--they improperly frame their lives as a series of wounds at the hands of other believers. And they can recite names, dates, and conversations
They live a 'woe was me', arm-across-the-forehead existence.

And they have the spiritual depth of a puddle.

If you don't think theology is important, quit.
Don't even bother going to church.
Or having babies.
Or homeschooling.
Without theology, you're not equipped to pass on a legacy to a new generation.
You don't know Who you are dealing with.
And you can't worship Who you don't know.
You're certainly going to lose this opportunity called parenthood.
Worse still,
You might lose this battle called life.

It's natural for my six year old to see himself as a victim.
But it's my job to not let him remain that way.
It's my job to lead him to the Cross,
To get him to drink deeply of God's wisdom.
And I'll be darned if I let my kids grow up to be victims.

Life's hard. Get over it.

Be a student of sound theology.
Teach your children sound theology.

And get over it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Not of This World

Eleven year old eyes.
Faintly watery.

Bad experience with the neighbors. Again.
This time it was sneaky football rules.
And a basic lack of integrity.
And he was spittin' mad.
So he complained to the woman who would be spittin' mad right along with him. Mom.
As Brett says, "The apple don't fall far from the tree."

The flesh part of me would have liked to go out there and settle everything my way.
Take that football and shove it up their little pagan noses, for instance.
I'll admit it here. Turning the other cheek is not, never has been, easy for me.
But the Holy Spirit took over before I could get my cleats on...

You are not of this world, I reminded him.
You, me, the rest of us in this house...we step outside that door, and we are strangers,
and the world out there looks at us and mocks.
They don't get our standards.
They don't understand our integrity.
They're intimidated by our peace.
To those who are being saved, we are the fragrance of life.
But to those who are perishing, we are the odor of death.
And that's most of them.

The odor of death makes people run.
Whew! What died?!
It's the smell of their own rotting souls.
But we strangers are oblivious to a hopeless life,
A joyless life,
A life without peace.

No, we are not of this world.
We are citizens of heaven.
We are only visiting this earth.
But one day, we'll go home...

There were still angry words
And confessions.
My little apple had returned volley, apparently.
And he was still seething.

They're blind, I reminded him.
They're deaf.
And the only reason you and I are not blind, not deaf,
is because Jesus opened our eyes and our ears,
For no reason other than His own good pleasure.
And unless His own good pleasure leads Him to do the same for them...
they will die in their blindness and deafness.

I sent him away to do business with his Father.

Yusef Nadarkhani, a pastor in Iran is facing imminent execution...
For the high crime of claiming Jesus is Lord.
His country mocks him,
Is threatened by him.
He is not of this world.
He knows it.
They know it.
And they smell the odor of death.
So they want to send him whence he came.

And if they succeed,
He will cross that river.
He will meet his Lord.
And he will know, more than any of us left behind, that to die is gain.
But he will leave behind a family who will mourn him,
A wife and children, who are also likely not of this world
And who must find that to live--as a stranger--is hard.
To live as a stranger often hurts excruciatingly.
But to live as a stranger is Christ.

That evening, we chatted again.
We talked about Nadarkhani and neighbors and nations.
Not of this world can mean a whole spectrum of things.
It can range from mocking, bullying, and intimidation on one side
To torture and death on the other.
This thing you experienced in the street today,
This was nothing.
And it goes with your citizenship.

Tell your kids. Remind yourself.
There is no doubt about it.
Not of this world comes with a price.

But God be praised,
it also comes with a reward.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

He is the God Who Sees

Your baby blues so full of wonder,
Your curly cues, your contagious smile
And as I watch you, you start to grow up
And all I can do is hold you tight.
Knowing clouds will rage and storms will race in
Rain will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms. (Plumb)

Her world was changing.
It was contracting.
It was expanding.
Changes she was not looking forward to.

They are the stuff of struggle

She sat on my bed and sobbed.
From where she sat, the future looked lonely.
And to her, lonely was bleak.
And those tears came
And came
And came.

I watched the tears pour.
"He is the God who sees," I said to her.
She looked at me, wondering what that meant.
"These days, these changes, these challenges, they are not a surprise to God.
He hasn't blinked.
He hasn't let you go.
He knows what is ahead.
And He is allowing it.
More than allowing it, He is using it."

It's been three years.
She is weathering those changes.
And she seeing God's faithfulness.
But there are still days when she needs a reminder.

He is the God who sees.

Man tears.
They are different.
They make rarer appearances.
But they are gritty
And sweaty
And made of clenched jaws
And strained muscle
And boys becoming men.

And I find myself saying it again.
He is the God who sees.

He sees your struggle
He sees your growing pains
And your growth.
He sees your hopelessness
And your hope.

He has not blinked.
He has not forgotten.
He has not abandoned.
And everything is right on schedule.

El Roi is His name.
He is the God Who Sees.

They are my children.
They are the ones who need to be seen.

And I don't serve them well if I ever promise them that everything will always work out right
Because I do not know that.
I do not know that they will always have their health.
Or money.
Or companionship.
Or fertility.
Or liberty.
Or long life.

I do know that storms will come
And persecution
And the fellowship of His sufferings.
I know that because Jesus said that.

It is the stuff of sanctification.
And I serve them well if I teach them to stand in the middle of their sanctification
And proclaim to a watching world,
"God is good!"

For when they proclaim the goodness of God, they are being conformed to His image.
And as they are being conformed to His image, then the God who sees, looks at them and gradually begins to see...

Castles they might crumble
Dreams may not come true...
When clouds will rage and storms will race in
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in My arms.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tea is for Tyranny

Brett and I were in the car listening to one of those talk-radio hosts whom we increasingly disdain these days. We shook our heads at their utter lack of understanding. "Republicans have co-opted the Tea Party," he said.

"The 'Tea Party' doesn't get the Tea Party," I sniffed.

The Tea Party.
The original Tea Party in Boston was not about a balanced budget.
It was about tyranny.
And it was the precursor of the American Revolution which produced the genius that is the United States of America
because it produced the genius that is the Constitution.

Tea is for Tyranny.
When King John signed the Magna Carta, that was the end of the Divine Right of Kings in England. It compelled the British monarchy to be fair to its subjects.
And when King George taxed his subjects in the Colonies without parliamentary representation, he was in breach of contract.
He was acting the tyrant.
So his subjects held him to his end of the bargain.
And Boston Harbor met Earl Grey.

Tea is for Tyranny.
Monetary policy tyranny.
Penalizing those who succeed and rewarding those who don't.
Raising the debt ceiling, even temporarily, and further saddling my children with the problem.

Tea is for Tyranny.
Patriot Act tyranny.
Knowingly and rebelliously violating the Fourth Amendment.
Spying on me.
Choosing 'security' over my liberty.
Without asking me.

Tea is for Tyranny.
Parental rights tyranny.
Usurping the jurisdiction of the family by telling me I must be insured.
Telling my daughter she can have an abortion.
Without asking me.

Tea is for Tyranny.
TSA tyranny.
Giving up the very sound criminal science of profiling.
Harassing law-abiding citizens.

Tea is for Tyranny.
Self-determination tyranny.
Usurping the role of the Church
By legalizing or criminalizing what I eat, drink, smoke, chew, inject, or sniff
or any other non-encroachment activity I do in my own home.

Tea is for Tyranny.
Property rights tyranny.
Not letting someone build a mosque on privately owned property.
Urging a city council to fabricate zoning law to get around it.

Tea is for Tyranny.
Foreign policy tyranny.
Inspecting their arsenals.
Fighting their wars.
Removing and installing their leaders.
For our benefit.

And if you choose smaller-than-what-we-have-now government
over small government,
you are no more Tea Party than King George.
Smaller-than-what-we-have-now government is still much larger than the Founders intended,
Than the Constitution intended.
Smaller-than-what-we-have-now government...
merely places you and your candidate slightly to the right of Marx.
But it hardly makes you a Tea Partier.

So, no.
Rick Perry doesn't get the Tea Party.
Neither does Mitt Romney.
Nor Rick Santorum.
Nor Herman Cain.

A real Tea Partier wants a government of the Constitution.
Nothing less.
Nothing more.

Sam Adams must be turning in his grave.

Friday, September 2, 2011

On the Rock

It had been a hard year, and it felt like there was more to come.
The recession was merciless on our small business.
We had bills we didn't know how to pay.
The president seemed bound and determined to ruin both the public and private sectors.
The United Nation was looking at ratifying the "Rights of the Child."
It just felt like everywhere we turned, there was only bad news.

So, Brett and I started to pray.
We have learned through many challenges over the years, that hard times are God's tool for reshaping us, for conforming us to His image.
And when His sheep have hearts of stone, I can see why.
Only the constant drip of Water
or the catastrophe of searing Heat
or the intensity of incredible Pressure
is able to change the form of stone,
to wear it smooth
and transform it from a sharp-edged stumbling block
to a heart God can use.

And having learned that lesson about our Maker,
Brett opened with his now usual, "Thank you for today and all the troubles it brings."

It wasn't a sarcastic statement.
Neither was it fatalistic.
It was a humble statement from an honest sheep who has bowed to the sovereign work of his father's hand.
It was the honest rest in tribulation by a man who has wrestled with counting it all joy.

But as Brett began to make his appeal to God for all the cares that were weighing us down,
a picture began to form in my mind....
I saw the black thunderheads swirling. They were low and dark and ominous.
I saw the wind-whipped waves and the white caps.
I saw my whole family, all twelve of us, standing together in this storm.
We were huddled together for protection and warmth.
Our hair was whipping across our faces.
And I said, "Yes, Lord, this is an accurate picture of what I feel today.

But where are YOU in this picture?!"

And He said, "I am the Rock you are standing on."

In my mind's eye, the camera panned back. Suddenly I could see our feet.
And we were all standing on a
huge rock.

The waves crashed about us...

...and our feet weren't even wet.
And as Brett continued to pray, I kept my focus on that Rock.
That's what prayer does.
It reminds us that we are small and God is big.
And He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.
Prayer works the dual miracle of softening the rock that is my heart
and drawing me back to stand on The Rock.

Later in the year, we snapped a family photo to stick in the Christmas cards. We had tried all kinds of settings, and getting a picture of twelve people to turn out is no small feat.
Imagine my surprise when we got home to look over the proofs...
and the best shot had us all positioned on and around a huge rock.

I smiled as I realized that God had given me a very tangible expression of the vision in my mind.
And every time I see it,
And when I labor in prayer,
I am reminded that
we are a family on The Rock.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Standing in the Gap: A Family Affair

He was just a fourteen-year-old boy.
He had arrived in the land of opportunity, alone, all the way from the village of Katowice, Poland, to make a new life for himself.

Could be that Lady Liberty was the first thing he saw.
Or it could be that he was so caught up in his own plight that he barely paid her any mind.
No matter.
It was a new start for this poor, young Pole.

Later, he would meet the love of his life, playing in a wedding band. They would marry and raise four children.
He was Dzadzi (Juj-ee), my great-grandfather.
And somewhere along the way, Dzadzi met THE Love of his life: Jesus.

My mom tells me stories of her visits to Dzadzi and Bapci (Bup-shee). And one of her vivid memories was him on his knees. Dzadzi was an intercessor, especially for his family. Specifically, he labored in prayer for years, burdened for the salvation o f the next four generations.

I am that fourth generation.

My own grandfather, Dzadzi's son, gave me similar memories. When I would spend the night with my grandparents, Grandma and I would stay up late playing games and consuming munchies.

But Grandpap would quietly excuse himself early.
And that's when he would go to his knees at his bedside in prayer.
Like his father before him, Grandpap was an intercessor, too.

Grandpap's daughter is my mother. And I have memories of her (from the time I was a child all the way into my adulthood) sitting on the porch with her Bible and her coffee, her eyebrows knit together, sometimes in fervent prayer with silently moving lips, sometimes in quiet meditation. And it was common to see my dad in the early morning hours pacing in the living room, conversing with the Lord. Unlike my great-grandfather and my grandfather, who were quiet and reverent on their knees, my father's prayers were upright, out loud, passionate and bold.

Even today, my parents still have 'the white board' kept in a discreet place where they keep their prayer requests for their children and grandchildren and close friends. They are not only intercessors; they are a team of intercessors.

So, it's probably not surprising that I, too, find myself drawn to intercession. I distinctly remember when I was twelve years old, asking my dad to start waking me up in the morning so that I could read and pray. And, over the years, the Lord has gradually added specific burdens, turning my prayer time largely to intercession.

Dad and Mom.
Seems that intercession has become a family calling...
one that the generations before me have walked in faithfully...
one that I hope the generations after me will walk in faithfully.

Prayer is labor.
It is a labor of the soul.
And whether on their knees or on their feet, my family demonstrated to me both the power of prayer and the privilege of coming before the Throne of Grace.

"I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one." Ezekiel 23:20

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Readin', Writin', and 'Rithmetic...Another Year Ahead

(with addendum in the comments section...)

Well, it's that time of year again. Summer wanes and autumn soon descends. Must be time to dust off the books and get ready for another glorious school year. I'm excited this year as I look at my plan for the kids.

Two are off to college. Z leaves Sunday, starting his junior year at LeTourneau University pursuing his B.S. in Air Traffic Control Management. A is delaying her sophomore year one semester to earn some money, but she'll be pursuing a B.A. in Biblical Studies at Criswell College.

Meanwhile, we'll have another graduation to plan for Prez, who's now a senior in high school, and E is doing her sophomore work. G is in seventh; J is in 5th; C is in 3rd; E is in 1st. And two more little people playing and getting underfoot and giggling and fighting...Life is good.

Some things stay the same...

Explode the Code
First Language Lessons
Rod and Staff grammar
Easy Grammar Ultimates
Singapore Math
Teaching Textbooks
Science: The Search
Latin for Kids
Greek for Kids
Logic by Wilson and Nance

And some things change...

G was our first student to use Singapore, and when she finished, we were at a crossroads as to what to do next. So, we'll be using that old homeschool math favorite, Saxon. This is a change from Teaching Textbooks, but I think it may be a better match for a Singapore student.

And those who are paying attention will also note the absence of Tapestry of Grace. I love TOG. And while I'm militantly opposed to classical education in younger grades, it has been an excellent high school curriculum. Lots of dear friends disagree with me, and that's okay. But I'm all for discovery and fun and projects in the elementary years. Rigor is good; rigor is its place and in its time.

So, speaking of rigor, I'm jumping ship from TOG this year to do a different kind of rigor. David Quine, founder of Cornerstone Curriculum, wrote World Views of the Western World a number of years ago to equip high-school students to see world view in everything from art to economics and trace the path of divergence from a Biblical worldview since ancient times. We use his Starting Points when each child hits eighth grade, and now we'll be doing WVWW for high-school. I am VERY excited about this change. I want to equip my students to go out into that big, bad world, taking dominion, and taking every thought captive.

Prez will be doing Year Two: The Grandeur of Christianity and The Age of Revolutions,
and E will be doing Year One: The Bible and Ancient Thought.

If I count from the year Z was in first grade, this is my fifteenth year of homeschooling. If I count from his birth, this is my 21st. Wow. God has carried us through many learning adventures. So, even though summer went faster than I wanted it to, I look forward to another school year.

And with a lot of prayer coverage, may this be a year that makes Him smile.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Wonder and Worship of Teaching

When I was in 9th grade, I attended a tiny school run by my church.
So tiny, in fact, that I was the only 9th grader.
And I was bogged down in Algebra I.
Seriously bogged down.

The school availed itself of church members who had talent to share with the kids, and they started appealing to math lovers to come rescue Noel from her pit of despair. Not even the math-major-turned-math-teacher could sufficiently explain to me the magic I was missing.

Summer came...and still I trudged on with x's and y's.
And still it continued to mystify me.
So when I took my annual month of vacation with my grandparents, I arrived with math books in hand...and gazed longingly at the golf course out back. sigh.

That's when the miracle the form of my Granddad. He sat down with me and my x's and y's and patiently explained the mysteries of algebra.
And suddenly--bing!--the light went on. Today, I love algebra.
Turns out, I didn't need that math major after all.
I needed Granddad.

But that didn't rescue me from geometry.
My family moved the year I started geometry. And I found myself in a regular private school similarly mystified by math, but this time involving theorems and postulates and givens and aaaahhhhhh!!!
This time, Granddad was 18 hours away.
And my geometry teacher was a bad communicator--no matter what letters he had after his name.
Here we go again...
I never did conquer geometry, though I at least managed to pass.

Fast forward 22 years.
I'd already had six years of homeschooling under my belt, but I was scared. This next year, like it or not, geometry was coming to my home.
So I did what any self-respecting homeschool mom would do (I thought). I learned geometry. I stayed a couple steps ahead of my son and...
I got it. Not only that. I loved it! Why hadn't someone told me how amazing geometry was? Why hadn't anyone ever explained to me how logical it was? how it always worked?

And I worshipped. I kid you not. I worshipped. I was in awe of my God who was the Mind Behind Math. I would stand at the white board and sing God's praises to my kids. Who can comprehend this inscrutable God? the only wise God? the King Eternal? Does this not amaze you, kids?

Well, I didn't exactly pass on the wonder. They still complained and still do complain about the proofs...and the Base Angle Theorem...and Oscar's Heap of Apples.

But one day they will find the wonder, too...
if they are homeschooling their own children.
That's what it looks like in a home where God gently leads those that are with young.
That's what it looks like when we sit at the feet of the Shepherd and trust him with our frailties and our fears and our ignorance. He equips us.

Homeschooling is the only approach to education that claims it disciples its students.
University model schools don't.
Parochial schools don't.
Government schools sure as heck don't.
The others don't make that claim because they can't make good on that claim.
And they know it, too.

Why can't they disciple our children?
Why? Because there is a theology behind every academic pursuit.
If we are to rightly pursue our academics, we must rightly pursue our Creator/Redeemer.

It makes a difference to a mom with math phobias when she knows that because there is a Mind behind math, math will always work.
Does your math teacher teach that?
It makes a difference when we explore science and we rightly repudiate evolution
and believe in a literal six-day Creation Week
and point to the order, much of it knowable, in every branch of science.
Does your science teacher teach that?
It makes a difference that we know the Lawgiver when we teach government.
It makes a difference that we know the Invisible Hand when we teach economics.
It makes a difference that we know Jesus, the Word made flesh, when we teach our children language arts and communications.

To teach a child any branch of knowledge is to teach theology.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Homeschool Heroes

We need heroes.
Our frail hearts need to know there is someone who has walked this path first.
We need the standard bearers who go before us and blaze the trail so that we have something to keep our eyes on when the road gets tough.
And the road always gets tough.
That's life.

Yes, it helps to have heroes.

I met Jessica Hulcy as a relatively green homeschooler.
For the first couple of years I would timidly approach her Konos booth and try to get a good look at the curriculum without letting Jessica get a good look at me. Frankly, the woman scared me. She was fanatical about discovery learning and insistent that everyone should do it.

But she didn't know me. She didn't know that I don't like messy things. I don't like projects. I don't like art. I don't like clutter. I really, really, really just wanted to hand my children nice clean workbooks and let them do nice clean schoolwork and put the workbooks away on my nice clean bookshelf when we were done.

No muss; no fuss.
And no learning, Jessica would say.
Crazy lady. Really.

But when child number three burst on the scene with his kinesthetic personality, I could see it would either be Konos...
or it would be war.
This child was not going to do workbooks well.
No, he was going to feel his schoolwork--literally.


So I met Jessica. I told her about myself.
And she told me, quite abruptly in fact, that I needed to change.


I bought Konos and did it for six wondrous years.
We sewed medieval banners...
(to the living room floor).
We made Queen cakes...
(with chunks of lemon rind floating in them).
We acted out Montezuma and Cortez
and the solar system
and made a map of the United States the size of our driveway
and went in search of metamorphic rock and algae.
We had an explorers' dinner and a pilgrims' feast
and a mountain man campfire complete with tall tales of our own making.
We studied Africa region by region.
We memorized military ranks and held bootcamp for a week.

And they learned, learned, learned.
Workbooks? What the heck was I thinking???!!!

Thank you, Jessica, for showing me that discovery learning is the best learning of all
and that the best thing Mom can just get out of the way. It's a lesson I have never forgotten.

A few years later, I met Dean and Karen Andreola.
Boisterous Dean. Proper Karen. Delightful people.
The Andreolas are responsible for reviving the work of English educator Charlotte Mason. And the crux of Charlotte Mason was that we need to get our learning from living books.
Again, put the workbooks away.
Bring out the real books. Do nature studies.
Discuss, discuss, discuss.

So we read good books. I am militant about twaddle-free bookshelves.
No Disney (well, okay, an occasional Disney until I can sneak it to the garbage); no Berenstain Bears; no babysitters clubs or goosebumps or Judy Blume.

And we narrate real books.
And we do copywork from real books.
And we draw backyard flora and fauna.
And we discuss, discuss, discuss.

My Charlotte Mason Companion is tattered and beloved.

Thank you, Dean and Karen, for bringing back the art of conversation. In so doing, you have increased the ability to keep discipleship in homeschooling.

When I picked up Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn from the airport for our summer conference, I was intimidated. These were classical people. Classical people are snobs.
I couldn't have been more mistaken. The Bluedorns are warm, wonderful people who are serious about home education and family but with a twinkle in their eyes. I wanted to adopt them!

Their Teaching the Trivium restored sanity to the classical craze. They kept the warmth of Charlotte Mason and her living books and added a dash of rigor and memorization. They taught me that I needed to focus on Biblical classics rather than pagan classics, especially at the younger stages. They taught me that, yes, it is possible to introduce the ancient languages to the children. And they taught me that, not only was it possible to teach logic, it was imperative for Christians.

Thank you, Harvey and Laurie, for showing the homeschooling world that a classical education does not have to be a pagan education. Most of all, thank you for showing me that moms and dads can tackle and teach the tough stuff.

David and Shirley Quine have come to Austin the past three summers. These are scary-smart people, and their focus is building a Biblical worldview in our children. But they are personable and humble and have all the time in the world for you.

I know; I spent two hours in their booth this summer.
I was intimidated. I felt inadequate to teach the material.
And they talked me down off my ledge.

David and Shirley's passion is to equip parents because parents are the best teachers. They don't shy away from heady stuff, and they don't pass it off to the 'experts' either. As far as discipleship of children go, parents ARE the experts.

Thank you, David and Shirley, for teaching me that I can wade into the worldview waters and that I can equip, that I can encourage, that I can walk alongside my children...because God gave my children to me. Thank you for showing me the difference between instruction and indoctrination. And thank you for being our cheerleaders!

Amazing people who blaze trails
Who confront the status quo
Who refuse to conform
Who accomplish genuinely good things for the genuine good of others.

Thank you, most of all, to the most amazing hero of all: my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ...
because there are still tough days in homeschooling when I am sure I have wasted my time or that the kids will never get it or that they will never get along. There are days when I daydream out the window and wonder what the non-homeschoolers are doing. There are days when I look down the road and realize the road is still very long.

It is on those days that I lean most heavily on my greatest hero.
Thank you, Jesus, for redeeming me from my depravity.
Thank you, Jesus, for being strong when I am weak.
Thank you, Jesus, for being the Author and Finisher of my faith.
Thank you, Jesus, for promising to bring what You started to completion.
Thank you, Jesus, for daily bearing my burdens.

Thank you, Jesus, for gently leading me with my young.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Look Ma! No Disciples (Part Four)

It all started innocently enough. I went out to the website to enroll my junior for one class that I thought would be an exceptional experience. And as I trolled around the site, the ground beneath my feet began to give way. I was standing on the edge of a slippery slope. A very slippery slope.

"Hey," I thought to myself. "I didn't know they offered this class! Or that class! Hey, I wouldn't have to teach that subject that doesn't move me or this subject which just plain old intimidates me..."

Suddenly, I was George Bailey, sitting in Potter's humiliating chair, smoking Potter's cigar, ready to make a deal with the devil. I was shaking Potter's hand. "Gee, thanks, Mr. Potter, I can't wai....


Back to my senses...

"No, doggone it! You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you...In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!"

Perhaps it would be helpful to point out the fundamental differences between government schools and once a week academies.

Parents have no control over the curriculum.
Govt school: check
Once a week academies: check

Parents have no control over the staff.
Govt schools: check
Once a week academies: check

Parents have no control over the other students.
Govt schools: check
Once a week academies: check

Students are primarily socialized by peers.
Govt school: check
Once a week academies: check

Students learn nothing at home; merely carry out homework there.
Govt schools: check
Once a week academies: check

There aren't (m)any differences.

Are you really going to make me say it?
Okay, I'll say it.
Once a week academies are just government schools for homeschoolers.
Sad state of affairs we find ourselves in, no?

But that one exceptional class I put my children in?
Here's how it went:

I sat in the back of the class to remain unobtrusive.
And I got an eyeful.
A student was wearing jeans so low, I could see her backside.
Where is your dad? I thought. And how in the world did you get past him out the front door?!
Sheep without a shepherd.
They were texting during class.
The instructor went on teaching.
And the kids went right on texting.
Sheep without a shepherd.
"Babel. The Tower of Babel," he repeated.
The student asked what that was again.
"Surely you jest," replied the instructor. Did I detect a hint of sarcasm?
No, the student was serious. He had no idea what the Tower of Babel was.
Must not have been on the statement of faith.
Sheep without a shepherd.

I'll say it again.
Once a week academies are just government schools for homeschoolers.

I appeal to you.
Bring your children home.
For real.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Look Ma! No Disciples (Part Three)

I was scanning the water vigilantly. Three of my kiddos were out there, and I wasn't about to take my eyes off of them. Yes, at least eight lifeguards lined the edges of the wave pool. But I'm not much of a lifeguard kind of gal. Never have been. So when the waves started, and a lifeguard blew his whistle, I was on my feet. I only had eyes for them.

To lifeguards, my kids are just a few in the crowd.
But to me, each one is a gift, a jewel with its own unique facets, that only I can see after countless hours of observation.
Trust my kids to a lifeguard?
Not a chance.

So I don't trust the kids to lifeguards...
or Sunday school staff...
or youth group leaders...
or teachers...

One day, we will give an account for our children to God...
Unlike lifeguards, who will never give an account.
Nor will Sunday school staff...
or youth group leaders...
or teachers.

I previously blogged that homeschooling is in trouble.
And I've gotten wonderful feedback.
And it has been forwarded to battle-weary co-ops in totally different regions where the homeschooling homeschoolers are finally gaining victory over the non-homeschooling homeschoolers!
And a new generation of homeschooled graduates is also taking up the cause!
That excites me. It excites me because I want to see us close the door on these Dark Ages of homeschooling and return to the Golden Age.

But there are more things to say.
Harder things to say.
Things that risk giving offense.
Things that still tug at my heart and weigh it down.
So, despite the opposition, Brett has urged me to continue the series.

Why do I care about your homeschool?
Because I care about discipleship.
No, there's no "thou shalt homeschool" in the Bible.
But Moses told us on that side of the Cross to disciple our children when we sit down, stand up, walk along the way.
And Jesus told us on this side of the Cross to make disciples of all men. Given the principle of moral proximity, I think our children are the first among all men. Judea comes before the uttermost ends of the earth.
No, there's no verse...
but, in my home, I don't know how to effectively accomplish those commands any other way.

Studies (Rainier Research and the Barna Group) say that Christians are failing at a rate of 80% to raise up the next generation of genuine believers.
That's why I care about homeschooling.
That's why I care about non-homeschooling homeschoolers watering down a genuinely good thing.
That's why I care about people who challenge us to "bring our children home" and then proceed to usurp and intimidate and manipulate.

We are parents.
We are the best Sunday school staff...
the best youth leaders...
the best teachers.

We are the ultimate lifeguards.

Yeah, I'd think we'd all be more concerned with discipleship.

More to come...
Much more.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What a Wonderful World It Would Be...

Don't much about history.
Don't know much biology.
Don't know much about a science book.
Don't know much about the French I took.
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be.

I have a good marriage. No, I have a great marriage. And I think it is because Brett studies me. He knows what makes me tick. He knows what makes my world go 'round.

He knows that while some chaps wear Polo, I prefer my men in eau de charcoal.
Because where there is charcoal, there is sure to be meat...

And one day last month, when I was having a grumpy day, Brett sauntered into the room and asked casually, "Do you have any chocolate?"
"Why?" I snapped.
"Oh, I guess I thought maybe you might need some today."
"Oh really?" I snarled.
"Um, yes," he smiled.

Wow. He knows that moons, tides, and his wife each have cycles, and he knows what tools help me survive. So he keeps me in chocolate as a rule.

Last week, for date night, he brought home True Grit, and I was pretty sure at that moment he had confused me with his other wife. He knows I detest westerns and mafia movies, and here was John Wayne staring at me from the dvd cover. Bummer.

"No, no, no," Brett insisted. "You will like this one. You will like the girl in here. Plus, it's Rooster Cogburn. You like Rooster Cogburn!"


But, you know what? He was right. I laughed out loud at the feisty female character. She was hilarious. And the movie was a delight.

Why did he know I would like it? Why did he insist, despite my protests? Why does that man keep me in chocolate? Because he is a student of me. He has majored in "NOEL," and he's passing with flying colors.

A good husband is a student of his wife. He is a servant-leader.

A few years ago, a woman published a book of tripe on being a helpmeet in which she discussed three types of men. Sadly, it was a thinly veiled attempt to justify her own knuckle-dragging, neanderthal spouse as a legitimate personality type. A 'command man' she called him. 'Caveman' would be more appropriate. And the caveman type is in serious need of a boatload of sanctification, though since the burning bed isn't a biblical option, I'm sure I don't know what that would entail.

Oh, I can hear the hen house now. Cluck, cluck! Our Noel is a feminist!

Aw, go peck your dirt.
It is precisely because I am not a feminist that I find her writing so tragic. For a woman married to a caveman must submit to her caveman. And I'll go ya' one better. If she wants to honor God, she also has to love and respect her caveman.

But I do not have to respect her caveman. Me with hands on hips, doing my cobra head. "I got five boys, and I ain't raisin' no command men, girlfriend."

[That book of nonsense, by the way, was written by a family whose parenting approach is nothing short of abuse. And if there were any justice in this world, they'd both be in jail as accessories to the murders of children who have died under this 'approach.' Seriously, I'd have no greater joy.]

A caveman is a tyrant.
And he destroys his home.
And he alienates his wife.
And he exasperates his children.

He is no student.
He is the master, the demi-god who speaks from on high, and when he speaks, his minions must shudder in obeisance.
In his warped mind, what's wrong with the Church today is that women don't submit.
He is a leader, a bad one, who misrepresents Christ both to his family and to the watching world.

A bad husband sees the final decision as his right; a good husband sees the final decision as his responsibility. And the distance between that right and that responsibility is a world of shattered women and children--in Jesus' name, of course.

What a sad state of affairs when a husband can be a student of science, technology, history, economics, politics, yea, even the Bible, and not study his own wife, for whom he is called to lay his life down.

What if men took up the call to be servant-leaders in their own homes to their own wives?
What a wonderful world it would be!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Look Ma! No Disciples! (Part Two)

And I took the book and read, and behold, the beastess arose out of Williamsburg and spake unto the people. And the people traded Bibles for Greek idolatry and Hindu history and lies about the first men. And the people went up unto the high places and sacrificed wisdom for the knowledge of the goddess of the well-trained mind. And yea verily the disciples were no more.

Homeschooling is in trouble.
I remember where I was.
I remember what I was wearing.
I had nestled my pregnant body in the shade trees of my backyard and read with eyes wide and mouth open.

I snapped shut the book in disgust.
I.will.never. do this to my children!

I am not afraid of hard work, thick books, and deep thinking. Heaven knows I'm not. But I will not pursue the ego-feeding idolatry of knowledge in a book which refuses to make the glory of God preeminent in all things, most especially the education of my children.

Oh, that was just the publisher, you know...
And I refuse.

Homeschooling is in trouble.
"There's probably a picture of you somewhere with a target on it."
His remark made me laugh out loud. "Yup. Probably."
A gentleman and I were talking of the bastard of homeschooling: the one-day-a-week academy (which, let's all be honest here, is really the "sign-my-kid-up-for-all-his-high-school-classes-and-phew!-I-won't-have-to-teach-a-thing" academy).
Let's just say my opinion is not a popular one.
But I maintain that if you keep saying you're bringing your children home, you really ought to do it.

In the Golden Age of homeschooling, parents taught their children at home.
I know.
Crazy-stupid idea.
But I'm just stubborn enough to stick to my guns on this one.
Just ask my husband.

Today, parents who think they're homeschooling (and, yes, they really, really do think they are homeschooling), have forfeit their position as discipler in the lives of their children to...

wait for it...

people with letters like:
BS, chemistry...
BS, mathematics...
MA, English lit...

...while I still submit the only letters that need be associated with the truly quality educator are:
D-A-D and M-O-M.

Homeschooling is in trouble.
We are putting away our books and plopping our children in front of computers and satellite classes.
Well, at least they're at home, you say.
Well, it might be helpful to point out that, while not all conversation implies discipleship, all discipleship implies conversation.

But the satellite has replaced conversation with the parent.

These are the Dark Ages of the homeschooling movement. There is no doubt about it.
Somewhere along the way, we decided it was more important to form a grammatically correct sentence than a Biblically correct idea.
Somewhere along the way, we decided it was more important to balance a stoichiometric equation than to worship the God of the periodic table.
Somewhere along the way, we decided it was more important to memorize the Greek gods than to meditate on the Word.

How utterly tragic.

If we can't form a Biblical thought, we should not waste our time writing a sentence--because we'll have nothing to say.
If we don't worship the Creator, then we simply create scientists who search for facts rather than Truth.
If we don't chew on the Word of God, but we input useless knowledge, we succeed only at raising children who have malnourished souls and bloated minds.

Dr. John Patrick, president of Augustine College in Ottawa, Ontario, says that the difference between good education and bad education is that bad education tells us we must understand to believe, but good education tells us we must believe to understand. That is the crux of the matter.

Truth must precede facts...
or the facts will be wrongly interpreted.

If we don't homeschool to the glory of God, we won't create disciples;
we will create Products of Academia.
If we don't homeschool to the glory of God,
then we shouldn't bother to homeschool at all.

Look Ma! No Disciples! (Part One)

The good people at Focus on the Family sent me this alert a few weeks ago:
"How DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) Could Impact You and Your Family."

Finally, I thought, someone is going to spell out for me why I should care about DOMA! I've been waiting for this for a long time. Yippee! And here was the elucidation offered by Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President of Government and Public Policy at FOF.

"Already, an increasing number of public schools are promoting controversial and confusing sexual topics to kids. Homosexual activists groups like GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) sponsor events that discuss homosexuality in thousands of public schools and colleges across the nation. This can often create a pressure-cooker situation for Christian teens."
That's it. That's the bomb. That's the thing that should keep us tossing and turning in our beds.

Let's see. An education system run by the government is going to promote a government agenda? Gosh! I never thought it would come to this...not.

(For the record, I do think there are valid reasons that we should care about DOMA, but how it makes Christians feel in humanist settings is not one of them.)

Jesus warned us to render unto God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's. RC Sproul, Jr, comments in his excellent homeschooling apologetic, When You Rise Up, that the corollary to that is this: Do NOT render unto Caesar what is God's.

Simple--but profound. Yet that is precisely what believers all over the country do every day. Statistics tell us that 80% of children from believing families reject the faith when they grow up. Eighty percent! If that doesn't get your attention, my fellow believer, I don't know what will.

Of course, my favorite of the flimsy arguments offered in defense of throwing our kids to the wolves is, "But if all the believers pull out of the public system, the public system will fall apart!"


Another argument is that the government school system is a war zone, and we must send in our Christian soldiers to fight. Not even God Himself did that. Don't believe me? Try Numbers chapter one and 2 Chronicles chapter 25. Men did NOT go off to war until they were twenty years old.

Meanwhile, we're sending our five, ten, fifteen year-olds directly into artillery fire. And, I daresay, this battle for their souls is far more lethal than any battle against the Canaanites. Allow me to connect the dots for you. You'll need one ruler and one pencil.

Draw Dot A. Label "Government Education"
Draw Dot B. Label "Reject the True Faith"
With the help of your ruler, draw line from Dot A to Dot B.
Problem explained...

So, when Mr. Minnery soberly warns me that without DOMA, my kids will suffer pressure in government schools, I say, "Stuff and nonsense. Pressure in public schools was happening long before this issue ever came up. That's why my children aren't there."

They are at home--in a pressure free environment. And when it's time for them to meet that big, bad world, they will be old enough, strong enough, and properly trained with the weapons of that warfare.

Spiritual weapons
For a spiritual war.

But I'd be kidding you if I thought homeschooling wasn't failing, as well.
And I, one of its most stalwart advocates, now also find myself one of its most vocal critics.
More to come...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Little Lambs and the Big, Bad Wolf

Once upon a time, there was a family by the name of Lamb. The Lambs were a happy family made up of Mr. and Mr. Lamb and all their little Lambs given to them by their loving Shepherd. When the Lambs were tiny, they would stay in the pasture with their parents and eat what they ate, walk where they walked, and sleep where they slept. As they got older, Mr. and Mrs. Lamb realized the Shepherd wanted them to teach the little Lambs how to love the Shepherd and take dominion over the Pasture. That would require skills like math, science, writing, and history. At first, Mr. and Mrs. Lamb did what the other families around them did. They sent them to the highly acclaimed Wolf Academy to be educated like all the others in their neighborhood. However, as the little Lambs spent more time at the Academy, they began to forget how to drink from quiet waters, how to lie down in green pastures, and how to fear the Shepherd. They didn't want to eat what their parents ate or walk where they walked or sleep where they slept. Instead, they became adept at things they learned at the Academy, like baring their teeth and attacking the other Lambs. Mr. and Mrs. Lamb were very alarmed, and one day, they decided to pull the little Lambs out of Wolf Academy.

But, oh, the uproar! The teachers at Wolf Academy were angry with Mr. and Mrs. Lamb. "There is more to life than knowing your shepherd," they snarled. "Why, we don't even know if he exists. We have never actually seen this so-called shepherd." This only served to make the Lamb family more determined than ever to teach their own children. It was very hard. They didn't always have the right books, and it took a great many hours of their own time reviewing what they had learned when they were little Lambs themselves. But they were motivated by their love for their Lambs and their desire to please the Shepherd. And the Shepherd said, "Fear not. I will gently lead those that are with young." So, in spite of the very hard work, they applied themselves diligently and loved the Shepherd and understood the Pasture. Other Lamb families began to notice this, and they, too, educated their little ones themselves. And those little ones, too, grew up to be intelligent, articulate Lambs who walked with the Shepherd and took care of the Pasture.

But then something dreadful happened. As the years went by--about twenty to be exact--the big Lambs forgot why they were doing all this work. They envied the ease and leisure of the parents who sent their little Lambs to Wolf Academy. They complained of the long hours it took to teach their children expertly about the Shepherd and the Pasture. But they were still intelligent enough to know that the Wolf Academy would take the 'lambiness' out of their children. Oh, what to do, what to do? They grew discontented and lazy. And their complaining and laziness dulled their once sharp minds....

Then one day a new Lamb came into the pasture. He was a very intelligent Lamb. Why, he was so smart that he had actually taught at Wolf Academy. He had even taught at Wolf University! His name was Mr. Ram, and not only was he very smart, he was very shrewd--and quite the businessman. One day, he called a meeting of all the Lamb parents in the Pasture.

"As you know, I have spent lots of time outside the pasture honing my amazing math skills and then teaching them to other little ones. I can see that you parents really do not know how to teach math to your little Lambs. In fact, you are very poor at it. If you keep trying to do this yourselves, your little Lambs are not going to be good at all at taking care of the Pasture when they grow up. Then what will the Shepherd say? He will be very disappointed in you, of course."

The parent lambs were very sad. They knew how much time it took to teach their children. And math, as everyone knows, is nearly impossible to teach without just the right college degree. While they could not justify sending the little Lambs to Wolf Academy, they considered that no harm would come to the little Lambs by only spending one hour every week taking pre-algebra with Mr. Ram. So they acquiesced. But still, there were some who regarded Mr. Ram with caution. He had bad breath, and they thought they caught an occasional glimpse of fangs.

And another year went by. And still the Shepherd reminded the flock, "I will gently lead those who are with young."

Then, one day, Mr. Ram called another meeting. "Your kids have been with me for a year now, and you now know for yourself just how amazing I am. You also now know just how preposterous was your own intention of long ago to teach your children math. But there is another problem. Your children also need science. You know you don't have the credentials to teach your own children science. It would be foolish for you to think you could, just as it was foolish for you to think you could teach them math. And you do not want to disappoint the Shepherd. Therefore, I will help you please the Shepherd. I will teach science to your little Lambs." So the little Lambs left their parents each week now for two hours, one for math and one for science. And how the mother Lambs rejoiced in two hours of free time, and how the father Lambs rejoiced in not having to talk anymore about math and science! But some Lambs still smelled the bad breath and saw glimpses of fangs.

And another year went by. And still the Shepherd reminded the flock, "I will gently lead those that are with young."

The next year, Mr. Ram called another meeting. "My dear parents, now you know how amazing I am at teaching your lambs math and science. But the Shepherd does not want your lambs to only know math and science. He wants them to know how to write. If you let me have just one more hour with your children every week, I will teach them how to write. After all, you don't really think, do you , that you are qualified to teach them to write? What would the Shepherd say?" And so the Lambs spent three hours every week being tutored by Mr. Ram. And the parents now had three uninterrupted hours of peace. But some of the Lambs remained stubbornly suspicious of Mr. Ram and continued to keep their little Lambs close. His wool seemed to tilt oddly to one side.

And another year went by. And still the Shepherd reminded the flock, "I will gently lead those that are with young."

The following year, Mr.Ram again assembled the parents and again reminded them of his amazing skills and vast knowledge. "Poor silly, stupid Lambs," he gently scoffed, looking through his spectacles and over his long snout at them. "After all these years, do you still insist on trying to teach your Lambs? The most important things your Lambs need to know in order to take proper dominion of the Pasture is how to think and how to view the world. If you cannot teach your little ones math or science or writing, do you still kid yourselves that you can teach them the most important thing? How to think? Why, you're not even certified!!!" The Lambs shook their heads in shame. Of course, Mr. Ram was right. What were they thinking? And they turned their little ones over to him for history and worldview and literature and anything else that required deep, difficult thought. The parents sighed happily and contentedly. Now they could do the things that really pleased the Shepherd, like work and ministry and Bible studies. And their little Lambs would grow up to be amazingly brilliant just like Mr. Ram. How pleased the Shepherd must be with them now! But still, some of the lambs clung to their little ones and appealed to the Shepherd for assistance as they rolled up their sleeves and trudged on teaching math, science, writing, history, literature, and worldview themselves.

And the years went by. And the Shepherd reminded the flock, "I will gently lead those that are with young." But only a few of the families were listening anymore. It was easier to listen to what Mr. Ram said about the Shepherd than to what the Shepherd said Himself.

And before anyone realized it, the little Lambs were full-grown adults! And all of them were ready to go off to University so they could come back and take serious dominion over the Pasture. And the little Lambs taught by their parents were intelligent and articulate and wise. They encountered fangs, bad breath, and lopsided wool at University, but it was repulsive to them, and they wisely kept their distance. Most importantly, they loved their parents, and they loved the Pasture, and they loved the Shepherd. They were strong and good. They took wise dominion over the Pasture and pleased the Shepherd. They enjoyed eating what their parents ate and walking where their parents walked and sleeping where their parents slept. The Shepherd was very pleased. He blessed them with little Lambs of their own and whispered to them, "I will gently lead those that are with young."

The Lambs who were taught by Mr. Ram went off to University and met a pack of wolves. But they were not at all alarmed by the sharp teeth or the bad breath. And sadly, the Lambs put themselves in the path of the wolves. And the wolves, being wolves, devoured the Lambs. Many of them died of their wounds. Some, beaten and bloodied, limped home to the Pasture. But they did not seek help from their parents. Hadn't Mr. Ram repeatedly reminded them how unqualified their parents were? Besides, now they were unaccustomed to what their parents ate and where they walked and where they slept. They did recall some occasional mention of a shepherd. But that was only minimal. And what could he do, anyway? And so, the bruised lambs left the Pasture and the protection of the Shepherd for good. The saddest thing of all was that their parents never did figure out why they lost their precious little ones to the wolves.

And the Shepherd cried.