Thursday, November 29, 2012

making connections, even in Narnia

As we were listening to Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, this afternoon, I heard something in the exchange with the professor and Susan and Peter about Lucy that I had never noticed before but I'm sure many others have. Concerning Lucy's supposed lying about going into Narnia through the wardrobe, the professor suggested that they only had three options when considering the matter of Lucy.  He suggests that she is either lying, mad or telling the truth.  As I fed Kate and listened to this dramatized conversation, I remembered that Lewis is famous for his defense of Christ's divinity by proposing similar three options.  I found the following paragraph after a quick internet search, indicating that it indeed was a teaching technique employed by Lewis throughout his writings.
In addition to demonstrating a Socratic teaching method, the discussion among the Professor, Peter and Susan, shows another mode of teaching used by Lewis--a trichotomy. A trichotomy is a three-part version of the philosophical "dichotomy," which dramatizes that there are only two real choices or options in assessing the truth of a proposition; a trichotomy attempts to force a choice among threethings. The Professor explains that Lucy's story of Narnia shows that she is (a) lying, (b) mad, or (c) telling the truth. Put this way, they all agree that the "logical" conclusion is that Lucy is telling the truth about her adventures beyond the wardrobe. Lewis also uses the trichotomy in Mere Christianity to defend the divinity of Christ, who men variously refer to as "liar, lunatic, or Lord." Lewis adeptly champions the last option.
from The Socratic Teaching Method 

Seth apparently was making his own connections as he listened before heading outside to play in the snow.  He said, "Narnia sounds like the land of Canaan, you know, with honey."  Not sure what he heard that made him think of that, but the point is, he is listening and that's important.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tolkien singing from The Hobbit

In the first chapter of The Hobbit, the dwarves are cleaning up Bilbo Baggins' kitchen and this is the song that they sing while they work.
Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
        Blunt the knives and bend the fork!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hate-
       Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
       Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
      Splash the wine on every door!
Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
      Pound them up with a thumping pole;
And when you've finished, if any are whole,
     Send them down the hall to roll!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So carefully! carefully with the plates!

You can listen to a truly delightful recording of J.R.R. Tolkien singing the dwarves' song himself. It's quite catchy, so you might find yourself singing it for the rest of the day! We are!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving to Advent

My parents joined us for several days to celebrate American Thanksgiving and they left this morning trekking their way south through a light and powdery blanket of snow that settled here overnight.  The snow inspired me to let the kids set up our little Christmas tree today and the calendar caused me to turn my thoughts toward preparations for Advent.

festive Saturday breakfast table

Early morning snow play

snow covered cedar
candlelight comfort
Every year we transition from Thanksgiving to Advent, a strange segue in many ways. But there’s at least one thread that passes through these very different celebrations. 

The Pilgrims left the Old World, hoping to find in the New World a place where they could worship in liberty. A place to be with God. They did and did not find it. Since the first century, Christians here and everywhere have been living in the tension of having, and waiting to have, the New World. 

Come, Lord Jesus.

Advent is a period of focusing on the longing we feel for the true New World, when the dwelling place of God will be with man and each man will sit beneath his tree and we will be home again on earth. New Earth. We long for that New World, the new heavens and new earth, completed recreation in and by the Second Adam. He was conceived as a man as the Holy Spirit hovered over the formless void of the virgin Mary’s womb. So began the New World. He arrived and nothing has been precisely the same since. Glory to God, the King has come.
Read the rest of The New World and the New World by S.D. Smith from The Rabbit Room.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


To outsiders, the five energetic women seemed to rule the house, and so they did in many things; but the quiet scholar, sitting among his books, was still the head of the family, the household conscience, anchor, and comforter for to him the busy, anxious women always turned in troublous times, finding him, in the truest sense of those sacred words, husband and father
The girls gave their hearts into their mother's keeping, their souls into their father's; and to both parents, who lived and laboured so faithfully for them, they gave a love that grew with their growth, and bound them tenderly together by the sweetest tie which blesses life and outlives death.
          ~Good Wives, Louisa May Alcott

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

important work

Driving somewhere recently in a more rural area not far from our home, I came upon a parcel of personal property that had many scattered and abandoned vehicles, large and small, old and new with several derelict buildings and a house that I cannot recall at all.  My immediate thought at seeing such a chaotic and unkempt piece of property was to wonder if the owners were Christians or not and that inner question surprised me.  Did it matter if they were Christians or not?  Surely many people have clean and organized homes and property and yet profess no allegiance to Christ.  What then of these people and their allegiances?  What did the mess tell us about them who were strangers to us?  Did they care that their property and the hunks of auto metal and dilapidated buildings that were strewn among the trees and overgrown grass was a huge eyesore to those passing by?  It was pure ugliness and only the thick green grass and large mature trees gave you any relief from the offensive view.

I gave this incident no further thought until this past week as I was reading through Francis Schaeffer's essay, Pollution and the Death of Man where he describes lecturing at a Christian school whose neighboring property across a ravine was what they termed a "hippie community" which included trees and farms where pagan grape stomps were enjoyed by the members of this "Bohemian" community.  Francis Schaeffer's curiosity was stirred so he visited the community and met one of the leaders and enjoyed a conversation which included Schaeffer's views on the Christian answer to life and ecology.  The leader complimented Schaeffer by telling him that he was the first person from "across the ravine" who had ever been shown the pagan grape stomping area, complete with a pagan image.   I will let Schaeffer tell it now:

Having shown me all this, he looked across to the Christian school and said to me, "Look at that, isn't that ugly?" And it was!  I could not deny it.  It was an ugly building, without even trees around it.
It was then that I realized what a poor situation this was. When I stood on Christian ground and looked at the Bohemian people's place, it was beautiful.  They had even gone to the trouble of running their electricity cables under the level of the trees so that they couldn't be seen.  Then I stood on pagan ground and looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness. Here you have a Christianity that is failing to take into account man's responsibility and proper relationship to nature.

Several pages later, he comes back to this thought as he writes how the Christian church can exercise dominion over nature without being destructive.

For instance, the area of nature, we ought to be exhibiting the very opposite of the situation I described earlier, where the pagans who had their wine stomps provided a beautiful setting for the Christians to look at, while the Christians provided something ugly for the pagans to see.  That sort of situation should be reversed, or our words and our philosophy will, predictably, be ignored.
It is always true that if you treat the land properly, you have to make two choices.  The first is in the area of economics.  It costs more money, at least at first, to treat the land well. For instance, in the case of the school I have mentioned, all they had to do to improve the place was to plant trees, and somebody decided that instead of planting trees they would prefer to do something else with the money.  Of course, the school needs the money for its important work; but there is a time when planting trees is an important work.

His account really resonated with me.  Christians should be providing something beautiful for the pagans to look at.   When the hippie community looked across the ravine, they saw no culture worth pursing, no nourishment for their souls, no ideas for their consideration.  They saw ugliness and there was no relief from it, except to turn away. And while Schaeffer was writing especially about nature and ecology, this has implications for all of our endeavors as Christians.

Doug Wilson recently urged something similar following the election earlier this month:
We also need Christians with a thorough-going biblical worldview writing good books, making good movies, and recording good music. As I have argued before, you can't have a naval war without ships, you can't have tank warfare without tanks, and you can't fight a culture war without a culture. ~Seven Post Mortem Principles 
Charlotte Mason in her book A Philosophy of Education concludes a chapter with these words written shortly after World War 1:
We are filled with compassion when we detect the lifeless hand or leg, the artificial nose or jaw that many a man has brought home as a consequence of the War.  But many of our young men and women go about more seriously maimed than these.  They are devoid of intellectual interests, history and poetry are without charm for them, the scientific work of the day is only slightly interesting, their 'job' and the social amenities they can secure are all that their life has for them.
The maimed existence in which a man goes on from day to day without either nourishing or using his intellect, is causing anxiety to those interested in education, who know that after religion it is our chief concern, is indeed, the necessary handmaid of religion.
Francis Schaeffer again:
These are reasons why the church seems irrelevant and helpless in our generation.  We are living in and practicing a sub-Christianity. 
A paraphrase of a definition of education as put forth by Christians like Andrew Kern and others is:  to cultivate a love for beauty, wisdom and goodness.  I've added order to that list for my family. To cultivate a love for beauty, order, wisdom and goodness that brings life to our family and to those we meet.

This past Sunday we stayed after our morning worship time to enjoy a meal with our church family.  As I was feeding Kate her lunch, I realized that in my running to and fro to get food and utensils for all of us, that Seth was seated at the other end of the table and a young woman that I did not know was speaking to him as they both ate their food.  I strained to hear their conversation but could really only hear her side as Seth's voice was quieter and more timid.  But I realized she was asking him questions like "what do you think you want to do when you grow up" and I was disappointed I could not hear his replies very well.  I did hear some talk of different video games he enjoyed and she seemed to know about the games he mentioned.  I'm not sure how long their conversation lasted as my eavesdropping efforts were not very successful.  Later when the kids were down from the table and the adults were left to chat, I was able to be part of a conversation that was happening between her and several other people close by.  I still didn't know her name as the time came for me to clean up and get ready to go.  I introduced myself to her and thanked her for talking to Seth and taking an interest in him.  She smiled very kindly and said she very much enjoyed talking him and that she was surprised at how articulate he was for being nine.  I expressed doubt that he was really any different than other nine year old boys, but she genuinely assured me it was her pleasure to talk with him.

David Mills, writes to Christian parents in particular, on what is necessary to form our children's imaginations, which is required if we are going to create beauty for the pagan world to see and cultivate a culture which gives evidence of allegiance to our King.
To put it another way, we want to raise kings, children at least somewhat worthy of the status of sons of God they have received through our Lord’s death on the Cross. We do not want the average, the mean, the mediocre. We want the elite.
Children with a special calling must be trained in a special way. They must be set apart. More must be asked of them than we would ask of other children. This is not easy to do. We are giving them a privilege that will seem to them like a burden.
One way to set them apart is to try to form their imaginations, to give them an alternative to the worldly lessons even the sheltered child absorbs as if from the air, by immersing them in books that express the Christian understanding of the world. ~Enchanting Children 
As Christians, we need to cultivate a Christian understanding of the world  and we need to make it obvious, whether it shows in planting trees and flowers, making good music, writing lasting stories, building beautiful buildings or cooking wholesome food.  May it no longer be said that we as Christians have only contributed that which is sterile, but instead that we have sought to cultivate a culture of beauty through wisdom and virtue.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kate at work

This past weekend, Kate passed some of her Saturday afternoon by playing with the onions she found in the pantry.  She was told to put them back and clean up the onion peel mess left on the floor.  The dustpan and brush were all her idea and she has grown quite adept at handling them during clean-ups.  Laura makes a few cameo appearances as well and is content with her spectator role as becomes apparent in the second video. The following two videos were shared on Facebook already, so forgive me if you've already seen them.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Monday, November 05, 2012

my favorite baking

banana chocolate chip muffins:  recipe previously posted here.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

family time

This is the first Sunday in November and the weather has become dangerously close to bringing snow into our lives, but instead the clouds hang onto their dark gray loads and we to our leaf raking and piling.  I'm layering the garden with as many blankets of leaves as I can pile on and hidden in the blankets are packets of vegetable scraps and banana peels.  I'm looking forward to adding some dark, rich earth to grow next year's garden in.

We celebrated Shane and Joel's birthday together this year with dinner, spaghetti and Caesar salad and ice cream cake.  They(Joel, Karla and Tessa) couldn't stay for long, but it was a fun time and I think Shane and Joel both enjoyed being together on their birthday.

Lovely table setting, although Kate pulled on the tablecloth and spilled some water.

Trying to get our camera to take photos of candlelight. 

Ready to put the blaze out.

This year the girls joined Seth in trick-or-treating in our little neighborhood and they had a great time.  I think eight or nine neighbors participated by opening their doors and admiring our little family.  Laura pointed out all the lights and jack-o-lanterns as we walked up each path and Kate did well collecting her share of candy that she can't eat but enjoyed dumping on the floor once we were back home and then re-bagging it into many different bags.  Shane and Seth took off for other streets around the area and the girls and I handed out candy to the other neighborhood kids who came to our door, most of them Laura knows by name.  It was a wonderful evening together and the girls did so well with all the commotion, I was so proud of them.

Trying out the costumes.

Trying out the jack-o-lantern.

Getting the treats ready.

Angry Bird lit and ready to go.

Quick group shot before we head out.

First stop, our next-door neighbors.

Next day, organizing the loot together.
Shane and I did some shopping together the weekend before his birthday while the kids were at the sitter's house and he picked out some pink cowboy boots for Laura that were at the consignment shop in her size and in perfect condition.  She now wears them to church each Sunday which I sure would scandalize some church members, but not ours obviously as I see people admire them and snicker as she trots by.

Looking serious in her new boots.

Going out to the car for church.
And here is one last shot taken from this morning in church where Kate and Laura are standing while we sing.  Kate held on to her Psalter despite many close calls where gravity was ready to claim victory.  Two different times before the service actually started, I turned around from speaking to someone else to find her comfortably sitting next to people many rows away that she doesn't really know very well.  She looked at me as if to say, "What, don't I sit with these nice people every Sunday?"  They all of course enjoyed her company and laughed over her ways and were very sweet as I led her back to our seated family.

Messy-haired sisters standing together in church.  

Thursday, November 01, 2012

like brother, like sister

God or Mother Nature?

This week's catechism question and answer has been very well timed as we have listened to the news and seen online images of the devastation caused by what was named Hurricane Sandy.
Q: What are the decrees of God?
 A: The decrees of God are his eternal plan based on the purpose of His will, by which, for His own glory He has foreordained everything that happens.

This is what we read on Monday:
God had a purpose for everything He made. He has a purpose for everything that happens: God's purpose is to glorify Himself. Before He began to create, God planned how every single thing He would create would fit together and how all of it together would bring Him glory. To be certain that everything would happen just as He had planned it, He foreordained, or gave orders in advance, for everything that would ever happen. We call these orders God's decrees. Read Psalm 33:11. We often make plans and have to change them. We might plan a picnic, then have to change our plans because of rain. When we made our plans we did not know it would rain and rain is outside our control. God never changes His plans. Nothing surprises God because He knows everything. Nothing is outside His control because He is all-powerful. God's plan is eternal. It is based on His purpose, which never changes.
Tuesday's reading taught that God's purpose for all He has made and for everything that happens is to make His glory known. Here Habakkuk 2:14 and Isaiah 40:5 were read.

Tomorrow's reading deals with how the things that seem contrary to God's purposes, sad things and bad things, still fit into His plan. We will read Isaiah 45:6,7.

Next week in learning how God carries out His decrees we will look at the world's worst evil act, the most wicked plan ever devised and executed, the torture and killing of God's Son, Jesus Christ. And we will read in Acts 4:27,28 that the disciples understood that God used the actions of His enemies to carry out His decree.

All of this leads me to say that I can say with certainty that the Bible leaves no room for some version of Mother Nature. The only active force behind storms and other natural events(and indeed everything) is the Lord God, Creator of heavens and earth, the Ultimate cause of all things.
 Praise the Lord.
 Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. 
 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 
 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. 
 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. 
 He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. 
 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, 
 lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,  
you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 
wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, 
kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, 
young men and maidens, old men and children. 
~Psalm 148:1-12
So while we grieve over the loss of life and the destruction of homes and property,(and it is terrible) we should never assent to any view that substitutes Mother Nature or Mother Earth for the power and decrees of the God who first revealed Himself through the Old Testament and finally through His Son, Jesus Christ as seen in the New Testament. Invariably people want to find a purpose for this horrendous destruction, they want to know that this destruction matters and is not just a random purposeless act and if they can identify a purpose, they will feel empowered to prevent something similar from happening in the future. And while there may be a genuine problem with the way we treat God's creation, we be assured that God is in control of all things and no storm or catastrophic event can occur without His express order and purpose. Understanding this then leads you to appropriately and meaningfully seek God's help for protection, wisdom and understanding through prayer and the study of His Word.

Our family was fairly removed from the brunt of the storm but we spent many anxious moments asking God to protect our families and friends who were directly in the path of the storm. Knowing that God is in control and is all-powerful causes me to rightly seek His help. He can and will act as He has decreed. What a comfort to know that He has purpose for His actions, they are not capricious or random, but come from His infinitely wise and eternal plan. That is why we can say with Job in the midst of life's terrible trials, "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him." Job 13:15.

I hope you are encouraged, like me, to look at your own trials as coming from an all-powerful God who not only sees your trouble, but has with purpose sent them to you, that you may praise His name and make His glory known among the peoples, even while you cry out for His help. Psalm 96:7-10

 I speak to myself first and have written about thinking this way before, especially about the birth of Kate. You can read that here.