Friday, June 27, 2008

"Academic Education for a Deeper Heart" Video

Dear friends,

This "video" is part 4 of my series "Living, Loving, and Learning from the Deep Places of the Heart." This 10 minute segment is called "Academic Education for a Deeper Heart" and it focuses on enjoying good literature with your children. I originally recorded the audio in October 2006, and have just now added a few photos and lots of captions to make it a web presentation.

You can also click here << Living from the Deep Places of the Heart >> to see Part 1, which I posted on June 25. Depending on the feedback I get about these presentations, I may eventually produce part 2 (on marriage) and 3 (on mothering), so please leave a comment after you watch the videos!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Living from the Deep Places of the Heart

Dear friends,

In October 2006, I spoke to a local home school group on the topic of "Living, Loving, and Learning from the Deep Places of the Heart." Today, my daughter Lydia helped me to edit one segment of it and turn it into a presentation of just under 15 minutes. Though I was speaking to home school moms, it could be helpful to anyone who is interested in the spiritual life.

Please leave me a brief comment when you have watched it so I can know if this option is being used or not!



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hazel Waterman

"Birch Path" by Hazel Waterman, 1973 (Water Color)
Who was Hazel Waterman? Not exactly a famous painter... What is important to me is that Hazel was my friend. I met her when I was 8 or 9, when my friend Andrea Forsyth took me to visit her. She lived a few blocks away from me in San Carlos, California. She must have been in her 40s or 50s, but I don't even quite remember what she looked like beyond a vague mental image. Andrea and I stopped to see her almost every day after school. I'm sure she kept us out of lots of trouble (which we got into in our tween years, unfortunately), and we, in turn, kept her company. Her daughter had died as a teenager and I'm sure she was lonely. Lonely, but never morose. We loved to be with her! We baked cookies with her and there is a certain toy I remember that I can't name, but it had a whirly red plastic wheel that spun on two rails. I always balked at doing the dishes at home (shame on me!) but was always so eager to do them for Hazel. She took us out for ice cream, and once I spent the night with her when my parents were out of town. If my memory serves me correctly, Hazel painted the "Birch Path" picture for my 10th birthday.
One day Andrea and I arrived at her house, and her husband Gordon gently informed us that Hazel had had a heart attack and was in the hospital. She survived (hallelujah!), but they moved away across the San Francisco Bay to Walnut Creek shortly after that. Eventually, as I found out when I tried to track her down in my college years, she and Gorden retired to South Carolina. I don't know what has become of her since, if she is even still alive. I did hear from Andrea several years ago, but we've lost touch, too. (Update 2015: The power of FB, Andrea and I are now reconnected on-line.)
Why am I writing this? Because Hazel created beauty, not only on paper with water colors, but in two little girls' lives with love and chocolate chip cookies. And because she lived in the mundane and remained obscure, but I still remember her 35 years later. And because "Birch Path" hangs on my computer room wall to remind me of the power and the wonder of friendship, especially between the generations. And because maybe in 35 years, some once-young-one will nostalgically remember a small kindness you or I have done. Maybe!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Got Prayer?

Dear friends,

If you aren't a religious person, these quotes about prayer may seem they are written in a foreign language. They may be so different from anything you have ever personally experienced or from the stereotypes and assumptions about what evangelical Christianity really is. Don't let that put you off from reading it. It might give you a taste of the way that faith is supposed to be -- a whole life lived for God in the strength of God. I have been a Christian believer for nearly 32 years, but I still have so much to learn in this area. I long to have my heart stirred up for intercessory prayer which is outward and upward, global and total, rather than merely asking God for the trifling things that I think I need. So please read on! You may also wish to print it and take some time to read it more carefully.

Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all. - D. L. Moody

Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence. - W. S. Bowden

He who has no vision of ETERNITY will never get a true hold of TIME. - T. Carlyle

Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? - Corrie ten Boom

Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him. –James Hudson Taylor

You must GO forward on your knees. - James Hudson Taylor

A man who is intimate with God will never be intimidated by men. – Leonard Ravenhill

Compassion costs. It is easy enough to argue, criticize and condemn, but redemption is costly, and comfort draws from the deep. Brains can argue, but it takes heart to comfort. –Samuel Chadwick

There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him. - William Law

If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one GO there UNWARNED and UNPRAYED for. - Charles Spurgeon

It is not the bee's touching on the flowers that gathers the honey, but her abiding for a time upon them, and drawing out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most on divine truth, that will prove the choicest, strongest Christian. - Joseph Hall

The Christian on his knees sees more than the philosopher on tiptoe. - D. L. Moody

Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still. - E. M. Bounds

The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. - Samuel Chadwick

And we ourselves are 'saved to save'-we are made to give-to let everything go if only we may have more to give. The pebble takes in all the rays of light that fall on it, but the diamond flashes them out again; every little facet is a means, not simply of drinking more in, but of giving more out. - Lillias Trotter

It is wonderful what God can do with a broken heart, if He gets all the pieces. –Samuel Chadwick

You shall find this to be God’s usual course: not to give his children the taste of his delights till they begin to sweat in seeking after them. - Richard Baxter

Lord grant that the FIRE of my heart may melt the lead in my feet. - Unknown

Work as if everything depended upon your work, and pray as if everything depended upon your prayer. - William Booth

When we get a glimpse of the worth of a soul, and begin to realize that we stand between lost men and Heaven or Hell, then we shall have real concern and the Lord will hear our prayers of intercession. - J. W. Mahood

How long will it take us to learn that our shortest route to the man next door is by way of God's throne? – A. T. Pierson

Oh! men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival – men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations. -C. H. Spurgeon

Some people become tired at the end of ten minutes or half an hour of prayer. What will they do when they have to spend Eternity in the presence of God? We must begin the habit here and become used to being with God. - Sadhu Sundar Singh

Prayer - secret, fervent, believing prayer - lies at the root of all personal godliness. -William Carey

The Church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer. – John R. Mott

Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is its most essential part. - Andrew Murray

Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees. - William Cowper

Pray not for crutches but for wings. - Phillips Brooks

God never ceases to speak to us, but the noise of the world without and the tumult of our passions within bewilder us and prevent us from listening to him. - Fenelon

God will do nothing but in answer to prayer. - John Wesley

I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done. - Hudson Taylor

God never intended His Church to be a refrigerator in which to preserve perishable piety. He intended it to be an incubator in which to hatch out converts. - F. Lincicome

When we go to God by prayer, the devil knows we go to fetch strength against him, and therefore he opposeth us all he can. - Richard Sibbes

Pray often; for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan. - John Bunyan

Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer. - John Bunyan

Prayer is the midwife of mercy, that helps to bring it forth. - Matthew Henry

The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.-Thomas Watson

Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down. - John Wesley

Are you living for the things you are praying for? - Austin Phelps


Here is just a small sampling of Bible verses on prayer taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Luke 10:2

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints... Ephesians 6:18

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ... Colossians 4:2-3

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people... I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 1 Timothy 2:1, 8

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Hebrews 5:7

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:13-16

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:12

But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit. Jude 1:20

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Friends at the Metro Life Ladies' Retreat

Hello friends!

My girls and I really enjoyed Metro Life Church's awesome ladies retreat this past weekend. I'll write about it more in another post (stay tuned!), but here I just wanted to share some of the pictures I took. I actually snapped a whole bunch more, but not all of them turned out because I forgot to put the flash on and they were fuzzy. That, and some of you had some odd expressions on your faces and I didn't want to embarrass you! Oh well!

With dry wit and great empathy, Elyse Fitzpatrick, noted author and Christian counselor from San Diego, encouraged us all to encourage one another. Please visit her web site Women Helping Women. I'll write more about what Elyse said in another post. You can click here to download a zip file with all Audio and Notes -- or you can go to Metro Life's main web page for a limited time and select individual files to download or listen to on-line.

Melodye Jones, wife of our senior pastor Danny, regularly plugged great books for us to read. She gave a lot of them away, too! She and Sheree (see below) staged a hilarious running feud over who got to do the many different kinds of give aways. I personally won a Carabbas Grill restaurant gift card for bringing the most family members (four of my daughters).

Sheree Phillips is a rare treasure. As a veteran home school mom of seven and grandma of seven, and a warm hearted friend, Sheree has brought so much wisdom and grace to my life. If you can believe it, I first met her when I was 16 years old, living in northern Virginia, where I used to go hear her husband Benny preach at the Saturday Night Alive worship services.

Songwriter Vikki Cook led our singing this weekend, along with our Metro Life girl band. I commented to Vikki that two hundred years from now, people will still be singing her contemporary worship music (though they will be calling them ancient hymns by then). Famous though she is, Vikki is a wonderful down to earth lady with a heart of worship for the Lord.

On Friday evening, we enjoyed a short musical skit about makeovers. These ladies know how to do inspirational comedy just right! Need a heart makeover, anyone?

I've known Debbie Klinect for a dozen years or so. We've walked through so much together, and I'm grateful for her friendship! Debbie has three adult children, and three much younger ones, and she's a seasoned home school veteran and fellow writer.

I have a funny story about Mary Lou Graham. She has been reading my Hope Chest e-magazine for maybe 10 years, and I had reviewed her book of pregnancy devotions, Expecting Joy. In 2002, she e-mailed me and asked if Thad and I would join her and Rich for dinner. We had just started going to Metro Life, so I reluctantly replied that we had better concentrate on building friendships there. Imagine my surprise when I met Mary Lou and Rich at church a week or so later -- they had been members there for years! Rich was our home group leader for quite some time, and yes, we did eventually have dinner with them. They even let us borrow their house for a week after Hurricane Charlie knocked out our power and water. That's friendship!
Speaking of hosting other families, can you believe that Heather's family of six welcomed Patricia's family of six for two months (or more?) in a two bedroom home? That's hospitality! These ladies are as sweet as honey. They each drive about an hour to get to Metro Life, and they've each had a baby or two since then.

Susan, Leslie and Ariel enjoy Saturday morning breakfast in the chapel. This year the retreat organizers promised us heartier breakfasts like they serve at the men's retreat, and they sure came through with eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, fruit, granola, and even some girly yogurt and pastries.
At the same breakfast table, these three lovely ladies are from Haiti, where Marlene's husband is a pastor. Marlene told us about her 65 children -- one biological, and three in their children's homes, which they do not call orphanages. (Orphans don't have families, and now these beloved children do. Marlene knows every one of them very well! She is rich in love!) Marlene is on the left, and I can't remember the name of the girl in the middle, but the older woman on the left is CeCe.
Monica, Robin, and Olga are also enjoying their breakfast. Olga is from Russia and has fascinating stories to tell. Her family was able to get US asylum as religious refugees because of the Communist persecution. Robin's son (and Monica's brother) Micaiah is in the Marines!
Also hailing from Eastern Europe is Anna Maria from Hungary. (Her husband Ovi is from Romania.) Joy and her husband Prem have 13 wonderful kiddos -- and she's a whole lot younger than I am!
Mary Ann Moran and Mary Johnson are two of my fellow teachers at the Providence Home School co-op. These ladies are so fun to be around, and they are awesome teachers, too! Oh, and that's Benny Phillips, one of our pastors, scratching his head at the right. I don't have time to crop these photos, but I probably would have left him in anyway. He's a good guy.

And now for some pictures of three of my daughters with their friends.
Natalie, Clareese, Hannah & my Rachel

Brittany, Emily and my Lydia

Friends sometimes have the audacity to move away! (Sigh!) I first met Brandi Lenfestey (on the left) several years ago when she moved down from Indiana with her husband John and their three children. Then her nieces Chrissie and Cassie moved down with their mom Lynnette, and became buddies with my girls. All of them moved up to the Florida panhandle (about an 8 hour drive from here) a year or so ago when John became a pastor at the Sovereign Grace Church in Niceville. Joanna's been trying to figure out a way to see Cassie and Chrissie ever since then, and fortunately for her, Brandi e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago asking if she could take Joanna and her friend Cherish back to Niceville with her for a week after the retreat. We'll drive up this Friday and spend some time at the beach on Saturday before heading home Sunday after church. We miss you, Brandi!
Well, I hope you enjoyed all of these lovely pictures! I'll post some of my thoughts from the retreat within a few days if I have time before we hit the road.
As a reminder, if you want to experience the retreat for yourself you can download a zip file with all Audio and Notes by clicking on the link.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Tribute to My Dad

Happy Father's Day! I wanted to take a few minutes to honor my dad, who has given me so many happy memories in life.

Of course, my birth was quite a memory-maker for him. I arrived on his 27th birthday (September 7, 1963) around 10 in the morning. He had intended to be in the delivery room, but figuring I was going to take a while yet, he stepped out to buy a newspaper and I promptly made my grand entrance without him. Sorry about that, Dad! Mom and Dad named me after the Ginny Lynn restaurant. On the first day of kindergarten, the teacher called roll and I found out that my official name was Virginia. That was the end of Ginny Lynn, though my Grandma Hess continued to call me Ginny until I was a teenager!

We lived in a little house in a Chicago suburb at the time the above picture was taken, moving to Kansas City when I was almost 5. Dad was finishing up a master's degree at the University of Chicago at the time, and since he worked for TWA (an airline) he flew back to Chicago twice a week for quite some time to finish it up. Also during that period, our family joined him on a business trip to England. We stayed in the Hansel and Gretel Hotel, enjoyed a live production of the musical Oliver, rode on a red double decker bus, and experienced the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. What a memory!

Then when I was 7, Dad announced that we were moving to San Francisco. He is a computer expert, and the Silicon Valley was booming, so we drove off to California in a covered wagon. OK, so it was a white pickup truck, but it was a covered wagon in the sense that Dad constructed a shell from lumber and canvas, complete with a couple of bunkbeds. I remember riding in it that way with my older brother John and sister Barbara, young pioneers in April 1971. My dad isn't much of a musician, but he was game for John having a band practice at our house. We had a massive Hammond B3 organ in the garage. They played more jazz than anything, and I often say that I was "milk fed" on it. I still love jazz.

One of my fondest memories from my elementary school years is that my dad used to regularly decorate my brown paper lunch bags with clever sketches. One with an elaborate ocean liner, complete with silly passengers and port holes, stands out in my mind.

Another memory of the California years is that he was a free lance photographer for the Peninsula News Association. We would be riding around in the car, and suddenly a call would come in on the police scanner that he kept on. Off we would race to see a fire, a car accident, or some other kind of interesting emergency. Then we'd head home so he could develop the pictures in his dark room (the bathroom) and deliver them to one of the local newspapers.

My dad also made sure we had plenty of cultural opportunities. We often attended plays and concerts, took music and art lessons, and always had a generous budget to buy books. We also traveled all over the country, as well as to Canada and Mexico. The only two states I haven't been in are Hawaii and Alaska! Of course, it helped this roving endeavor that we actually lived in seven states on both coasts. People ask me if my dad was in the military, but I tell them that he was just a "bored civilian." He never is boring, though! He is one of the most fascinating people I know. He loves to learn and to chat with complete strangers. I must have inherited those traits, because my mom laughs at how I strike up conversations with folks in the grocery store line.

It was while we lived in Maryland (1977-1979) that my dad brought home our first computer, a TRS-80 Model 1 by Radio Shack. Quite primitive, its only storage unit was a measly cassette player. The screen was black and white, and all of the letters were uppercase only. But I did learn how to program the thing in BASIC and VisiCalc (a spreadsheet), which paid off when I earned most of my way through college as a computer programmer. Thanks, Dad, for imparting such a vital job skill to me! That was such a gift! I simply can't imagine life without a computer now! Dad also picked up a Masters of Finance degree from Loyola College in Baltimore in the late 1970s.

In 1979 we moved to Fairfax, Virginia, and a mere 16 months later to Covington, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati. Dad was going into the geothermal heat pump business with my Uncle Bob and an old family friend. They gave it a valiant try, but the business never really got off the ground. After I left for college in 1981, my dad and mom moved to Houston, Texas, where he worked for Texaco. They finally returned to Maryland a few years later, and they've been there ever since. I don't think they ever plan to move any place else!

Dad also loves languages. I have lost track of how many of them he knows, but he is fluent in Spanish, and has picked up some German, Portuguese and Vietnamese as well. That's not even counting the computer languages. I once made a T-shirt for him that said, "Mi computadora es polylinguista tambien." One of my dad's side jobs a while back was teaching foreign language courses some where or other, and he once spent a month in Mexico City on a job contract.

At age 71, my dad is still working full-time in computers, plus working on weekends in northern Virginia as a security guard, which is an extremely physical job. He also jogs at least a couple of miles every day. I can't imagine trying to keep up with him. His fitness push really started when he was in his 40s and diagnosed with diabetes. I admire how he keeps himself in such good health.

Dad has had the privilege of walking both my sister and I down the aisle at our weddings, hers in 1982 and mine in 1985. I think it was at Barb's wedding when he was asked, "Who gives this bride...?" and in his best (newly acquired) Texas drawl, he replied, "Her mother and I do." (Just imagine the accent -- I can't reproduce it here.)

In January, at his
mother's funeral in Salt Lake City, I loved hearing him share stories about his mother, Margaret Driggs, and her parents, William and Lillian Brazier. He has a keen sense of family heritage (I think I inherited that trait, too), and such a sense of humor. When we were driving around the mountains, I recorded many of these "family history" conversations on my MP3 player for posterity.

I'll close this blog post by recounting the wisest thing my dad ever said to me. He was full of pithy advice, such as, "Pray to God but lock your car doors," and "You can be any kind of doctor, lawyer or computer programmer that you want to be..." He also told me that if I wanted to be a professional artist, I had to learn to drive a taxi first to pay the bills. But the thing I most remember is when I was a rather cocky teenager and I thought I had life all figured out. His reply: "You have just the skeleton of it. Time and experience will put flesh on those bones." He was so right.

I love you, Dad, and thank for all of the memories! I wish I could write them all down right now, but dinner is just about ready, and I've got to go help make some Father's Day memories with my own hubby and kiddos!


P.S. My dad is on the left in this picture at my daughter Mary's wedding last month.

Click here for a blog post with more childhood memories.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ice cream!

Hello again!

I took our six younger kids (ages 2 to 13) to Sam's Club today and had promised them we would get some soft pretzels with cinnamon from the cafe when we were done. I bought two big ones for them to share. While they were eating, I went to check out about 15 feet away. After I had paid for the groceries, I noticed a lady sitting at the next table watching the kids with a smile on her face. She commented on how well they were behaving (which was much better than they had while we were actually shopping, especially when Miss Melody was whining her head off). Then she sweetly offered to buy them each an ice cream. We liked that idea! She even insisted that the lady in the cafe put some chocolate sauce on top! Yum!

Susan also mentioned that her mom had been a first grade teacher for 42 years, and that two of her own grandchildren had been home schooled in north Florida.

See what little blessings God has in store for us when we least expect them? It also made me think that if I hadn't insisted that the kids clean up the house before we left for Sam's Club, we would not have been in the right place at the right time!

So, Susan, if you are reading this, thank you again for the ice cream!

Virginia Knowles

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sawdust and Buttons

Dear blog friends,

I had the delightful privilege of talking to my oldest daughter on the phone this evening, and she mentioned that I hadn't done a blog post in a while. (It's really only been about 5 days.) Mary is spending the summer in Princeton interning as a copy editor at the Wall Street Journal -- and missing her new husband, Ryan, who is here in Orlando working hard as an auto mechanic for the Orange County Sheriff's Office. (Our public safety depends on his excellent work!) Mary's coming home for a weekend soon, but unfortunatey, we'll be out of town. Ryan came by today, their first month-a-versary, to show us the 905 digital wedding pictures which came back from the professional photographer.

But that's really not what this blog post is about. It's about sawdust and buttons.

Sawdust? Buttons? I shall explain.

Sometimes I, who usually have my head in the clouds, need to be reminded that the mundane things in life really do matter, things like homemaking and tending to the smallish needs of my children. (I have never been one to notice that their fingernails need to be clipped, for example.) I am trying to keep this fresh on my mind. As Proverbs 14:1 reminds me, a wise woman builds her house. Again, Titus 2:4 encourages me to love my husband and children and be busy at home. And the noble Proverbs 31 woman is the epitome of creative diligence with her household tasks. It's not just doing the stuff, but doing it with enthusiasm and imagination. In other words, I need to put my heart and brains into it.

Yesterday, while grocery shoppping at Super Wal-Mart, I noticed a little figurine of San Jose -- St. Joseph -- who seems to be the patron saint of those who are trying to sell or build houses or something. I don't know because the explanation of the legend on the side of the box was written in Spanish, of which I only understand poquito. Anyway, the little figurine is of a dude dressed in Bible clothes (a long flowing robe) working with a piece of wood at a carpenter's bench, complete with wood shavings. So it's supposed to be Joseph (husband of Mary) doing his daily work. It reminded me that Jesus, too, grew up as a carpenter for 30 years before he even started his three and a half year ministry. Doing his job well with integrity and diligence was no waste of the Savior's life. Nothing elegant or other-worldly here. Just a good honest day's work, done with a spirit of excellence. Sawdust, simple sawdust -- that's what remained for Jesus to sweep after the satisfied customers picked up their tables or stools or storage chests. After all, cleaning up is part of the project! I bought that little figurine (hey, it was 75 cents on the clearance shelf!) and perched it on the back of my stove, along with the salt and pepper. Just a reminder to do the daily stuff with zest, even if only the crumbs and dirty dishes remain after an hour of slaving in the kitchen to prepare a meal that disappears in 10 minutes. (Oh yeah, I'm really "slaving" in a fully stocked kitchen with an electric stove and a microwave and a refrigerator and even an automatic can opener. Oh, and clean running water and grocery stores to buy fresh food! No slaughtering chickens for me! Living in the lap of luxury! Why should I ever complain?)

And buttons? This morning before leaving for church, I had a few extra minutes and decided to pick up a book called Biblical Womanhood in the Home by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I happened to be reading a chapter called "Portrait of a Woman Used By God" -- which, coincidentally, was about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and how she made herself available to God in the ministry of motherhood. (Remember, she had at least six other children with Joseph after Jesus was born.) Anyway, I enjoy reading in peace and quiet, and I don't always take kindly to being interrupted, but a steady stream of young visitors started approaching my rocking chair in rapid succession. Buttons! Naomi needed me to button up the back of her dress. Ben needed me to unbutton his shirt collar. (He actually buttoned the shirt himself and didn't miss any.) Melody needed me to do all of her dress buttons -- big chunky flower-shaped ones that seemed to defy my non-nimble fingers. I remembered after I finished this that I had intended to give her a bath before getting her dressed, but there was no way I was going to undo and redo that. Buttons. Little mundane things that my children needed. I am reminded that these "interruptions" are real life. They are little, practical ways to serve, to show love. They matter.

Sawdust. Buttons. Little things that really are a big deal in God's economy.

This all reminded me of a verse in my poem Corpus Christi, speaking of Jesus.

A body with hands: gentle yet tough are those hands
Which created this world we call home
Hands to work hard, stuff of daily life
Built with carpenter’s nails and beams of wood
Hands to heal, stretched forth in victory over pain and decay
Hands to break the meager bread and fish
Multiply in abundance to feed the hungry multitude
Busy hands, yet not too busy to embrace a wee child
To ruffle matted hair, to wash dirty feet
Or to scribble words of pardon in the sand
For a damsel in distress: no stone thrown.

I, as a Christian in 2008, am now a part of the "Corpus Christi" -- the body of Christ on earth. My hands are some of the ones he uses to get his work done. And today, he used my hands to give hugs, put a two year old's hair in a pony tail (never mind that she had taken it out even before we made it to church), make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches -- and button lots of buttons.

Virginia Knowles

Friday, June 6, 2008

Providence Co-Op English Class Plans

Dear friends,

I am posting this so that the parents in our co-op will have easy access to this information. Some of them apparently haven't been getting my e-mails! For the rest of you out in bloggy-land, it will give you a peek at what I have planned for English class this coming school year.


Dear Providence 7th-8th grade parents,

I will be teaching the English class this coming year, as I have had the privilege of doing for the past two years. I am really looking forward to it again! This will be our family's 18th year of home schooling and I can't imagine how the years have flown by so quickly!

Since the students will be studying American history this year, we will do American literature in chronological order to supplement it. I covered the same material in the 2006-2007 school year, so we will use many of the same books. The novels for the fall semester will be The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Puritan era), Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Revolutionary War) and Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (pioneer times). In the spring, we will study Across Five Aprils (Civil War) by Irene Hunt, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (racism in 1930s Mississippi) by Mildred Taylor, and probably Rascal (the story of a raccoon and a boy in the early 1900s) by Sterling North. We may do one other novel at the end of the year if we have time. You will not need to purchase study guides for any of these novels because I write my own.

The only other curriculum you need to purchase for the fall semester is the BJU Writing and Grammar 7th Grade Workbook which costs about $20. This seems to be a well-balanced approach without too much busy work. Don't buy the teacher's manual (which is expensive) because we will either grade these in class or I will provide an answer key somehow. You also don't need the tests unless you want to do them at home.

In the fall, we will study several Great American Communicators using handouts I have already developed. We will also do a short unit on poetry at Christmastime. In the spring, we may study some logical fallacies, but you won't need any books for that yet, if at all.

If your student does not have very legible handwriting yet, please practice this over the summer! I recommend the Italic Handwriting Book G book. Besides the fact that it makes it easier for me to grade papers, acquiring this vital skill will serve your student well in the future with education and jobs. I prefer that literature and writing assignments be typed, so you may wish to practice keyboarding skills as well.

If you wish to order from Christian Book Distributors (CBD) you can use the following links:
As far as supplies, you will need a standard notebook to store your student's work at home, as well as a sturdy folder for turning in homework. Of course, you will need pencils, pens, and notebook paper, too! Other than that, nothing special is required!

Please don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beauty, Justice, and Truth... In the Church

This afternoon a tangled cluster of thoughts came to me that I would like to share with you. I'm not sure where to start (at the middle or around the edges) but I think I'll start with the mundane. A lot of life starts right there, anyway.

Something mundane like shoes... I've been trying to buy some little strap sandals for Melody, who is two. I got some for her to wear to Mary's wedding last month, but she claimed they were "too tight" and refused to wear them. I found another bigger pair last night at a discount grocery store, along with some little pink flip flops. We gave her the flip flops first and it was love at first sight. She pranced around the house in them, and slept with them, too. Unfortunately, her intense loyalty to the flip flops precluded any affection or even tolerance for other shoes -- even new ones -- and she screamed hysterically when we tried to put on the other sandals. She wouldn't even touch them this morning. I forced them on her pudgy feet but she shrieked and ripped them off. Oh well...

And just what does this have to do with beauty, justice, or church? Well... I happened to remember that Northland, a local church, was collecting shoes to send to Malawi, a country where our family has on-going ministry connections. If spoiled little Melody wasn't going to appreciate the shoes, I knew that shoeless little ones in an impoverished nation would get much more use from them. So, the kids and I started scouting around the house for a whole bunch of other pairs of unused but serviceable shoes (people give them to us all the time). We had about 10 pairs, so Andrew, Micah, Naomi and I drove up to Northland to put them in the big pink donation box.

This is one thing I really appreciate about Northland -- their commitment to mercy, justice, and practical service to the needy. I also love their nurture of beauty and their support for the arts in all forms: painting, sculture, stained glass, music, drama, dance, etc. Our tour of their new building quickly turned into an art field trip because of all the paintings on the wall. Thad reminded me later that the children's wing, which we didn't see this afternoon, boasts a huge "in the round" mural of the Biblical stories from Genesis to Revelation. We'll have to go back to see that one! Ah, beauty with a purpose, bringing glory to the Creator of Creativity. Yes! (Somehow I don't think evangelicals should expect to be able to influence contemporary culture or draw people toward a meaningful relationship with God if they neglect the power of beauty in the arts.)

Thad and I go way back with Northland, so it holds a special place in our hearts. We first met each other there in July 1984 (when the congregation of 2oo or so met in an elementary school cafeteria), and Dr. Joel Hunter, who was called as the new pastor a year later, married us in November 1985. You may have heard of him in the national news. A year and a half ago, he initially accepted the position as the new head of the Christian Coalition, but very quickly stepped down when he realized that the organization wasn't ready to broaden its conservative agenda to include social justice issues like poverty, the environment, and world relief. As the pastor of a megachurch that now has an attendance of about 10,000, author of Right Wing, Wrong Bird, and a very insightful advocate for compassionate Christian involvement in culture and government, Dr. Hunter is often called on by the national media to provide commentary about "the new evangelicalism." I have a lot of respect for this man. He has a heart of gold. Most pastors are desperate for new members to fill their pews, but Joel Hunter liberally gives away his parishioners, telling them, "There are little tiny churches out there that need members! Go find one and bless it!" That's one reason we left 10 years ago. And Northland has continued to bless us all these years, through their support of the Northland Home Educators support group and so many cultural experiences that they sponsor. Many of our dear friends go there as well.

However, I have a few things to say that might step on a few toes. Most of you know that I do not like to dwell on the negative, but something here begs a response. Besides looking at all of the art, I took some time to browse in their bookstore. I have long suspected that Northland has taken a shift in the direction of the "emerging church" movement, and I was curious to see just how far down that broad spectrum they had traveled. There are many things I appreciate about the emerging church, within limits. Like I said about Northland, there is an emphasis on beauty, justice, and practical service. There is also a much needed passion for authenticity, spiritual depth (not shallow hypocrisy), and cultural relevance. I appreciate the perspective and I commend the effort! But there are so many pitfalls in certain segments of the EC movement, especially the "emergent" (note the suffix) edge of it. My own personal "litmus test" in this regard was how many books by Brian McLaren I could find in Northland's bookstore, and unfortunately, I probably saw just about everything he's ever written. This distresses me. To his credit, Brian McLaren is a very engaging, appealing, artistic writer with a keen sense of justice and beauty. But in my opinion, after reading some of his books, he is way at the far end with his extremely unorthodox theology. His views on key tenets of the faith literally turn my stomach. This is a shame, because I remember going to a Christian folk concert of his when I was a teenager (I still have an LP in my bedroom closet) and I see how far he has drifted from his previously evangelical moorings. The thing (among many) which bothers me most is that he has rejected the doctrine that faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is the only possible way to atone for our sins, the only way for us to regain eternal fellowship with God the Father, when instead we all deserve his eternal wrath.

You might not think this is a big deal. In fact, many of you reading this would probably agree with him. But I don't. No matter how hard he tries to twist Scripture, it just doesn't match up. And it matters. What we believe matters because our eternal destiny matters. We don't get there on our own terms, going our own way. So I am rather disappointed in seeing so many Brian McLaren books at Northland. Fortunately, they also have ones by solid authors. It's a mixed bag. Sigh. So much for simple.

I could keep talking on and on about this, but I want to give you a few related web links for articles and blogs.  Even if you do not consider yourself to be a religious person who cares at all about church doctrine, I think you will find this stuff to be very thought-provoking.

Well, that's all for now, folks! Let me know what you think!

For beauty, justice and TRUTH (in the church and out)
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