Thursday, September 11, 2014

Delicious Words & Tears

Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts. 
Jeremiah 15:16

He said to me, "Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you." Then I ate it, and it was a sweet as honey in my mouth."
Ezekiel 3:3

Eating God's Word?  I came across both of these verses in the last year during my read-through-the- Bible endeavor (which has taken me much more than a year!), and they struck me as a powerful image regarding the delicious nourishment of the Bible.  I mentioned the verses to the women of my church on our winter retreat, the theme of which was The Word.  Consume and be well fed by the delicious Word of God.  Nothing is as sweet.  Nothing else can satisfy.  We have food others know not of.

Then, as the Lord seems to always work in themes in my life, I picked up this book recently and unknowingly. I thought a good missionary story would be the perfect way to start the homeschool morning with Kayla this year.

I can't remember why I even had this book on the shelf, but I think I must have purchased it years ago when I thought it would fit with a world history and geography class we were doing with other local homeschoolers.  We never ended up using it, but I re-discovered it this summer while clearing closets and shelves and making trips to Good Will.

My kids will tell you that I have been dissolved to tears numerous times during "read-aloud" time, (Bronze Bow, anyone? Pilgrim's Progress? Sigh...) but I really didn't see it coming this time.

In Search of the Source is about Wycliffe (Bible translators) missionaries in Papua New Guinea. This husband and wife team, along with their small children lived in the jungle among the Folopa people, a tribe with an unwritten language and a previous cannibalistic revenge culture.  The book recounts some of the breakthroughs they had in acquiring the proper translations for certain Bible words, phrases, and stories.  The language acquisition stories and the details of the intimate translation in cooperation with a few of the Folopa men are really fascinating, and the stories of eating jumbo beetles (they "pop" when rolled above the fire flames) and grub worms (stuffed in bamboo and roasted to make a "meat stick") and going on bat hunts through caves in waist deep water (a river where the dead were once buried) add even more excitement.

They began translation work with Genesis 1 and had difficulty right away with the word "created."  Then, in Genesis 2, the Folopa men were greatly humbled when they discovered that the women they thought must be a completely different species from them, made only for work and babies, were actually made from their very own flesh.  But is was the translation of Genesis 37-45 that really made a significant impact, as the Hebrew culture of the "favorite son" and the resulting sibling rivalry mirrors their own. They were completely mesmerized by the story.

The missionary wife typed furiously as the translation of the Joseph story was being spoken, and as the words individually appeared on the typewritten page, the men came in closer and closer, watching and reading, refusing to take a break for tea and toast.  When the page was finished, one of the Folopa men took it, put his hand to his throat (a gesture of great seriousness) and said this:

"We are dying of the deliciousness of these words."

I couldn't even finish reading that line, because the tears started rolling.  The power and sweetness of God's Word.  The emotion of reading about another culture's first response to that beautiful Word.  It was too much to take in.

And the story of Joseph began to not only resonate with their own cultural experience, but also tie in with another story they knew about another Son. The same man who held the typewritten page began to speak again...

" 'The brother whom they had most greatly offended,' he said, 'was in the end the one who had the most power to destroy them.  Yet he passed it over. Instead he became the one who rescued them.' "

In their revenge culture, this was incredulous, scandalous even, and therefore very powerful. Many had already responded in faith to the message, a message of grace and forgiveness rather than a deserved revenge killing.

So, big tears over written words during read-aloud time again. Nothing new for my homeschool pupils.  I guess the tears are really over the Word who became flesh for me.

He is beautiful. His Word is sweet.

(Jack and Kelly ~ maybe this could be your next read-aloud?)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Weekend, Wedding, Worship, Quiz & Woes

Coop, Curtis, and A Photobombing Friend in Boston
 It was a very late night for a Monday, but it was worth it. Robert had to be in Boston for a North American Mission Board (NAMB) event, an it was one I didn't want the kids to miss.  Truthfully, I didn't want to miss it either, and I almost never pass up an opportunity to go into Boston.  We picked up our friend, Kama, and headed east around 3pm yesterday after a stop at Dunkin Donuts to get drinks for the road. I even got a very long shoulder massage as we drove. was wonderful. Thank you, Kama.

We parked, walked through the Common, and along the Freedom Trail a bit until we got to Chipotle for a quick dinner.  The event was at the Tremont Temple, which we had to pass on the way to dinner, so it was an easy walk back.  A very long line awaited us, but it moved quickly and was full of friends from near and far.  The whole event was like a mini-reunion which made it all the more fun.

(A passing Bostonite asked me what the long line was about, but upon hearing that we were waiting to hear a pastor speak at a worship service, he moved on pretty quickly.)

The event was part of a tour for Send North America (SNA) ~ a NAMB effort to exhort believers to share the gospel in their individual lives and vocations, and plant churches in their various cities and towns.  The Passion City Band led worship through music and David Platt led worship through a great teaching and encouragement time from the book of Acts ~ ordinary people doing extraordinary things because of an extraordinary God.

It was great.  I'm so glad we didn't miss it. I'm so glad my kids got to experience it.  It was especially encouraging to see each of them, without prompting, give of their own money (well, one regretted forgetting theirs in the van, so we helped out) toward the mission.

And I got to see Rachel ~ a recent graduate from UMass who is now involved in a Boston church plant ~ along with many other dear friends.  Such a wonderful surprise.
Going to Boston on a Monday night was also kinda crazy after the weekend we had. Robert accuses me of filling up all "free" time with activities, and that when I suddenly find myself without an obligation, I simply add a new one. Our weekend was packed, and any normal person would not have planned a trip to Boston on Monday (that they weren't required to take), according to him.  Maybe this is why my kids seem to be entertainment and adrenaline junkies.  If a day or two day passes without anything fun or exciting happening (according to their standards for such), they sink into a sort of depression. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, they were lamenting that if someone were to make a movie about their lives, it would be oh so boring.  I really don't think they got this from me, and though my husband would probably balk at me saying this, I LONG for boring and uneventful days.  They just never happen, but he seems to think that's my own fault.

(But it's David Platt...and the Passion Band...and Boston...and a gathering of Christians...many of whom we know and love...and when will the kids ever have this opportunity again...and it's so good for them to be a part of in their teen years....and...and...and...)

(Hmmmmm...maybe it is all my fault.)

(We got in bed at 1:30am.)

Anyway, the weekend was crazy. Saturday, I went on a run, caught up on a bit of studying in the morning, had a phone date with a friend from Oklahoma midday, and then had to get ready for the wedding of this cute couple...
The wedding was at 5pm and it was an outdoor ceremony and potluck dinner, which meant preparations needed to start around 1:30pm.  We finally made it out the door at 4pm in our wedding attire, carrying our Thai Chicken Skewers, and began the 45 minute drive.  To make a very long story short, we got very lost, got caught in a severe thunderstorm, arrived at the wedding site at 5:45pm, sat in the truck for 20 minutes (50 yards from the ceremony) waiting for the thunder, lightning, and heavy rain to stop, almost decided to just drive home, finally decided to venture out, heard the minister say "I now pronounce you..." as we approached the tent, jumped out of our skin at the thunderclap that immediately followed, deposited our food on the buffet table, and found a seat under the tent held up by huge metal (lightning) rods. It's a wonder anyone survived this treacherous evening.

Not only did we survive, but we had a great time seeing friends from all over Massachusetts (lots of worlds collided at this wedding), and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Tommy and Kaitlyn in their first moments together as a married couple.  The best part of the whole thing was the groom's speech ("rebuttal" to the toasts) in which he gave all honor to Christ, and shared the gospel with everyone there.

Once home, the thunderstorms had reached our own town.  Robert still needed to practice/preach through his sermon, I had much more studying to do, and the next morning would be the Sunday which is always the "biggest" day of our year with the return of students to the area.
It was a great morning of meeting tons of new people, singing, and hearing the gospel proclaimed from the first chapter of Jonah ~ the new sermons series of the semester.
We had a houseful of people over afterward for lunch, which morphed into meetings for upcoming small groups, which morphed into the making of videos to promote the men's and women's small groups.  Molly and I made our debut here as future reporters on all things discipleship. We were both horrified at the idea, but managed to pull this off in about 10 minutes. (We couldn't be outdone by the men's group.) Retakes were done when certain teenagers decided to run in a circle around behind us. 

By the time the last person left the house on Sunday afternoon, we were already an hour and a half late to the next event ~ a birthday/memorial party for our friend, Josh, who would have turned 33 that day.  We miss him and it was nice to see others that do, too.

Robert dropped me off at home and was back up at the church for a 7pm meeting/sermon debrief, and I finished cleaning up the leftover dishes from lunch. It was 9:30 before I finished all the tasks that needed to be taken care of at home, but I tried to read a bit more in preparation for my quiz which had to be taken before 12 noon yesterday.  I had to get up very early to finish reading and studying, since we also needed to get an early start with homeschool work that morning in order to make the Boston trip.

It was Quiz #3.  Quizzes #1 and #2 both had problems, so everyone was given a 90%. This one happened to be over general or natural revelation (God's creation) versus specific revelation (God's Word), and the various views on natural revelation throughout church history. It was really interesting, and the Lord helped me to make 100% on the quiz. I could hardly believe it. Nine more quizzes to go and they are 25% of my final grade.

And now I'm blogging instead of studying, and it's Tuesday, and I'm tired, and the Monday at noon deadline is already coming too quickly, and I haven't purchased any groceries for the week. I have had an near emotional breakdown this morning, however, over an outline of the U.S. Constitution, and proper bibliography form for research papers that were due today for one child.

Oh, and I also shattered the platter upon which I was inverting a recently baked (7am grocery store trip/8am in the oven) cake for one of Kayla's friend's birthday's today, which also rendered the beautiful, chocolate, gluten free ($$) cake inedible, because we didn't want to lacerate anyone's throat with sharp ceramic chards.  This meant another trip to the grocery store for a store-bought cake and all of the accompaniments.

So, I have accomplished some things today, just not in the direction of anything very productive.  So, now I just want to sit in my room and cry. (I was kind of attached to that platter.  Used it constantly.)

Maybe that 1:30am bedtime wasn't such a good idea after all...

(It really was, but I'm going to need a day of recovery, I think. And maybe another massage.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gluten Free/Paleo Friday: Fajitas & Sprouted Black Beans

 It all started when I got an invitation to sign up to take a meal to a young couple who just had their first baby.  Actually, this happens on a very regular basis at church these days.  We're definitely having a baby boom there.  Thanks to another mom's discovery, we use an internet based sign-up for this "meal ministry" called Take Them a Meal. It is a wonderful resource and very easy to use.  You can see every date for which a meal is needed, and as people sign up, they list what they will be bringing for everyone to see. That way the poor new parents don't have lasagne and salad every other night for a month!

I'm always stumped as to what to make and take to the next new set of parents, but for some reason fajitas sounded like the thing to deliver this time.  Maybe because the new mommy actually transferred from Baylor University to UMass after she got married a year and a half ago, having married a young man from this area, and I thought she might like a little bit of Tex-Mex?  I don't know.  She's actually from Missouri, not Texas, but she did love her time at Baylor.  Or maybe it was that whatever I made for them, I would also be making for our family's meal that night, and everyone's always up for fajitas around here.
 Typically, you make fajitas with skirt steak, but you'd be hard pressed to find this in any local grocery store in these parts.  I'm sure dedicated butchers and meat markets might carry it, but I've never seen it in my local store.  What I have been seeing a lot of lately is sirloin tips.  They are usually pretty expensive, but they've been on sale in recent weeks, and they are delicious, as you can imagine ~ unless you are a vegetarian, of course.  I made beef tips and gravy with them two weeks ago for an after-church lunch here at the house, we grilled them last week for dinner along with sweet potatoes and sumer squash, and this week I decided to use them for fajitas. They turned out really delicious, and mostly due to the expert grilling of my husband.
 The Paleo Diet does not recommend eating legumes partly due to their nutrient diminishing tendencies.  They contain phytic acid which makes them difficult to digest, and also pulls vitamins and minerals from the body in the process.  I happen to love all kinds of beans, though, especially with Mexican food, so soaking and sprouting them has been our cheat/compromise.  Before beginning the Paleo Diet, I was greatly influenced by the research of the late dentist Weston A. Price as well as the cookbook his discoveries about nutrition inspired ~ Nourishing Traditions.  Soaking and sprouting is almost a given in the cookbook with any grain or legume.  That process allows germination to begin, which actually removes much of the phytic acid and greatly increases available nutrients.  Here's a quote from The Vegetarian Times blog regarding this practice:

Nuts, seeds, grains, and beans are nutritional powerhouses. However, the natural agents that protect them from early germination can wreak havoc in our digestive system. Soaking and sprouting replicates germination, which activates and multiplies nutrients (particularly Vitamins A, B, and C), neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, and promotes the growth of vital digestive enzymes.

 It takes a bit of foresight and planning, but it makes eating beans much easier on the system and adds nutrients to your system, rather than depleting them. I think I was even scared to try it at first, but after just a tiny bit of research, I decided to give it a try.   It's really so very easy, and I'll list the steps below.

We decided to do both beef and chicken fajitas, and I used the same marinade for both.  I made sure Robert could be home before 6pm (which was the delivery time) to do the grilling, and had them all ready to go when he returned. As you can probably see from the pictures, we used about 6 chicken breasts and 6-8 strips of sirloin tips.
After grilling, we sliced them thinly and against the grain ~ longitudinally (sorry, we're studying the explorers currently) which was a bit tricky due to the long thin strip nature of  the sirloin tips, but makes them easier to stuff a fajita taco with.

We sautéed peppers and onion in olive oil with a bit of garlic powder and salt, packaged them up along with the rest of the usual fixings ~ the sprouted and cooked beans, guacamole, salsa, chips ~ and cheese, sour cream, and flour tortillas for the non-paleo folks ~ and enjoyed making the delivery.  The best part, though, was holding the precious, now one month old little boy ~ sweetest, cutest little thing. Oh my.

The hardest part for Kayla and Cooper was waiting for us to get back, so we could eat our portion of the meal, which we finally did outside on the picnic table.  It was a really beautiful, warm evening.  There were even leftovers for lunch today.

There are so, so many recipes out there for meat rubs and marinades that are probably much better than what I've come up with through trial and error and simple ingredients on hand, but in case you just want something super easy and tasty, here's what I did:

Marinade for the Beef and Chicken:

1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp McCormick Montreal Steak Grill Mates (optional, but it's really tasty!)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix dry ingredients/spices together.  Add cider vinegar and olive oil and whisk together.  Pour over chicken or beef and let sit for 1-4 hours, turning and coating sides alternatively.

Soaked and Sprouted Black Beans:

Sort and rinse 1 package of dry black beans.  Place beans in a medium-large bowl and cover with warm water for 10-12 hours.  The beans will double in size, so be sure and add plenty of water for the soaking. Drain beans, rinse, and drain again.  Leave beans in the bowl or a large jar and cover them loosely with a towel or plastic wrap ~ allowing for some air to reach the beans.  Rinse and drain every 4-6 hours until you can pry one open and see a sprout forming, or a tiny sprout emerges from one end of the bean.

For the above black beans, and probably because it was warm outside, this only took an overnight soak and sitting drained and loosely covered on the counter for most of the following day.  By 4pm, they were sprouting and ready to cook.

To cook beans, add water to about an inch above the level of the beans. Add salt to taste and a slice of bacon if you like for seasoning.  Cook over medium-high for 1.5-2 hours until beans are tender.  Add water as they cook if needed.

Sautéed Peppers and Onions:

Slice 1onion and 2 peppers into thin strips or circles.  Sauté in 1 Tbsp of olive oil.  Add salt and garlic powder to taste as they cook and soften.

Those of us following a Paleo diet here just forgo the tortilla (corn for my GF kids) and fill a bowl with onions, peppers, beans, beef, chicken, guacamole, and salsa.  Sometimes we add a bed of lettuce and tomato, too. Everyone else stuffs their tortilla with meat, guac, sour cream, cheese, salsa, and peppers/onions which they truly think is some kind of heavenly meal.  I won't tell who it was, but one teenager ate FOUR fajita tacos last night.  Someone is going through a growth spurt ~ and I am now officially the shortest person in the family.

Enjoy ~ and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Full Days and Brain Breaks

A trampoline brain break
The days are so full.  Yesterday, I went for a morning run, shopped for the week's groceries, put them all away, emptied and re-filled the dishwasher, started preparing lunch, took a shower, read a couple of chapters from a missionary novel (Papau New Guinea Folopas) and a few chapters on American history (Columbus, Pizarro, de Leon) with Kayla, soaked some beans for a future meal, returned some emails, scheduled a FedEx pick-up, put some appointments on the calendar, read the Bible and journaled, all before 11am.  

At 11am two of Kayla's closest friends came over to work on their schoolwork together.  While they got started, I finished cooking lunch and gave Cooper the haircut he'd been requesting for days. (Robert was in line for a haircut, too, but then he opted for SuperCuts the day before, which is only a short walk from our house. I did not discourage this plan.) Then I sat down with two of the girls and tried to help them prepare for their upcoming debate on the death penalty.  We multi-tasked by watching a debate video while eating. After they started making good progress, it was time to sit with Kayla and work on her grammar lesson.  She's begging for spelling, too, but I can not remember to whom I loaned (or gave?) my Spelling Power book.

The girls had a LOT to accomplish.  Cooper had a LOT to accomplish.  And I still had a LOT to accomplish.  I know it's not necessarily in vogue or in line with the latest principles for time management or Stephen Covey's "seven habits," but for now I live and die by the checklist.  Actually, there is a new book out called The Checklist Manifesto.  We learned about it while helping Cooper through an SAT prep program.  Robert immediately downloaded it to his Kindle, read the entire thing, and now we have posted checklists (by Robert) in the bathroom for proper procedures for showering/leaving the bathroom in order, in the kitchen for washing dishes/wiping counters/loading/unloading the dishwasher, and on the back door for all the things that need to be done before leaving the house. Would you believe that they are actually quite effective ~ for the most part? So, maybe I am up with the trends after all?
I heartily encouraged some jumping, because they had been so focused
and hard at work for hours!
 This morning I went on my weekly 6am-ish run with Betsy, was home by 7:30, had a cup of tea and read my Bible ~ all the while thinking I had no outside obligations until 11:30am when I was to meet with a student for coffee.  Then I sat down with Kayla to do more reading for school, and about 15 minutes in the phone rang.  It was our dentist calling to tell me I had missed Kayla's 9:15am appointment.  I wrote it on the calendar, and I even made note of it last night before bed, but it never made today's checklist which only included a morning run, school, a coffee date, a gift-buying errand, and a meal delivery to a church family who just had a new baby.  Fortunately, the dentist had an opening at 11am, which then affected my coffee date, but that ended up needing to be postponed as well.

I did get several pages of my theology book read while in the waiting room though, which is great, because "seminary reading" is always making the checklist, but not always getting checked off.  And I'm learning that reading at 9pm while propped up in bed isn't the best scenario for studying.

Last night I got in bed to read (denial), but then received a phone call from my sister which was wonderful, but required an hour and a half to catch up on all the necessary things. At 11:15pm, I slid into bed next to a sleeping husband, who had been out of town at meetings all day.  He woke up a few seconds later and said, "Let's' go on vacation."  We both laughed.

No vacation in sight, but I think a trampoline brain break is definitely in order.  Or even better ~ a dinner-and-movie-out break.

We'll put that on the checklist along with WAY overdue homeschool reports and proposals, college and job applications for Cooper, a wedding on Saturday, a fall kick-off with returning students this Sunday, the beginning of small groups, etc.

While we were running this morning, Betsy told me all that she was learning from this verse:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, of I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-29

It was so nice to be reminded that the wearisome burden of sin has been lifted by Jesus, and that we can even give Him our daily yoke of duty, finding rest, maybe not necessarily for our physical bodies, but certainly for our souls.

Praying for grace to cast my daily checklist onto Him.  I know it's good to busy for His sake and purposes, but it's bad to be busy in my own strength for my own purposes. Trying to learn the difference!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Shopping Carts and Scoffers

What are your pet peeves?  Seems like that's a typical "ice-breaker" question in some settings. It's similar to another get-to-know-you question: "What is your most embarrassing moment?"  The problem is I've always had trouble coming up with an answer.  But, I also have trouble coming up with answers to "What's your favorite movie?" and "Who's your celebrity crush?" I can honestly say I've never had a celebrity crush, well, except for Olivia Newton-John in my formative years, but she's a woman, and that's not the answer whoever asked the question was looking for.

I finally came up with an answer to "the most embarrassing moment" question though, so I pull it out whenever the need arises: "The day I ran into a cute boy in the college cafeteria with my tray of food and spilled a GIANT glass of iced tea all down the front of him."  Yes, it was horrific, but it was also about 25 years ago. Maybe I need to take more risks or something?  Get a new embarrassing story, you know?  For now, that one will have to suffice.

I have, however, identified my two biggest pet peeves.  Let's see if you can guess one of them...

If you guessed "shopping carts not returned to their proper receptacle" you'd be correct.  This rampant epidemic is something I just do not understand.  Am I the only one who has had my car dinked and scratched by runaway carts?  The only one who has innocently pulled into the closest open spot in the lot only to discover there is a cart in the way?

(P.S. They are not called "shopping carts" in New England.  They are called "carriages," but I have yet to fully assimilate.)

Anyway, it's shocking to me that anyone who has had these encounters with shopping carts (and I'm thinking most everyone has) would then turn around and do the same to fellow shoppers.  I've been working on memorizing Romans. These are the last verses I mastered.

You, therefore, have no excuse, every one of you who passes judgment on someone else, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgement of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you think lightly of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Romans 2:1-4

I think they perfectly apply to this whole shopping cart situation, don't you? You really don't like getting crashed into by renegade carts or losing valuable spots in the lot due to poorly and selfishly ("I'll just put it right here ~ out of the way...") placed carts and yet SOME OF YOU PRACTICE THE SAME THING!  I pray that God will have mercy on your soul, and also that you would be granted sufficient grace to carry out the Golden Rule:

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 7:12

(You non-returning-shopping-cart-people are probably leave-all-the-clothes-I-tried-on-in-the-dressing-room folks, too, which is almost more than my hideous and blatant self-righteousness can bear.)

So, out of place shopping carts are a definite pet peeve (and hordes of hanging clothes in my dressing room, evidently), but they are second only to scoffers.

Scoff: to speak derisively; mock; jeer.

Synonyms: gibe, jeer, sneer imply behaving with scornful disapproval toward someone or about something. To scoff is to express insolent doubt or derision, openly and emphatically.  To jeer suggests expressing disapproval and scorn more loudly, coarsely, and unintelligently.

Antonyms: praise, commend, respect

(Uh oh. According to this definition, I think I may be a scoffer ~ the very thing I despise. I'm comforting myself with the fact that my scoffing his limited to the above mentioned issues and people.)

The kind of scoffing that really gets under my skin is when Christians scoff at other Christians, when members of churches scoff at issues or individuals within their own church as if they are somehow outside of that issue, or when one denomination scoffs at another.

It would be like my son Kory, attending his first Baylor football game in the newly minted, beautiful, state-of-the-art McLane stadium on Sunday against the SMU Mustangs, with all the spirit and hype of the returning champions surrounding him, but wearing another team's colors, constantly shouting insults at the coach and the team, and making sarcastic remarks about what they could have done better on the architecturally genius new stadium.

Not a pretty sight.

Not the time for it.  Not the place. And always a way to haughtily distance yourself from the institution to which you've been called to invest yourself fully.

I'm writing about it, because I keep seeing it happen in social media.  In fact, just before I clicked over to write this down, I noticed this in my Facebook news feed:

Thankfully, the status includes the softer phrase "you might not hear." Unfortunately, the title of the actual article declares harshly "you won't hear." In case, you are wondering, and don't want to go and search for this article, here are the "7 Truths."

1. Sex is a gift from God. Explore it.
2. There is more than one person out there you could marry.
3. The first year of marriage is really hard.
4. A spouse does not complete you.
5. Marry someone with similar goals, dreams, passions.
6. Marriage is not for everybody.
7. Marriage is not about you.

Perfect example of someone within the church scoffing at the church, and in a completely unjustified way, I'd say. I don't know about your church, but mine and many others I know of discuss all seven of these "truths" on a regular basis and especially when the content of a particular passage of Scripture lends itself to such a discussion. I'm sure the author didn't mean to exalt himself above the church, and he was only speaking for himself, I realize, but that's exactly what he did, along with pridefully distancing himself from that irrelevant, uncool institution called The Body of Christ.

Of which we are all members. (Converted believers, that is.)

Of which we are called to love. (With unconditional commitment.)

I attended the Pastor's Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention a while back.  It was quite encouraging and uplifting, but also challenging. Most of the chosen speakers were pastors from within the denomination who taught God's Word with power all while challenging our particular denomination to remain faithful to a pure and faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Sadly, the final speaker, a very popular speaker and author from outside the denomination, condemned the denomination for something he wasn't even able to articulate.  He ranted on emotionally and negatively about a "feeling" he had about our particular group, but wasn't able to pinpoint it.  It made me angry.

Yes, we have our stereotypes and certainly our mistakes, but I wondered if he knew any of the stories of the pastors in the room ~ many of whom have served their Lord and their churches faithfully for decades. I knew of at least a handful there who had given up everything for the sake of the Gospel and their church, remaining faithful in the midst of intense opposition and trial.  It was quite disheartening and completely uncalled for.

"Scoffing is easy from the cheap seats," I heard Robert tell a prideful teenager one time who refused to risk embarrassment on the "ropes course" at the youth retreat, but decided to sit on the ground below and actively mock everyone who slipped or screamed.

The lyrics are not "Scoff, mock, jeer at the home team," you know.

And fair-weather fans are a real problem.

So, my Facebook feed has included too much scoffing lately in my opinion, and too much casting of sarcastic doubt on the mission and actions of the church by those from within the church. I've attempted reaching out to a few in an attempt to remind them that this kind of scoffing and doubt-casting in front of the whole world only confirms what those outside the Body may have already  convinced themselves of. (And sometimes it also confirms the scoffer's own blindness, pride, and ignorance, from which I am certainly not exempt.)

I wonder if they know we're called to love the church above those outside the church?  It's not cool, and it's literally unbiblical to encourage those outside the church (and inside) in the cause of critiquing the church ~  as if you are not, by a loving, sacrificial, and expensive adoption, associated with it. I've certainly had to learn that for myself in these last 20+ years of church ministry. There are constructive and biblical ways of addressing heresy and conflict, but that is not one of them.

Like unreturned shopping carts, the practice is inconvenient and subversive at best, damaging and destructive at worst.

Saints loving other saints is a significant part of our witness to the world. Matthew 25: 34-40 is all about loving and serving "these brothers of mine," says Jesus, and His needful brothers and sisters are those within the church.

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus, which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you...
Paul in Ephesians 1: 15

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Adult Learner" or OCD? (or both?)

My schoolroom yesterday
I already told you that I did not do so well on my very first quiz in my graduate school career.  But what I didn't tell you was that I failed the quiz. I got a 50%.  Out of a possible 100% ~ just to clarify.

I also didn't tell you how completely terrified I was to finally log onto Moodle ~ the online platform/hub for all of my coursework ~ and take the plunge...I mean, quiz.  I had studied for HOURS.  I made flash cards.  I re-read and outlined the many pages of reading I had done.  Robert prayed for me on Saturday night just before I clicked "take the quiz now."

The deadline for taking the quiz wasn't until Monday at noon, but the deadline I had given myself was Saturday evening.  I didn't want to be worrying about it on Sunday ~ you know, because of church, Sabbath, after-church lunch guests, etc.  And I wanted Monday to be a fresh start on the information for week 2.

So, he prayed, I clicked the tab, and the quiz appeared.  Ten minutes to complete ten multiple choice questions.  It was difficult, and I knew it would be, partly because I had lunch with this lady last Thursday in Boston. (Well, Cambridge, to be exact)
Cas discipled me during my University of Texas days through the ministry of Campus Crusade ~ or CRU as they call it these days.  It was Cas who expected the women in her small group to read the book of Romans 50 times and memorize two verses from each chapter, which had my suite-mate, Debbie, and me poring over stacks of index cards during lunch breaks in the dining hall.  We knew she would call on us, choose a random verse, and we would be expected to repeat it flawlessly. Oh, there was grace and joy and lots of laughter, but there was also a tall order for immersing ourselves in God's Word, knowing it, and applying it, and for this I am so very thankful.

Cas and I have now been friends for over 25 years, and she just completed her Master's degree at the same school from which I am now taking this online course.  Over our two and a half hour lunch (which was not long enough at all), we talked about many things, only one of which was seminary, but Cas confirmed to me that my fear of quizzes was not necessarily misplaced.  She took the same course with the same professor.  She even confessed to being angry over quiz grades after putting so much effort into preparing.

So, yes, Saturday night had me terrified to take the quiz and then angry at my results. Angry that the professor would choose questions that seemed so random and certainly not a faithful treatment of the actual material. Honestly, it felt downright unjust.

When Cas confessed her anxieties and apprehensions concerning studying, taking quizzes, exams, and writing research papers to a friend, the reply was, "Cas, you are showing all the classic signs of an adult learner."

When she related this story to me, I felt better.  This stress is normal for someone my age.  Adult learners tend to be a bit more concerned and "in earnest" about doing really well in their courses. And this can even be positive.  I certainly wish I had been a little more "stressed" about my undergrad classes. Unfortunately, I was more attentive to room decor and what restaurant to eat at with friends over the weekend.

I was unable to shake my disappointment and sense of injustice, though. I mused about emailing the TA or professor to express my concern, but then backed down, fearing the thought of being "that person" ~ the nagging 40-something "adult learner."

Then I logged into the syllabus review and online "chat" where the professor urged us to email with questions about the quizzes by copying and pasting each concerning question into our email, as Moodle selects questions at random and therefore no two quizzes are alike.  This seemed to be confirmation that I could inquire without making a fuss, and so I did.

I copied and pasted three of the questions to which I could not find the answer anywhere in the readings.  In fact, I discovered the answers for those questions in the readings assigned for THIS week, and shared the page numbers with the TA. Maybe I'm not crazy after all, but here's where the OCD part comes in.

I spent two nights obsessing over both my failure and the unfairness of the evaluation. I decided seminary, or higher learning of any kind, must not be for me.  I just don't "get" it. This thing I have dreamt about for years is misguided and not really from the Lord like I thought it was. I have now wasted a lot of time and money.  I felt foolish and angry.

THEN I went to bed and had a DREAM about the quiz and my email to the TA.  The professor contacted me, sat down with me (in a car parked in some random parking lot), and looked over each question with me, listening to my concern about the unfairness of each one.  He was taking notes and seemed to be genuinely receiving each complaint ~ desiring to improve his course. (HA!  This is truly a dream about my desired outcome!) In my dream, I was reluctantly shocked by this, not sure how to respond or go forward.  Then Sarah Abbott, a good friend from our Classical Conversations program walked by and started talking to me, and this is where the rest gets fuzzy.

I should mention here that Robert has only been thoroughly entertained by my angst, which did absolutely nothing for curing my inner obsessions and compulsions. In short, it made them ten times worse.

He found me in the kitchen early the next morning reading my Bible. He asked me how I slept. "Fine, I guess," I said, "but I had a dream about the professor, and the quiz, and we were in a car, and Sarah Abbott stopped by..." I was almost in tears.  What am I doing to myself?  This is going to be the first and LAST graduate course I ever take.  I really don't need any extra drama or sleepless nights. Got enough of that to last me a long time.  He wanted to laugh, I know it, but he did the right thing and said he was sorry. And he was.

Later, I checked my email. There was one from the TA just to me.

(Cue the fireworks and confetti.)

An apology! Moodle pulled the wrong questions! Everyone will receive a B! (or an A, if anyone was actually able to choose correct answers) Justice has been served!

And I am not crazy.  My sense of injustice has not simply succumbed to my own stubborn pride.

I am so relieved, but I'm not sure the O's and C's will be tempered until after this week's quiz.  We'll see...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School 14.0 (And Back From Texas, Too)

Starting our 14th year of homeschooling today. I can hardly believe my baby girl is in high school this year.  Wasn't she just beginning kindergarten?  Wasn't she just 3 years old and taking ballet class and afternoon naps and losing teeth?
And completing her first "chapter book" ever?  Oh, those were such milestones and proud moments! But today she begins algebra I (she actually started this summer), and American Literature (The Scarlet Letter is first up!), and Spanish I and philosophy and economics and more.  She's taking a break from CC this year, but will likely return in the coming years.  I just felt that God was leading us to be at home together this year doing our own thing, and am praying that He uses the year to pour into her an abundance of grace, confidence, strength, and wisdom. (Not that she doesn't already posses these things!)
And Mr. Cooper is a SENIOR!  Here is is with his monstrosity of an American History textbook. He began the Challenge III level of Classical Conversations last week and has been hitting the books for hours on end ever since. Shakespeare, poetry, philosophy, pre-calculus, chemistry, and Spanish are all on agenda for this year ~ and LOTS of rhetorical assignments like debate, speech, memorizing lines of Shakespeare, etc.
But it seems like yesterday that he was just learning to type on a very old desktop computer. He's still the fastest typist in this family for sure! 

The cuteness.  Oh my.
I'm hitting the books this year, too.  My first seminary course began last week, and I really enjoyed the lectures and readings.  Fascinating stuff ~ philosophy, philosophers, the nature of reality, arguments for the existence of God, existentialism, noumena, phenomena, Tertullian, Athanasius, Luther, Calvin, Barth.  I'm overwhelmed by the amount of information, but I love learning it ~ I think.  My first quiz grade has me a bit discouraged, but this is a new week, and I'm hoping to get the hang of things soon. Prayers are appreciated.
Thankfully, my class did not begin until last Monday, which meant I had plenty of time to travel to Texas with Kory and take care of all sorts of things there along with him and my dad.

First on the agenda was buying a car.  Kory was blessed by a gift from his grandparents that enabled this purchase, and we are so thankful. (Thanks Grammie and Paw-Paw!) It was probably the easiest, smoothest transaction in car-buying history! I put out a plea on Facebook, a friend from high school, who happens to live near my dad, responded (Thank you, Lee Ellen!), we took it for a test drive the day after arriving in Texas, everyone had the correct paperwork, they signed over the title, Kory wrote a painful check that was well within our budget, and we drove away. Initially, I did the driving, since it is a manual transmission, but Kory practiced over the next two days and took to it like a pro.

I feared the transaction at the county tax office the next day would be stressful with long waits and trips to various offices, but it wasn't.  We waited about 3 minutes, and walked out with Texas plates and registration in under 20 minutes.  Amazing. (Acquiring insurance was done over the phone at 9pm ~ inexpensive and unbelievably simple. Wow.)

It was so wonderful that all of this happened so smoothly, because it was Friday, and Kory needed to be at school on Sunday afternoon to begin his week of training for LEAD mentoring.  EVERYTHING had to happen by Friday, and it did!  This also meant that Saturday could be spent washing, vacuuming, Windexing, and Armour All-ing the car.  It cleaned up beautifully! (Have I told you how much I adore washing cars, vacuuming cars, and Windexing and Armour-All-ing cars?  Heaven!)
 Friday afternoon and evening were spent in Austin at the Domain, which is sort of an up-scale outdoor shopping mall.  After spending two hours in the Apple store watching/helping my dad purchase a new iPad (Kory went to the movie with a Baylor friend) and case, and SD card attachment, and wireless printer (whew!), we enjoyed some iced tea and GF carrot cake cupcake from the Steeping Room (yum!) and outdoor seating for the high-fashion show that this mall tends to naturally provide.  We were definitely underdressed.
 And then it was dinner out at Chez Zee with my sister and her family.  Fun times catching up, and frozen yogurt afterwards, of course! Speaking of growing up too fast, my nieces and nephews are all in high school now, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their interests and classes ~ cross country and color guard flag team for the girls, and history and film for my nephew.  They are an awesome and talented bunch. (P.S. DON'T go and see "The Conjuring," okay?  Take it from the experts here. I stay FAR away from stuff like that, but I'm passing along this PSA from three teens who KNOW.)
 Sunday morning had us leaving for Waco, TX and Kory's return to Baylor.  My dad helped us gather up his things which had been in storage in his very hot attic. It's a good thing that Kory got a car, because my dad down-sized from a Suburban to a Foreruner and it would not hold all of Kory's Rubbermaid containers.

He's in a single this year and loving having the room to himself.  I think he needs curtains.  What do you think? Only kidding.  Pretty sure he's not concerned about window treatments, though I have to say, he has his own ideas about design and room decorating. He's especially excited about his new futon.  Living the life...

 One BIG trip to Target during one HUGE thunderstorm (thankful we were safe inside!), and he was all settled in, and it was time to say goodbye.  I suppose it was slightly easier this time, especially knowing what good hands he's in and how much he adores his school, leadership program (he's a mentor this year), friends, classes, and professors. I've probably said it a zillion times, but Baylor is truly a special place.  Kory even had a much-anticipated meeting last week with Baylor's Athletic Director, Ian McCaw, who happens to be a friend of ours from Amherst years ago.  Kory has been on Cloud Nine ever since.  He just soaked up the wisdom and example of godly leadership that Ian possesses.  We could not be more grateful for that life-changing influence in Kory's life. They both love the topic of "leadership"  ~ godly leadership especially ~ and had such a meaningful conversation about it.  I'm pretty sure Kory even asked him why he went after Art Briles to coach football. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for all of that.

(Send your kids there!  You won't be disappointed! REALLY.)

(Okay, I'll stop.)
Allen Hall Year Two
 The best part of the ride home was meeting this sweet lady for dinner.  (My dad had to endure our speed-talking about kids, and church, and homeschooling, and private schooling, and more.) It was spur of the moment and scheduled around our late departure from Baylor, a river rafting trip for her family, and CC preparations for her, but we made it work.  Yvette and I have been friends since college, and it has been such a joy to stay in touch through the years and watch each other's kids grow up.  She is an amazing mom and a gifted teacher.  I wish we lived closer, but for now we'll grab whatever moments we can.
 Back in San Marcos, I was able to get started on my seminary course with the luxury of sitting in bed in a room by myself, listening to lectures, and reading, and taking notes for hours.  If only that were real life...

Oh, and we also made a lot of progress on a painting project.
 I talked my dad into getting started on painting his deck table, which is something he's been wanting done for at least three years.  He has many, many projects on his list, but this was one I could actually help with (well, this and setting up the wireless printer), so we dove in.

We hauled the heavy furniture out to the driveway, and started scrubbing each piece with a steel brush.  We followed that up with steel wool.  Next came washing with soap and water, rinsing, and leaving out to dry overnight. Although, in south Texas, it only takes a few minutes for a soaking wet towel to dry ( I know this because we also went swimming), so the table probably dried as soon as we finished, but we couldn't tell, because it was dark by that time.
 The next day, we started painting, and by the time I left last Wednesday, the table and two of the four chairs had their first coat of paint.  It was so satisfying to make so much progress, and my dad was super-motivated to finish it up himself.

Well, that's the long update.  Now, I'm WAY overdue to be off the computer and setting up Kayla's Spanish CD-Rom curriculum as well as her online stock market game. After that, it's over to the dance studio to register her for Hip-Hop class.

Don't even ask me if I've watched today's theology lecture.

Happy Back-to School!