Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Apologetics?

Dear friends,

What is "apologetics"? Is that what you get when you're trying to say you're sorry over and over and over again? Not really! Apologetics is a reasoned explanation of religious belief. Or, as we find at Dictionary.com, it is "the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity."

Yesterday in my English class, we were talking about the intersection of religion and the news media, including the Internet. We were discussing principles and thinking skills needed for evaluating truth claims made by various groups. At the end of the class, George, a 15 year old who is not in my middle school class but happened to be sitting in (after his mom heard what we would be covering) walked up to me and handed me a little slip of paper with a web site on it. I checked it out last night, and I was both blessed and impressed. (Thanks, George!)

The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry site is a treasure trove of helpful insights, with information on religious sects, the emerging church, objections to Christianity, supposed contradictions in Scripture, the creation / evolution debate, Islam, and much more. Please check it out!

The Institute for Religious Research is another very useful site with "resources for investigating today's competing religious claims in the light of history, science and the Bible."

Oh, and while we're on the topic of correct doctrine, I just corrected a typo in Sunday's post, Here comes the bride! (And THE marriage made in heaven). I had included a sentence that made it seem like Jesus would be having children in heaven, which is not in the Bible. That was certainly unintended -- I had originally ended the sentence in a different (theologically correct) way and forgot to remove that phrase "have children" in the revised sentence. I apologize! I apologize! I apologize! Am I being "apologetic" enough? :-)

Y'all have a grand and glorious day!

For truth,

Virginia Knowles

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Here comes the bride! (And THE marriage made in heaven!)

Mary's wedding is in a mere 11 days! I confess that I'm not much of a logistics person, so even as the mother of the bride I haven't been terribly helpful with the nitty gritty details of wedding planning. I am good for comments like, "That looks pretty," or "That sounds nice..." I also specialize in random acts of thrift. I rustled up a borrowed punch fountain yesterday (thanks, Allura!), and I think I have a source to rent reasonably priced linen table cloths for the wedding reception. I lucked out at our local Wal-Mart SuperCenter last week. After Passover, they put all of their peach-grape sparkling juice (in fancy bottles) on clearance for $1 a bottle. I snapped up 20 bottles for the reception toast. I even snagged a few bottles of pomegranate juice to add to a nice Jewish punch. (Pomegranates are in the Bible!) And so it goes...

Thad's cousin Debbie, whose husband Michael is Jewish, just stopped by this afternoon. As promised, she brought a gorgeous hand-crafted headpiece for Mary to wear on her wedding day, as well as one for Naomi, who is the flower girl. It reminds me of the beautiful Scripture in Isaiah 61:10, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Here comes the bride!

Anyway, all of this talk about Mary's upcoming messianic (Christian) Jewish wedding has gotten me thinking about a much more momentous wedding -- a "marriage made in heaven." For those of you who aren't as familiar with theology, let me see if I can explain. (And please keep reading -- this should be interesting!)

Some people wonder if there is going to be marriage in heaven, and what it will be like. Will we be married forever to whomever we married here on earth? In the Bible, a group of Jewish men called the Sadducees were trying to test Jesus with a hard question about a woman who had married seven brothers in a row -- each one had died, so she wasn't practicing polygamy! They wanted to know whose wife she would be in heaven after the resurrection. Now the Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, didn't even believe in the resurrection, so this was a trick question from the start. But Jesus knew and hearts and reproved their ignorance, saying: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." In other words, earthly marriages don't count in heaven. We can still be with the person who was our husband or wife, if we have both trusted in Christ for salvation, but we won't be married to them anymore. But that doesn't mean there won't be marriage in heaven! It's just a different sort entirely.

In the Bible, there are numerous references to the "Bride of Christ." What is that talking about? Jesus never married in his earthly life, but he will in eternity. The Bride of Christ is actually the church, which is made up of all those whom he has redeemed with his sacrifice on the cross. (He is also known as the Sacrifice Lamb, in reference to his fulfillment of Passover as the ultimate, once for all, atonement for our sin. The angel of death "passes over" believers because they are covered in his blood, just as the doorposts of the houses were when the Israelites escaped from bondage on Egypt.) Someday Jesus will come back from Heaven, where he has been preparing an eternal home, to claim his Bride. Then there will be a grand and glorious wedding with a celebration feast. So there will be ONE marriage in Heaven, but each one of us can be included as part of the Bride of Christ if we trust in him for our salvation.

Where do we find this in Scripture? In Matthew 9:15, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom, and John the Baptist also testifies to this fact in John 3:29. Revelation also has several references to this as well:

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready... Revelation 19:7

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2

Then came one of the seven angels... saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:9

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17

The most extensive reference to the church being the bride of Christ is found embedded in Ephesians 5:25-33:

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

As I have been typing these thoughts, a snatch of song drifted back into my head, one that I wrote for my sister Barb's wedding in April 1982. Unfortunately, I don't remember all of the verses (some of which hinted at the marriage of Christ and the church) but the first verse started like this:

"Behold the bride as she stands dressed in white.
On her wedding day, her face is uplifted
Ready for the union of two hearts
Of two hearts, together in love."

I'll see if I can find the rest of this somewhere and post it later. Maybe I'll even be able to find the words to the song I wrote for my own wedding, which started, "Show us your purposes for our union, that we may glorify the Lord Most High." Oh, the nostalgia!

Friday, April 25, 2008

WordSpring Discovery Center at Wycliffe

Dear friends,

I mentioned in a blog post from last month that our home school co-op would be taking a trip to the WordSpring Discovery Center at the world headquarters of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Our family had done this some years back, and we knew it was well worth the time (most of the day), the long drive (about an hour each way) and the reasonable entrance fee ($5 for kids, $4 for adults).

Our day started with a hearty welcome in the lobby to the several dozen students of all ages and their parents from our Providence group. I was so pleased to see that my new friend Carole Orr, whom I met at church on Easter, was one of our guides for the day. Here's Carole!



Our morning would be spent upstairs in a special field trip room, but on our walk up there, we passed a whole bunch of posters featuring different people groups, with Revelation 7:9 written in native languages....



Here is Revelation 7:9-10 in English: "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (This is a scene from Heaven, one of the most beautiful that I can imagine!)

In the field trip room, the kids were split into five different groups, and each group toured the various educational stations about the country of Thailand. One station featured how translators have to learn the language, which is tonal. That means that the meaning of the word varies according to the pitch in which it is said. I can't even imagine trying to learn a language like this!


At the map table, the kids learn about where Thailand is, and what the physical and cultural geography are like. They also used squirt guns to cool off some "elephants." You can see my Ben in the green shirt and Melody in the pink dress. (I do not recomment taking two year olds on this field trip -- it was a long day and she had a meltdown at the end...)



Another station down the hall was the music room, where the kids got to try various Thai instruments, and learn to sing the chorus "God is So Good" in one of the many Thai languages. Here is Naomi trying out a sort of tamborine & drum combo, followed by a picture of some of the instruments.

At the craft station, the kids learned about how families make elaborate paper parasols, and they got to make their own fans.


Some of the high school students are trying out their bartering skills at the "Thai Night Bazarre." Joanna is in the red hat on the left.



After a story, the kids joined in a prayer, in traditional Thai fashion of hands over the head in respect for God.


In the hallway on the way to the bathroom, I passed by a glassed bookcase with dozens of different Bible translations from around the world! Fascinating! It literally brought tears to my eyes to think of how many people can now read God's Word for themselves because of the tireless effort of Bible translators. I am so grateful to be able to read and understand my own Bible in my own language, and I can't take it for granted.



After our time in the educational room, we ate lunch at picnic tables overlooking a pond, then went inside to watch a video and tour the Discovery Center exhibits. The following photos show only a few things...

These statues (and several like them) greeted us as representatives of people groups around the world. You could press a button to hear John 3:16 in each language.



Several short videos and interactive computer displays are set up throughout the Discovery Center. Lydia is watching one on a youth program.
"How do they write 'Jesus'? One of the wall panels shows it in several languages.

In the gift shop, I bought a video on Bible translation called "The Power of the Word" to show to the middle school and high school students on Monday, especially since most of them weren't able to make it to our field trip today. Who knows if one of them will someday end up on the mission field?

I mentioned earlier in this post that I get a bit emotional about the thought of Bible translation because this is something that is near and dear to my heart. The Scriptures are such a treasure to me every single day that I can't even imagine trying to live without them. And as part of the mandate of Christians to spread the good news of Jesus to every tribe and nation, how can we do this without the Bible in the native languages? I may not play an active part in Bible translation, but I do try to regularly fund the distribution of Chichewa Bibles in Malawi -- and I do pray and teach and write about the subject. What will you do?

Are you interested in finding out more? Check out these links!

Wycliffe Bible Translators

WordSpring Discovery Center

Bible translations (English and foreign, some audio) on-line at Bible Gateway

My earlier blog post on teaching about Bible translation at Providence co-op

Blessings,

Virginia

Quotes of Note

Here are a few insightful quotes I have come across recently or recalled from the distant past...

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.” Malcolm Muggeridge

"How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose... You drove them from me, you who are true, the sovereign joy! You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure..." - St. Augustine

"Suppose you went into an artist’s studio and saw a picture at which he had been working for months, yet unfinished; would you, not being an artist, take up his brush and begin to put touches here and there on the canvas? Each life of husband or wife, child, brother or sister, in your home is a picture which God is painting, and which is yet unfinished. Beware that you mar not His work! So let us be patient with one another at home. We all have our faults, we all make mistakes – but we can help each other more by loving patience, than by scathing criticism." by J.R. Miller in "Secrets of Happy Home Life" (1894)

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Habit both shows and makes the man, for it is at once historic and prophetic, the mirror of the man as he is and the mold of the man as he is to be." George Muller (founder of orphanages in Great Britain -- he either wrote this or it was written about him)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Me too!

Melody is a little mimic! As I am typing this blog entry, Andrew is sitting on my bed reading aloud his history text book to me (it helps him focus better) and Melody is right next to him looking at her own book and babbling along. She wants to do whatever big brother is doing, even if it drives him nuts.

Yesterday, I took the three youngest kids to Sam's Club to shop. Five year old Ben was grumbling about not getting a whole cookie at the bakery, and I said, "It sounds like someone is having a BAD attitude!" Melody gleefully raised her hand and chirped, "ME TOO!" Then seven year old Naomi decided she was going to cheer Ben up by singing to him, and Melody joined in on that as well. Ben was not to be humored though, and jammed his fingers in his ears in protest. So the next thing I knew, Melody was singing heartily with Naomi -- with her fingers in her ears just like Ben!

We're trying to use the "power of imitation" in potty training, but so far no good...

Morning inspiration

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, "Great is the LORD." As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. Psalm 40:16-17a

Each day, I try to read a few verses each from Psalms or Proverbs, one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John), and one of the epistles. Reading at a more leisurely pace gives me time to reflect on the meaning more. This morning, I was particularly touched by the realization that as inadequate as I am to do all things to please God, he still "takes thought for me." I am on his mind, and so are you!

Whatever you are going through right now, even if you don't even have a relationship with him yet, God is thinking of you.

This brings to mind the invitation of Jesus to each of us... "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.

I encourage to you read the rest of Psalm 40 and find out about he can put a new song in your mouth!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Melody's prayer

Our little Melody (age 2 1/2) is still learning how to talk intelligibly. She has recently started using sentences regularly, which is so encouraging! Rachel has been trying to teach her to sing "Let It Be," which comes out "Etta Bee, etta bee, etta bee, etta bee..." So cute.

The other night I was trying to relax on the couch in blissful solitude when she announced that it was "Bible time! Bible time! BIBLE TIME!" She just wouldn't let up, so I told her to go call the other kids and we got down our little basket of New Testaments to read. She gets so excited because when she was dedicated at church as a baby, she received a little pink New Testament with her name embossed on the cover. She is so proud of it!

When I put her to bed a little later she said, "PRAY!" I thought she wanted me to say a bedtime prayer for her, as I often do, but she had other ideas. She grasped my face in her soft little hands and started: "Dear God, (babble babble) Mom (babble babble) share (babble babble, more babble) MERCY ON MOM! Amen!" Well, she may not be able to talk very well, but at least she got the key -- mercy on mom! That is sure what I need in this home full of noise and general chaos!

Now I hear her yelling for "AAAA juice!" (That means apple juice.)

Mercy on you!
Virginia

Twenty years ago today...

It dawned on me as I wrote today's date in my journal this morning that something significant happened in my life twenty years ago today. (Maybe you are not one who remembers dates like this, but I do.) Anyway, what happened is that we miscarried our second baby when Mary was 10 months old. Julia was born the following year. I don't think about it very often, but when I do (such as whenever a friend miscarries or when I hear of a small child who is suffering), there is always a tender spot in my heart. I wrote some about it last April in a longer article for my Hope Chest newsletter. Here is the link: Truth and Grace in the Stories of Our Lives. If you are wondering "why" about something in your life, maybe that will help in some small way.

I know that suffering is a part of every life, to some degree or another. There is a little two year old girl in our church, Sarah, who was recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer after a tumor appeared on her cheek. I don't know what the latest prognosis is, but we are certainly praying for her family. We have also heard that my friend Leah and Thad's Aunt Janet are being treated for breast cancer, and our heart goes out to all of them.

Blessings,
Virginia

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Big Tree Park (and a few childhood memories!)

On Wednesday morning I was still trying to blow the sleepy cobwebs from my brain when I got the sudden inspiration (like a whispering in my ear) to "go to Big Tree Park." Lydia kindly whipped together a picnic lunch of sandwiches, sweet tea, apples, and pears. I fixed bags of trail mix from nuts and dried fruits, since that always adds to a sense of adventure. I think it had been years since we'd been there, even though it is less than 10 miles away, so the kids didn't remember it until we arrived. Wedged in between pockets of suburbia, Big Tree features the tallest cypress tree in the United States, a charming boardwalk through the forest, a spiffy playground, and picnic pavilions. We enjoyed the gorgeous spring weather, even though a bracing breeze blew our paper plates off the rough wooden table.


Some factoids about the Senator (aka The Big Tree)

A view near the top...

Up and up and up -- 118 feet! (It used to be quite a bit taller, before a hurricane in the 1920s.)
Ben on the boardwalk bench
A furry friend enjoying a leftover piece of apple core
Lydia

Melody and Mommy on the slide, with Naomi in the background



... and finally, a bit of Joanna's stunning nature photography

I am so thankful for this wee opportunity to enjoy our Creator's handiwork and instill a sense of wonder in my children as well. That was the whole point of the matter!

Though as a mommy of 10 I am often very short on energy of any kind, I still want to cultivate an exuberance for living. I don't want to let total boredom take over, for me or for the kids. The TV especially drives me nuts as a brain waster, so ours is currently sitting in the back of my van, waiting to go back in storage for who knows how long until I can bear the sight of it again. When I was seven, my parents pulled the plug on ours for six years, and we all learned to enjoy (and actively DO) reading, music, art, theater, gardening, and so much more. We also used to go camping, which was a special treat since we lived in Northern California. Seeing the massive sky-high sequoia and redwood trees in the national parks was quite enough to put some wonder in a child, looking up and up and up and up and still not seeing the top of a tree! (Big Tree is puny compared to them!)

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for taking us so many places when we were kids -- and not just outdoors! I remember celebrating birthdays at the Good Earth restaurant in Chinatown, eating chocolate at Ghirardelli Square, watching street performers at the Cannery, holding my nose at Fisherman's Wharf, strolling through quaint Monterrey, soaking up history at the old Spanish missions or the Renaissance Fairs, roasting hotdogs on Christmas Eve every year on the beach at Half Moon Bay, hiking through Yosemite National Park, tobogganing at Lake Tahoe, and more that escapes my old adult brain at the moment.

Here is a photo of our family at Crater Lake in 1973. From left to right: my sister Barb, my brother John, my mom, my dad, and me.


Go out and get some fresh air! If you live in the Orlando area, here is a "review" of Big Tree Park. Wherever you live, I'm sure there are mini-trips galore!

Blessings,

Virginia

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Out of Africa and Into My Classroom: Rwanda and Reconciliation

I reckon you all have picked up on some recurring themes in my recent writing, among which are an awareness of what is going on in the world around us, as well as a desire (really a passion) for both God's beauty and justice to be made known in my life -- and rippling outward in increasing measure. That sounds so lofty as I type it, so "other" than much of what my daily experience is in a house that is riddled by the mess, noise, conflict, and other general chaos inherent in raising a large family. But it's in my heart nonetheless and I'm trying to find ways to put it into practice.

One of the things I most enjoy is being able to teach the 7th-8th grade English class at our home school co-op on Mondays. Again, I have been trying to impart to my students a compelling sense of global awareness, beauty, and justice. And yesterday, by the grace of God, these managed to converge in our classroom.

I don't know how many of you are aware that last week marked the National Week of Mourning in Rwanda. Fourteen years ago, on April 6, 1994 (the year most of my students were born), a 100 day massacre started. I suck in my breath (sharply!) when I have to type the staggering statistic of over 800,000 victims (not including the injured). If you look at a map of Africa, you might have to hunt for Rwanda. It's a teeny tiny country with a population of only 8 million. Can you imagine 10% of the population of the USA being slaughtered in 100 days? But this is not something that happened overnight. The conflict between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis had been brewing for centuries, seething for decades, carefully planned and organized for months, and whipped into a "sudden" murderous frenzy by government-sponsored radio propaganda. Plans for genocide against the Tutsis had already been openly discussed in cabinet meetings. The final trigger that set off the massacre was when an airplane carrying the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi was shot down. The paltry UN "peacekeeping" forces didn't accomplish anything substantial. The genocide did not stop until the Tutsi RPF rebel forces overthrew the Hutu regime.

Perhaps you have already watched the excellent movie Hotel Rwanda (rated PG-13 for graphic, though not gratuitous, violence). It is the true story of a Hutu named Paul Rusesabagina, who at great risk to his own life, sheltered 1,200 desperate refugees in the hotel that he managed. Many courageous Rwandans -- both Tutsi and Hutu -- saved the lives of other people, but that doesn't bring back the heartbeats of the 800,000 who did not survive.

(Skulls in Murambi Technical School)




I can't pretend to know even a sizable portion of the truth about what happened and why, but it grieves me to think of the statistic that 80% of Rwandans would have considered themselves to be "Christians" before this happened -- and yet they either stood by or participated in the horror! In fact, one priest ordered that his own church be bulldozed with countless helpless refugees inside of it. (Pause a moment and let this sink in...) Yes, I know there was tremendous fear of the threat to "kill or be killed." But that does not satisfy me. It certainly did not satisfy those who were being attacked by machetes and AK-47 machine guns. What happened? Some of the commentary I read on-line yesterday was lamenting the fact that for most of those people, their "Christianity" was a rather shallow affair. For them, it was a matter of getting converted (merely so they could be assured of going to heaven) and following a few basic rules, but not having a life change that worked itself out in a reflection of the radical beauty and justice of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, they weren't following in the footsteps of the Savior, full of faith and compassion. There was a critical disconnect between their talk and their walk. They did not see the necessity of being courageous, sacrificial "salt and light" agents of change in their culture. They certainly failed to grasp the concept of Biblical love and peacemaking. Is this a problem just in Rwanda? Not hardly! We Americans are just as guilty of hypocrisy. Even the fact that we tune out the news of the world atrocities shows that we have become jaded to true tragedy. That is a tragedy in itself.

But I want to help change that. And so I teach and write and talk and pray and dream and give and lay awake at night... Maybe someday I will be able to go to Africa myself and visit Pastor Headson Makazinga in Malawi.

Yesterday, I took it to the classroom, as part of a language arts emphasis on how the media and the arts both report and shape culture. Fortunately, I had a little help (via technology) from musician Sara Groves. I recently bought her DVD Nomad, part of which documents of her trip to Rwanda with the International Justice Mission. I showed a vignette called "I Can't Breathe" (about her visit to one of the genocide memorial sites) and played the video segments of a concert with her songs "Why It Matters" and "Add to the Beauty" in which she tries to share how important it is to be a positive and healing influence in this violent, chaotic, selfish world of ours. I also read parts of an article from Wikipedia about the genocide, and tried to share about how important it is for each of us to walk as Jesus walked, with an authentic, life-changing faith rather than dry rules and shallow creeds. And, as their writing project for the week, I assigned an essay on how they can "add to the beauty" with their own unique God-given gifts and talents. As a side note, it is interesting that unbeknownst to me, my students had just been learning about Africa in their history class. And, by "divine coincidence" my friend Jeannette Walti, the 3rd-4th grade history teacher (and soon to be missionary to Italy), had just brought in a whole duffle bag of fascinating items from Zimbabwe, which she gladly came to show our class as well.

I am encouraged to hear that there are some positive forces of change at work in Rwanda, including a revamped judicial system that is geared toward rewarding repentance and reconciliation, and a government that is downplaying ethnic distinctions. Some churches are emphasizing restoration, compassion, forgiveness, justice, mercy, and hope. Villages are even being established where Hutus and Tutsis can live, work, raise their children, and even learn to love side by side. But there is much to be done. This is going to take generations of heart change to heal the horror and restore hope for the future.

I may not be able to go fix all of Rwanda's problems, but I can do my part to teach reconciliation in my own sphere of influence. Part of our curriculum in my English class this year has been the Young Peacemaker program. I desperately want to equip these precious kids with the communication skills and attitudes to prevent and resolve conflicts in a way that honors the God who made us. I am so grateful to be able to teach and have my own children learn in an educational environment where peacemaking is a priority. Yesterday while I was grading papers, one of the other moms popped her head into the teacher's work room and informed me that one of my children seemed to be having some sort of conflict with another student. I immediately walked over to the classroom and summoned my child out to the hallway for a chat. Within just a few minutes, the other student came right out of the classroom (on his own initiative) and apologized for his part in the conflict. My child also apologized and they quickly forgave and hugged each other, walking back into the classroom as buddies again. And I thought "YES! That's the way it is supposed to work!"

I wish it worked that way all the time. Petty conflict in our home is a near constant, and I find myself pleading with my younger kids, "Give me some hope that this is going to change -- soon!" I try to be faithful with dealing wisely and consistently with it. When my kids have been "in the wrong" I don't allow them to grunt the word "SORRY!" with a glare on their faces. I want them to politely and humbly acknowledge their responsibility. At a bare minimum they should use the simple statements, "I was wrong. I apologize. Please forgive me" in a pleasant voice. And yet I can't leave it at patching up the quarrels after they happen. I want to prevent them! Almost every day I sit down with my five youngest children (ages 2-10) and we take turns reading a little from the Scriptures. (We have a stack of small New Testaments that we keep in a basket in the living room, so they don't have to waste time running for their own Bibles.) Lately, I have been trying to pick passages to motivate them to get along with each other better, such as passages about love from 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:7-21. Last night's selection was one of my favorites on humility, wisdom and peacemaking:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." James 3:13-18

If we each lived by these words, in the grace of God, wouldn't the world be a better place for all of us? Let us each add to the beauty and do our part.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bridal Shower #2

My daughter Mary's future mother-in-law, Donna Tindall, threw another bridal shower for her at the home of Ryan's second cousin, Teresa. What a lovely time we had!


Can you believe this awesome edible bouquet made out of fruit? Those yellow "flowers" are made from pineapple and melon balls! The rest of it is melon spears, huge strawberries, and skewers of grapes. It is a creation of Edible Arrangements at http://www.ediblearrangements.com/.


The funniest give of the shower... a "Ryavac"! Yep, it's Mary's very own butler (with Ryan's face) made from a vacuum cleaner as the base, a broom for the back of the head, rubber gloves, a dustpan, and plenty of cleaning supplies tucked into the apron pockets. Clever!



Also in the amusing category (but this time only mildly) is a Big Bird notepad, from Dear Old Me. Why? Because I fondly remember watching Sesame Street with Mary when she was a mop-headed toddler with astonishingly big brown eyes. "Sunny days, chasing the clouds away!"


In the very cute category, an adorable picture of Ryan when he was a toddler! If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can actually see his ruffled shirt!


A lovely bridal shower tradition is to take all of the package bows and ribbons and make a hat or a bouquet for the bride to wear to the rehearsal.


And here she is with her very sweet mom-in-law-to-be and me!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Out of Africa (A Letter from Headson Makazinga)


Several days ago, an airmail letter arrived from my friend Headson Makazinga, a church planting pastor and evangelist in Nsanje, Malawi. We have been corresponding with him for several years since he read an article I wrote in Above Rubies magazine. The profits from my Learner's Journals lesson planners go to meet some of the needs there, most especially Chichewa language Bibles and tracts.

Here are two pictures that Pastor Makazinga sent a few years ago. The first is of the Makazinga family (from left to right): Headson holding Faye, his wife Regina holding Connie, Gloria, Misheck, George, Steph, Ida, Emmanuel and Carlos. The second picture is of revival meetings under a tree at Mtasa village.






I tore the letter open and was so relieved to find that he had gotten the care package I had sent him in time for the big Easter conference that they host for the folks in all the churches he oversees. Our own church here in Florida had kindly agreed to print up 160 minister's certificates and 100 Chichewa tracts for him, and since I was shipping it in a flat rate priority mail box, I was able to tuck in some little extras, like pens, books, candy, a well-wrapped jar of honey, and a pair of eyeglasses for no extra charge.



(You can click on the letter to enlarge it.)

Why am I writing about this to you all? Because he needs much more help than I alone can give him! I am just one person, but I serve a God who miraculously multiplies the loaves and fish to turn even little offerings into big blessings. It is a small thing for me or you to send money or a box of stuff, but it is a huge boost to Pastor Makazinga. Not a young man at all, he works so hard pastoring and planting churches while also trying to meet the needs of widows and orphans in a country that is alternately plagued by devastating floods and droughts (most recently deadly floods). He has repeatedly asked me to come and visit, but I don't think that is likely to happen any time very soon.

Here are a few excerpts (pardon the grammar) from the end of his letter: “My sister don’t be tired with us, I always ask you many things but take me as your brother… In the way you are doing it means you are assisting the ministry of God richly and bountifully… Go ahead hunting friends those can allow to help the orphans and the ministry. Pray for us in your daily prayers... This year we are going to build up the orphanage for the orphans. We ask the good wishers to help with this project.”

If you would like to send financial donations, care packages, or letters of encouragement to the Makazingas, their address is: Headson Makazinga, P.O. Box 187, Nsanje, Malawi, Africa. Please let me know if you plan to do this or if you have any questions. (FYI: I usually send a certified check, which costs a few extra dollars at the bank, but is safer and easier for him to cash. And no, you can't get a tax deductible receipt. Sorry!)

God bless you as you consider this vital opportunity to go global and do good to others!

Blessings,

Virginia Knowles

And you wonder what I do all day...


OK, I know it looks like I'm snoozing my day away. Actually, though, I was just taking a wee little break from sorting about six loads of clean laundry. Rachel and Joanna wanted to take a few pictures of me sitting on the couch amidst a huge pile, and it was all I could do to keep from laughing.

This next shot actually gives a little more perspective, though it still only shows the remnants of the laundry I had already been sorting into about five different baskets for different kids. And it doesn't show the linen load in the dining room, nor the boys' load in the dryer, nor the load behind it in the washer, nor the loads waiting to go into the washer. We do about five loads a day... In case you are wondering, Rachel was standing on a rocking chair to get this picture. It's nice to provide such cheap amusement for teenagers!


P.S. I wrote just a little about laundry woes in an essay called My Glorious Dishtowel last year. For some reasons, it seems to be one of the most popular things I've ever written!

Lamb Favorites (Music, Not Food)

Yesterday I went to our local discount Christian bookstore to find some presents for Julia's 19th birthday, and I saw a CD called "Lamb Favorites." Lamb is a messianic Jewish music group that I used to listen to when I was in high school and college. I bought the CD for Ryan, who will be my very first son-in-law in 26 days. He came over today and was showing off his brand new Torah scroll, so I couldn't resist giving him the CD right away. We put it in, and boy, was it a blast from the past! I can still remember these songs, decades later, so I was singing along as best as I could! I told Mary that she does have a messianic heritage after all. I also used to read a lot of stuff from Jews for Jesus when I was younger, and I went to Israel in 1980 (though we spent most of our time serving missionaries to the Arabic community in Nazareth).

I thought you might like to see the lyrics to the chorus of "Sacrifice Lamb" -- you can find the rest of the song lyrics here and listen to it here.


The Sacrifice Lamb, has been slain,
His blood on the altar a stain,
To wipe away guilt and pain,
To bring hope eternal.
Salvation has come to the world,
God's only Son, to the world,
Jesus the one, for the world,
Yeshua is He.

P.S. Here is Ryan with his torah scroll! It is a wedding present from Mary, but he was so antsy that he opened it early! Can you believe that it has all of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in it? Ryan says that the Gesher Shalom synagogue has a torah scroll over 300 years old, which survived the holocaust years with burn marks and tears.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In the News and in My Classroom

A few weeks ago I planned to start a news writing unit in my 7th-8th grade English class. I wanted to find a news article to pick apart, so I went to the Orlando Sentinel web site. The first thing I saw really surprised me, because it is a follow-up of something that happened over 15 years ago. In January 1993, three American missionaries with New Tribes Missions were kidnapped from Panama and taken to Columbia, where they lived in the jungle with terrorists for 3 years before being murdered. They weren't confirmed dead until 2001.

I remember this very clearly from the time it happened, and when we moved back to Florida later in 1993, we met Tanya Rich, one of the missionary wives, because she went to our church. I can't tell you how many times we prayed for these men over the years. I also went to their memorial service in October 2001. Well, now their families are suing Chiquita for funding the terrorist organizations that were responsible for the kidnappings and murders. I certainly hope they will win!

Here are just two of the news stories that I found about the current court case.

Kin of missionaries slain in Colombia sue Chiquita
The company is accused of funding Colombian killers of New Tribes members.
Gary Taylor Sentinel Staff Writer March 15, 2008
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/state/orl-newtribes1508mar15,0,3185089.story

Families Sue Chiquita in Deaths of 5 Men
By CARMEN GENTILE Published: March 17, 2008
www.nytimes.com/2008/03/17/us/17chiquita.html?


I didn't use the news stories that week, but I did take the opportunity to include them in my lessons this past week. During class, I read parts of each of the articles, as well as one from a Christian magazine from several years ago. You can find that one here: Without a Trace
http://www.christianitytoday.com/tc/2003/001/10.58.html
Today's Christian, January/February 2003 by John W. Kennedy

We discussed the writing styles of each of the newspaper articles, noting that one started and ended in a more compelling manner. I also showed them the book Hostage that Nancy Mankins, another of the widows, wrote in 2001. And I told them about a similar situation when Martin and Gracia Burnham, New Tribes Missionaries to the Philippines, were taken hostage in 2001 by the Abu Sayyaf and forced to live in the jungle. During a rescue attempt a year later, Martin was killed. Gracia has since written the book In the Presence of My Enemies.

As a homework assignment, I told the kids to write down all of the who, what, when, where, why, and how facts in each of the stories, and compare what was included on one story but not the other.

If you've read some of my other posts about teaching English or history, you will know that I am constantly trying to get my students to think about what is going on in the world around them -- and be affected by it.

I will close this blog post with something I wrote after the memorial service for these men in 2001. I read it to my class on Monday. Think about it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
IN MEMORIAM:
Dave Mankins, Mark Rich and Rick Tenenoff
Three Missionaries in a Place of Abundance
by Virginia Knowles in October 2001
for the Hope Chest, a global home school newsletter
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for Dave Mankins, Mark Rich and Rick Tenenoff. Many of you have prayed for these men since they were kidnapped in January 1993 from their New Tribes mission station in Panama byColumbian terrorists. For family, friends, and the Christian community, it has been eight and a half long years of waiting and researching. Now we know that the three men were killed in mid 1996, after three and a half years in captivity.

In the margin of my Bible on April 11, 1996, probably about the time they died, I jotted a note that Psalm 66:5-12 summed up my prayers for these men: “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot -- come, let us rejoice in him. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations -- let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah. Praise our God,O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we wentthrough fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

I do believe that God answered those prayers. It may seem that wasn’t just and merciful to his dedicated servants when he put them through what they suffered. But God is righteous in all his ways. They have received their reward. From the recorded messages that were transmitted by radio, we know that they were grateful for the gracious care of their Sovereign God even during their years living in the jungle with terrorists. What struck me about the memorial service is the absolute contrast between our modern culture and the lives of these courageous men, who were devoted to the gospel of Christ at all costs. Are the things we pursue bringing glory to our Redeemer, or shame? How we spend our time, money, energy, intellect -- these things show what is truly important to us.

I am spurred on to be more wholehearted in my faith and to lay aside those things which hinder me. I desire to raise children who love and serve God passionately. Even dedicated home schoolers can get distracted from focusing on discipleship by all of the other demands on our attention. I think we often forget that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, not only for the lives of our own children, but also for our impact on the culture at large. Though I fall so short in this area, I still I believe that home education provides us the ripest opportunity for an emphasis on Scripture, prayer, and service. May God help us purify our hearts and simplify our lives so that our children will be equipped for whatever He would call them to do!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

In the Garden on Blossom Lane

This morning, one of the girls went out to look at something in the garden in front of our house. Several of us followed her out and ended up tending our flower patches for a while since the weather was so nice. I cleared away some of the mulch from around our strawberry plants to give them room to send out their runners. That's how they spread and become more fruitful. Realizing that we had such a large variety of gorgeous flowers, I decided to give Joanna an assignment for her Photography credit -- to take pictures all of the different kinds of flowers in our yard. She does such a good job with choosing the angle and all, as well as editing the photos on our computer with lighting and cropping and special effects. Here are just some of the beautiful pictures that she produced today. Does it surprise you at all that her career goal is to become a photographer?









The magnolia tree in our backyard is pretty tall, so Joanna had to use a zoom lens to get these pictures.






African Iris






Cosmo



Marigolds


Carnation



Hibiscus

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