The Mark of the Christian

The Christian really has a double task. He has to practice both God’s holiness and God’s love. . . Not his holiness without his love: that is only harshness. Not his love without his holiness: that is only compromise. Anything that an individual Christian or Christian group does that fails to show the simultaneous balance of the holiness of God and the love of God presents to a watching world not a demonstration of the God who exists but a caricature of the God who exists.

— from The Mark of the Christian by Francis A. Schaeffer, 1970

This concept of holiness and love entwined is behind all the mistakes Christians make. One of the double strand gets loose and my son is in his bed crying because of hurt feelings. Another of the double strand gets loose and we do something on Sunday that is not worshipful. Well, those are just two small examples. Christians make big mistakes, too, and a lot of bitterness and bad feeling builds up because of them. Or an ignorance of the true God grows in people’s hearts.

So we move past the unkindnesses. We strive to be loving.

So we strive toward true holiness. We move beyond the neglect toward God.

Slowly and imperfectly the double strand twines together to form what a Christian looks like, and this is what the Holy Spirit does in us.

Ekphrastic Poetry Challenge

Writing poetry about a specific work of art is a good exercise to keep my writing skills sharp, and it conveniently combines my double interest in art and literature. The poetry magazine, Rattle, puts on a new Ekphrastic Challenge every month where any poet can submit a poem (for free) written about the work of art Rattle chooses. Then, after the month is over, the editor of Rattle chooses a winning poem and the artist of the artwork chooses a winning poem. I’ve never won, but it has been fun trying. Sometimes the artwork is such that I have nothing to say about it. But the art for June is my favorite yet! So I thought I’d share it. I already submitted a prose poem, but I might try to write another one. The country road is an image my whole life rides down (Oooo… maybe I can use that metaphor in my poem…)

Here’s the link: http://www.rattle.com/ekphrastic/. Enjoy!

Unless You Bless Me

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Genesis 32:26b

I’ve heard a lot of things said about this passage, and certainly there’s something there. A wrestle with God. At night. A demand for a blessing. A name-change. A blessing granted.

It’s very strange. What would it look like for me to wrestle with God? My thoughts tumbling against words of Scripture. My personal prayers punching through the devout holiness of a church service. My depression spiraling holes through the hope and joy God has always provided.

Or is this wrestling with God only something that happens before the blessing of justification, the beginning of sanctification? Maybe fighting with God now is just rebellion. Or getting out of bounds.

I’m back to my post now after helping herd large calves back into their pen. Good thing there was a full moon. They were on the road and had strayed a long way. They had been eating grass for awhile and were not in the mood to move, which tried my husband’s patience to no end (that was a direct quote). So maybe God also likes it better when we’re feisty and willing to move. Maybe He’s more likely to bless us then, even if we’re not exactly where we belong, and we need a lot of herding. Moral of the story: don’t get fat on the neighbor’s forbidden grass when there’s a pile of nutritious corn silage dumped right into your pen. Another moral: if you do find yourself out of the pen, get up and cross a road a few times, moo really loud (i.e. let God know that you know where you are). God doesn’t want you out of the pen, and He won’t ignore you.

Mr. and Mrs. Roussel

Mr. and Mrs. Roussel by Edouard Vuillard, 1896

Marriage is a joining: Mr and Mrs, man and wife, flesh of my flesh. But the minds still operate apart. As close as we get together, touching forehead to forehead, there’s still that bony skull in the way. The Mrs. Krohn part of me says “I am you; why are you saying these things I would never say?” The Amy part of me draws my forehead away from his as a little rebellion against the whole marriage deal. Sometimes I’ve found myself in the same room as my husband, but not touching, not connecting one bit. Bone of my bone, but the bones don’t fit.

And then there are times, even when bone of my bone is walking a different way across life than I am, tenderness applies a little surgery, and my forehead is resting against his shoulder. It doesn’t matter that he is still mostly stranger after eleven and a half years. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember much at all about me or things that happened after we were married.

There’s a voice that God uses to draw us together. It lisps. It starts talking about my mind, or his mind, and it drops the d at the end. So it says “mine” and means both of us. I don’t know how this works, and sometimes I like to deny it, but then, I find myself resting my head against his, and I’m curled up in our joined world again, a refuge that takes me by surprise when I find it.

Homeschooling Right and Wrong List

This year’s math workbooks are officially recycled (it’s becoming quite a happy tradition in our house), and I have this need to list some things about this homeschool year that I might have done right and things I still need to work on.

Right: I switched from Ambleside Online to Five in a Row for my youngest daughter, and changed her attitude from “I hate school” to “let’s do school!”

I decided to read from Exodus and Luke for Bible class, having the kids tell the passage back to me. No curriculum, no fuss, just the Bible and us.

I did not force my oldest two to continue Spelling-You-See when we finished their workbooks mid-year. I like the curriculum, but they were burned out. So we did some free Bible spelling sheets from Garden of Praise. That went well.

I gave my son a geography workbook. Common core approved (and I’m anti-common core). It’s basically what I would call busy work. He loved it and does it on his own time. He has plans to finish it this summer.

We did plenty of art projects, some inspired by our own ideas and some following the directions of our lovely art instruction video series, Home Art Studio.

I persevered with out-loud readings (at least three a week). My middle daughter has improved her reading big-time since the beginning of the year. My youngest has also improved and is at a more advanced stage than her sister was last year at this time.

We read tons of books this year, and we enjoyed them. I read the entire Little House series out loud for the second time (upon request) and now we are in the middle of the Anne of Green Gables series. I read Robin Hood for the second time. I read Where the Red Fern Grows. And more. Lots more. We love stories.

Wow, this is really encouraging. But now I’m going to start the Wrong list, not to discourage, but to clarify what I need to do better next year.

Wrong: I frequently got too frustrated with my middle daughter’s inability to subtract. It’s not that she can’t subtract; she simply gets overwhelmed by all those numbers on the page. Patience, patience. If I stand next to her and guide her through the problems, she can handle it.

I’d like to have a more exact start time for school. Flexibility is a beauty of homeschooling, but my mornings seemed so up-in-the-air, and the children flung themselves into playing so I wouldn’t make them start school yet.

I need to combine history (so all three kids study the same thing) and forget about English history for a few years (or forever). Why on earth did I ever think Island Story was a good idea? I never learned that stuff and I was perfectly fine. In fact, I am still unlearned, and I have a hard time discussing it with my son because I don’t know what I’m talking about. Seems like a waste, although my son liked it better than I did.

I trusted Ambleside Online too much, and I got discouraged by the AO leaders who insisted things must be done such-and-such a way. We crammed in too many readings and I tried too hard to force them to narrate every reading. As a result, we didn’t enjoy some things and learned to hate narration. I think I won’t even say the word narration anymore. The N word.

Science. Well, I don’t know if this is wrong or not, but I was pretty lackadaisical toward science. We did it when the Spirit moved me. I should probably be more conscientious about that.

Nature study. We didn’t even try to keep a journal this year, and my youngest daughter missed that. I should be more conscientious about this, too.

That’s all for now. If you have read to the bottom of this post, then I hope it was helpful or interesting. Mostly, it was helpful and interesting for me. Sometimes I have to write stuff out to understand what I’m thinking.

Praise for Five in a Row

This is the time of year to evaluate our little homeschools. The best thing I’ve done this year: use Five in a Row for my six-year-old daughter. I decided to use Volume 2 since Volume 1 included many picture books we were already familiar with, and Volume 2 only included three or four that we were familiar with. For twenty weeks my daughter and I have delved deep into twenty lovely picture books. I liked them all, she liked them all, and we are both happy to say that we are doing it again next fall! With Volume 3, probably.

Did we learn anything? Sure! Five in a Row acquaints us with history, geography, relationship issues, science topics, art (lots of different things about art, such as cross-hatching and perspective), even math. Plus, we learn a bit about authors and illustrators, how books are made, ideas behind stories, truth and fantasy, research, and writing techniques. That sounds like a lot for a six-year-old, but because it is all done through the medium of a picture book, and because I got to pick and choose the subjects that we discuss each day, and because I get to make it as laid-back and cozy as we like it, then the learning comes naturally. We have loved the little Friday habit we have of standing on a kitchen chair and sticking the story-disk of the week on our world map. Interesting how the stories stack up on the US east coast and the European west coast. I plan on doing a little ceremony next week of taking the story-disks off the map and pasting them on a chart I made of the books (I copied and pasted the book cover images off Amazon).

Is this a costly curriculum? Not at all! I bought the teacher’s manual used. As for the picture books, I already owned three of them, and the rest we checked out of the library. If it wasn’t in the library’s system, I requested an Interlibrary Loan, which the librarians were happy to assist me with. In one case, the librarian even bought the book for the library so I could check it out! She says I have good taste in children’s literature.

I’ve enjoyed having a special curriculum for my youngest daughter, and my other daughter has enjoyed listening to it as well:) Sometimes my nine-year-old son would listen, and definitely he read the library books by himself, but his learning type is very different from my girls, so it goes to show that different people need different curriculum approaches. I am so glad I decided to try out Five in a Row.