Friday, October 30, 2009

Established forever...

There I was, sitting in my comfy chair in the early morning hours, feeling sorry for myself. There's no real reason for this. I had weird dreams, woke under a cloud, and had to battle my way to the day. And in my bible reading, I was in 2nd Samuel. As I picked up my bible, I honestly thought, "Yeah, right. I'm sure there will be lots of encouragement here..." And then I found David's prayer. David has finally come to the throne (some 15 years after being told it was his), ignores God's commands and collects several wives, and refuses to let the Arc of the Covenant come to Jerusalem because he is frightened by the death of Uriah. Well Nathan the prophet points out that blessing follows the arc, so David brings it in, with much dancing and praise, embarrassing his first wife, Michal, who despises him for it. He stands with God anyway. And God promises to establish his house forever, and gives one of the great Messianic promises of the Old Testament. Then David prays this prayers:
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, "Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O LORD, became their God. And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. And your name will be magnified forever, saying, 'The LORD of hosts is God over Israel,' and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, 'I will build you a house.' Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever."
~2 Samuel 7: 18-29

So that is how a man after God's own heart prays. He knows that he is undeserving of such great and precious promises, but he grabs hold of them. And the promises God makes to me are the same as the ones He makes to David because of Christ. I find that humbling and amazing, and it makes me slightly less inclined to whine about little annoyances. After all, I am established by God forever in His Son.

And may this be the last time I pick up God's word with so little reverence and such lack of expectation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tim and Nikki get a mortgage...

Yesterday, Tim and Nikki signed all the papers on their new home. Once the papers have been "recorded", either today or tomorrow, they will be given the keys, and can move everything from the apartment to the house. They need to be out of the apartment by the end of Saturday. Yikes! Wish we were closer to be helpful, but we are grateful they will not have to move twice!

Blessings on your new home, Tim and Nikki! May it be a place of peace and refuge that honors Christ, welcomes strangers, and is permeated by the aroma of love!

Can't wait to see it!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Child-like faith....

This photo is the lead to an article in the NYT (taken by Scott Dalton and found here.) It, and the accompanying article written by Gina Kolata, were sent to me by friend who knows of our history with M. D. Andersen Cancer Center in Houston. Does this photo speaks volumes to you, Gentle Reader, as it does to me? Here is a woman, in her hospital gown, hooked up to her IV, crossing a city street as if it were a normal thing. She is living with her cancer in a place of last-hope chances.

The article does an excellent job of giving you a feel for this amazing place. Dave was in-hospital there for almost three months at the beginning of the clinical trial that God used to bring him healing from stage 4 metastatic melanoma (almost 18 years ago now!) In the article, one patient is quoted as saying that walking into Andersen, despite its beautiful lobbies and lovely decor, felt like walking into a coffin. This phrase brought back vivid memories for me.

My boys were 6 and 7 the summer we spent in Houston, in a little "Medical Apartment" subsidized by Catholic Charities inside the "loop" in Houston. While Dave was in-patient most of the time, and I was with him, the dear friend who kept the boys at the apartment was close enough to bring them to visit every day. That was a mixed blessing. You see, Andersen is the last resort for people. Everyone there has expended the "normal" options, and many who walk the halls and lobbies there show horrific signs of their fight. Some are missing body parts (and we saw nearly every visible body part missing.) Some have tubes and wires running out of places unimaginable. Many are carting IV pole with multiple colored fluids, buckets to vomit in, or oxygen machines. It is a trial for adults. But it was terrifying to my little boys.

So, we talked about it, and prayed about it. I explained that all these people were like Daddy-- fighting for their lives from cancer. And how many of them got to see children while they were in the hospital? Not many. Wouldn't it cheer them up to have some little boys who weren't afraid to look at them, and could give them a smile? Couldn't they minister to every person they met in the hallway, not by turning away or looking horrified, but by smiling to everyone they met? How that would please Jesus!

So I watched them. They would take a big breath as someone with a soft, yellow bag sewn to their head, and a tube coming out above their eyes, or a person missing part of their face, would walk by. They would look them right in the eyes and give them a smile. It's one of the bravest things I ever saw my little boys do.

Isn't it amazing how our children believe what we tell them, and act on it? Oh, for that child-like faith. It must make Jesus smile.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Soul food from Circe

When I began the journey that is classical education, I joined an online e-loop (back in the day when that was really weird) for support and to kick around ideas. I learned more than I can say from the wise ladies and gentlemen on that loop. One of the gentlemen was Andrew Kern. At the time, he had a fledgling classical education ministry in Idaho called the Circe Institute. He taught classes and did teacher's training. He was the one who talked me into reading David Hicks' book, Norms and Nobility for the first time: one of the books that revolutionized my view of education. And he patiently walked with several of us online as we struggled with the strange notions of normative education and what that might look like for a believer.

Since that time, Circe has grown, and has encouraged a whole generation of classical homeschoolers and classical school teachers and administrators. Though now located on the right coast in North Carolina, I believe it still operates out of the home of the Kern family, and is still a labor of love. And they are having an interesting fund-drive right now, that will pay off better than Wall Street.

Donate any amount to Circe right now, and you can receive up to 7 free downloads from their amazing conferences. It is my dream to attend one of these conferences one day, but so far I have had to make do with listening to the recordings. This is a great opportunity to help a wonderful ministry, and educate yourself, too. See for yourself why this whole classical education thing is so important! And just to whet your appetite, the downloadable lectures are:
*A Contemplation of Nature (the nature of man and the nature of education) by Andrew Kern
*Teaching Boys and Other Kids Who Would Rather Be Playing in Forts by Andrew Pudewa
*Understanding and Instilling a Love of Beauty by Debbie Harris
*Assessing Student Performance by Laura Berquist
*Re-educating Oneself as an Adult by Ken Myers
*and also lectures by James Daniels and James Taylor (the professor, not the singer).

So go check out the Circe website. Look at all they have to offer. And make a contribution in exchange for mental food that will make your souls fat.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Vacation 2009, Days 9-11

On our 9th day, we drove south from Flagstaff through Oak Creek Canyon and on through Sedona. It is lovely country!

We stopped at Toozigoot National Monument: some lovely Pre-puebloan ruins, before heading back North and East towards Walnut Canyon National Monument, east of Flagstaff.

At Walnut Canyon, the Pre-Puebloans built shelters into the soft sections of limestone cliffs. They simply added walls, and viola! They had shelter from the heat in summer and cold in winter. Ingenius builders!

Of course, according to all the literature, they really don't know why these folks built in such defensive ways, since they were peaceful people. One sign even told us it may have been for the view. I remain skeptical. Why would one climb half-way up a cliff to get home if one didn't have to?

On our 10th day, we were ready to leave beautiful rocks and Indian ruins behind for a while, and we spent a leisurely morning at the hotel, and wandered in the downtown area of Flagstaff in the afternoon (and had a delicious Thai lunch!) The next day, after a stop for church in Holbrook, NM, we headed for home. It was a trip full of praising God for His glorious creation.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sundays with Jean

Whenever you hear the word, "contrition," understand a wound of the heart that does not permit a man cast to the ground to be raised up. If you would, according to God's judgement, be exalted with the humble, your heart ought to be wounded with such contrition. If that does not happen, you will be humbled by God's powerful hand to your shame and disgrace.
~Jean Calvin, Institutes, III.7.6

Therefore, if we would five ear to Christ's call, away with all arrogance and complacency! Arrogance arises from a foolish persuasion of our own righteousness, when man thinks that he has something meritorious to commend him before God. Complacency can exist even without any belief in works. For many sinners are so drunk with the sweetness of their own vices that they think not upon God's judgement but lie dazed, as it were, in a sort of drowsiness, and do not aspire to the mercy offered to them....
Therefore we are ready to seize and grasp God's grace when we have utterly cast out confidence in oursleves and rely only on the assurance of his goodness-- "when," as Augustine says, "Forgetting our own merits, we embrace Christ's gifts."
~Jean Calvin, Institutes, III.7.8

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall Vacation 2009, Day 7

Day 7 found Dave and I heading to points South, leaving the rest of the family to head to Colorado and then on to Kansas.

Our first stop of the day was Pipe Springs National Monument, in the Arizona Strip. This was a source of spring water in the dessert plains, and a place with a history of heartbreak, first for the Paiute Indians, and then for the Mormon settlers. We toured this Mormon settlement with a Paiute guide. This is a fascinating and profoundly sad period of history. Did you know, Gentle Reader, that the Paiute Indians are lactose intolerant, and after Brigham Young told his followers it was fine to take the Paiute children (to keep them from starving and to provide household help), many infants died due to the lactose problems? Fascinating, but so sad. The Mormon settlers (one husband, 6 or so wives, 30 or so people in all) diverted the stream into a spring room and made dairy products which they kept cold there for transport to Salt Lake City and St. George, until the US government decided the land was good for something, and then there is a whole other sad chapter.

As we continued to drive south, we passed through much red rock territory, and portions of the painted dessert, and crossed Navajo Bridge south of Glen Canyon Dam. The territory was constantly changing, but constantly beautiful. Our next stop was Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater National Monument, just north of Flagstaff.

There were several sets of fascinating pre-Puebloan ruins at Wupatki, all just beautiful in the mellow fall sunlight.

The area is surrounded by dormant cinder cones associated with Sunset Crater: former home of the large volcano that formed this part of the topography.

And as the sun set, we headed for Flagstaff, a hot meal and a warm bed.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Vacation 2009, Day 6

Day 6 found us traveling north and east, heading for Cedar breaks National Monument. What we didn't realize is that Cedar Breaks is located in the mountains, at over 10,000 feet! That made for some very pretty traveling.

Cedar Breaks is like a mini-Bryce Canyon, but at 10,000 feet, where it freezes 300 nights of the year, and they get 15 feet of snow in the winter.

As we were finishing up the short scenic drive, a snow storm started moving in. But we didn't let that deter us! We continued up ti the highest point in those parts before descending to I-15, and circling back to the South, and taking a last pass through Zion Canyon.

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall Vacation Day 5

On our fifth day, we headed north (from Mt. Carmel, UT) on a cold, cold morning. The local farmers were spraying their fields and covering their alfalfa with ice to keep if from getting killed. Seems counter-intuitive somehow...

Our trip took us through an area of Utah known as Red Rock Canyon. It was like a little preview of what was to come.

After an hour or so of driving through fabulous territory, we arrived at Bryce Canyon.

The views were simply spectacular!

To be continued...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Vacation 2009, Day 4

Our fourth day found us traveling 90 miles south through the Arizona Strip (that part of Northern Arizona that is cut-off from the rest of the state by the Grand Canyon), to enjoy the fabulous sights of the North Rim.

The wind storm the day before made it rather hazy, and littered the road with trees. So we had to hang out around the lodge for a couple of hours while they cleared the roads before we could get to the more spectacular points. But it was well worth the wait!

At over 8,000 feet in elevation, the Grand Canyon has a completely different character here than on the South Rim. One could not help but sing the praises of the Creator as we observed such amazing beauty!

To be continued...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sundays with Jean

Yes, Gentle Reader, Dave and I have returned to our regular reading of The Institutes, after a much interrupted summer season. We won't finish it in a year...though we are nearing the end of the first volume (we are currently in the midst of book III, on p.720!!!) We are encouraged by what we read, and hope to continue on. Here are a few favorite recent quotes. Calvin, himself, is a master of quotes. It was reading Calvin that really whet my appetite for reading Augustine. And lately, he's been encouraging me to pick up Bernard of Clairvaux.

But climbing up to a higher watchtower, let us seek the City of God, let us seek his temple, let us seek his house, let us seek his bride. I have not forgotten...,but with fear and reverence...I say: 'We, I say, are, but in the heart of God. We are, but by his dignifying us, not by our own dignity.'"
~Bernard of Clairvaux, as quoted by J. Calvin, Institutes III.2.25

Where, in fact, are safe and firm rest and security for the weak but in the Savior's wounds? The mightier he is to save, the more securely I dwell there. The world menaces, the body weighs us down, the devil sets his snares. I fall not for I am grounded upon a firm rock. I have sinned a grave sin. My conscience is disturbed, but it will not be perturbed because I shall remember the Lord's wounds...Accordingly, the Lord's compassion is my merit. Obviously, I am not devoid of merit so long as he is not devoid of compassion...Shall I sing my own righteous acts? O Lord, I shall remember thy rightweousness only, for it is also mine.
~Bernard of Clairvaux, as quoted by J. Calvin, Institutes III.12.3

Let us not be ashamed to descend from this contemplation of divine perfection to look upon ourselves, without flattery and without being affected by blind self-love.
~J. Calvin, Institutes II.12.5

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall Trip Day 3: Kolob Canyon

The third day of our trip was the Lord's Day, so we spent the morning in a small. sincere conservative Baptist church in Kanab, UT, worshiping there with our brethren in the Lord.

After that, we headed back through the tunnel at Zion. There are several windows in the tunnel that give you glimpses of what's to come. And you exit the tunnel into that amazing canyon that is Zion!

We then exited the park on the Southwest side, and travelled about an hour to the northern reaches of the park, known as Kolob Canyon.

The cliffs and rock ofrmations on that side of the park were just a fabulous as the other side.

It was well worth the driving time!

It turned out to be a great day to spend time in the car, as a huge windstorm started moving through the area, and we hiked in 40-60 mph wind all afternoon. And it was worse in other places, as we would discover the next day.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In Memorium: Mary Wermer

Friend and fellow homechooler for the last 10 years at least, Mary ended her battle with cancer last night, and entered the presence of her Lord. Please be in prayer for her husband, Joe, and their eight children.
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
~Psalm 116:15

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall Trip 2009: Days 1 & 2

We are home, Gentle Readers, and in the hubbub of all the post-trip things, I am excited to share some photos with you of our trip. We were surrounded by some of the most spectacular beauty imaginable, and I doubt that the photos of rocks I am about to post can really speak to you unless you have seen these sights. Suffice it to say that we were constantly thrown into a spirit of worship as we looked at the marvelous creation of our Creator-God!

On Friday (10-9-09) we met up with Dave's brother and sister-in-law from Kansas, Jon and Rebecca, and spent Friday evening and Saturday in Zion Canyon.

Zion was the first of the great Suthwestern National Parks that I ever visited, and it holds a special place in my heart because of it. Entering the park from the East, you travel through a LONG tunnel (over a mile long) and emerge in a canyon that is nothing short of majestic. The glorious peaks and colors all around are simply inspiring.

The Virgin River cuts through the canyon, and on one one, forms the slot-canyon area known as The Narrows. Unfortunately, the water was much higher this time than the last two times we were here, and made hiking up the canyon impossible without wet suits, so we had to forgo that pleasure.

The deer all over Southern Utah and Northern Arizona are as numerous as rabbits in other places. It was a joy to observe so many of them at all times of the day. it was a bit intimidating, however, driving in the twilight. By God's grace, we did not hit any of the things, though we did see many that had been hit by others!

So, our trip began with great beauty! It continued with amazing sights, which I'll share in future posts.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A break in blogging

Well, Gentle Readers, we are heading out on our excellent fall adventure. The past several years we have traveled at this time, and just loved it. ANd this time we are heading to parts West: SW Utah (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Kanab, Mt. Carmel)and N Arizona (North rim of the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff area). Be assured of a treasure trove of beautiful Southwest scenery photos when we return.

And because I am not really a techno-geek (though I occasionally play one), I don't know how to arrange posts to place themselves onto my blog while I am gone. So, Gentle Reader, you will have to wait either until we have reliable internet connections somewhere along the way, or until we get home to get another post from me. So you may see nothing from me for the next week-and-a-half or so.

Happy Fall, everyone!