Saturday, February 28, 2009

Julia is sick in Bolivia

My husband Thad asked me to send out a prayer request for our 19 year old daughter, Julia, who is on a three month mission trip to southern Bolivia. She has had a throat infection all this week and has been miserable. The doctor had given her anti-inflammatory medicine to bring down the swelling, but that didn't help get rid of the infection. She has had fever and chills, and she finally went in to the hospital get a shot of penicillin. (She HATES shots!) They said she has tonsillitis. She may have strep, too, but they don't give tests for that. Please pray that she will get over this quickly, with no long term effects. Medical care down there in the town of Entre Rios is not exactly up to the standards of the USA. She has been sick on and off for the past six weeks with one thing or another, and she won't be home for another six weeks.

You can check her blog at She is being a real trooper!

{Update on March 5: Julia was feeling well enough by the end of that day to get up and play soccer with the youth! She's off to Las Abras with Angela this weekend, which is a pretty strenuous trip.}

Friday, February 27, 2009

Honoring the 100th Birthday of My Grandpa, Jack Quarrier

Today I would like to honor the 100th birthday of my paternal grandfather, Jack Weems Quarrier. Grandpa was born at home on February 27, 1909, the day after his mother's 20th birthday. Unfortunately he didn't live to see a full century of life. Grandpa passed away on August 6, 1977, when he was 68 and I was almost 14 years old.

I did not know my grandfather very well, so several weeks ago, I asked my father, aunt, uncle and siblings  to share some of their memories.  I learned so many things I hadn’t known before. Even if you aren’t a relative of his, some of the historical details might be pretty interesting to you. This could also be an encouragement for some of you to find out more about your own family history while you still have the opportunity.

Grandpa’s father, John Chilton Quarrier, was the editor of a newspaper. His mother, Olive Blanche (Weems) Quarrier, was the daughter of a Confederate sharpshooter (sniper), Charles Chilton Weems, whose usual target was Union river boat captains. She was born on February 26, 1889, at her uncle’s Oak Lawn plantation in Bayou Teche, New Iberia, Louisiana. John met Olive when he was working as a telegraph operator for a railroad. My dad noted that there is a possibility that they were distant cousins since Chilton is a last and middle name of folks on both the Quarrier and Weems sides of the family. Also, in the 1700s, the Weems and Quarrier families both came from County Fife in Scotland, which is near the English border. (My dad has often reminded me that the Scots and English carried on their centuries old feud in America; during the Civil War, those of Scottish ancestry were quite often Confederates, reminiscent of the Scots’ desire for independence from English rule. It should also be noted that my Scottish ancestor Alexander Quarrier, arriving in the American colonies in 1774, fought for the patriots against the English during the Revolution.) In 1825, the Weems clan moved from Maryland to Louisiana to raise sugar.
Jack was born in Galveston, Texas, and was baptized Catholic. His paternal grandfather, Dana Ward Quarrier, had studied to be an Episcopal minister, but apparently Dana’s wife, Sallie Hogan Quarrier, was Irish Catholic. I'm not sure if he was raised Catholic, though. Jack had three sisters: Maxine (born in 1907), Geraldine (1913), and Olive May, nicknamed "O.M." (1919).

Jack actually grew up in Kansas City and lived there for the rest of his life. He attended Southwest High School there, but did not graduate. He left home at age 15 to work for the Associated Press as the world’s youngest commercial telegraph operator. I think he was based at the offices of the Emporia Gazette. Later, he switched to teletype operation from Morse code retransmit. Teletype had a paper tape punch which could be torn off, hung up, and put into another teletype machine to be read again. He eventually had to work on computer terminals, which annoyed him so much that he quit in the early 1970s, after nearly 50 years in the business. He had worked all the way through the Depression, which is quite notable.

Jack met my grandmother, Margaret Brazier, when he was working in the building that housed both the AP offices and the Kansas City Star newspaper, where she was a reporter. She had graduated from the University of Kansas in 1930 with a degree in Journalism. She was always very refined and proper, and thought that Jack himself would someday become a writer. They had three children, but divorced in 1945 when my father was 8. Upon her marriage to Dr. Driggs in 1948, Margaret and the three children moved to New York City, so my dad didn’t see his father quite as often. What I hadn’t known was that my grandfather also remarried from 1954 to 1956 to a bank official named Elleen Hobbs Moroney. My dad doesn’t remember ever meeting her. The picture to the left was taken at my parents' wedding on Christmas Day, 1957. Grandpa Quarrier is at the upper left.

My own memories of my grandfather are sketchy. When I was almost five, our family moved from Chicago (where I was born) to Kansas City, where my grandfather lived. I remember our family going out to dinner at a steakhouse with him several times. He came to my kindergarten graduation and gave me a lavender colored stuffed cow that played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when you pulled the cord.

One Christmas, Grandpa gave Dancerina dolls to my sister Barb and me. You could push on their crowns and they would dance. Barb recalls, “I VIVIDLY remember the Dancerina dolls. I wanted one SOOOO badly and was beyond thrilled when he gave them to us. I also remember going to a baseball game with him (KC Royals?) He was a huge baseball fan.”

I vaguely remember meeting my great grandfather, John Chilton Quarrier, when we lived in Kansas City, and only then because my brother John wrote that, “Our great grandfather did come to see us a number of times when we lived in KC. He bought me a trumpet and got me started with private lessons. He didn't have much of a lip left but I remember him playing "Red Roses for a Blue Lady."”

After we moved to California in 1971, Grandpa Quarrier would come to visit and take us to Denny’s, where I would order a French dip sandwich and Jello blocks with whipped cream. I think we once took a day trip to Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, China Town, and other San Francisco sights with him, too. Barb says, “I remember a time he came to visit us in California, and we went to the Earthquake museum with him. There was a ride that made it seem as if you were in an earthquake.”

In April 1977, we moved to Maryland. That summer, my dad had to fly to Chicago for a business trip. Since my brother John was just then moving to Maryland from San Francisco, Dad suggested that they meet in Kansas City for a four generation reunion there with my grandfather and great grandfather. John noted, “When we got to see Great Grandpa his mind was not as sharp. He introduced himself to me and seemed quite confused that I had the same name. I'm not sure he ever really grasped who I was on that visit.” I had asked my dad if I could go with him on this trip to Kansas City because I wanted to see Grandpa. He said no, because Grandpa would be flying out to see us in August. I protested, “But what if he dies before then?” Ironically, Grandpa had a fatal heart attack on the airplane flying East to see us. We got the call when we had just arrived home from a full day at Dad’s company picnic and then seeing the movie “New York, New York.” We packed the car and left the next morning to drive to Kansas City for the funeral. At the funeral I saw my great grandfather, who died two years later. One random thing that I recall from that trip to Kansas City is that it was the first time I ever saw a bar code scanner in a grocery store.

We cleaned out Grandpa’s apartment while we were there.  The thing that struck me was that he had a bazillion books. We brought many of them home, marking each with the initials JWQ inside the front cover. I still have his Revised Standard Version Bible, which is now displayed on a bookstand in my front hallway. Grandpa may not have had much of a formal education, but he sure loved to read great books! He also enjoyed classical and jazz music and had quite a record collection.

I wish I could have talked to my grandfather more. There are a lot of questions I would have asked him. I believe in being aware of our stories, about our own lives and about those who have gone before us. In so many ways, it is where we have come from, even before own births, that shapes who we are, how we think, and what we pass on down to the next generation.

Virginia Knowles

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Wissmann Family in Concert

On Sunday night, Thad and I took the younger seven kids to enjoy a free Gospel bluegrass concert by the Wissmann family. Loren and Gloria Wissmann, along with 12 of their 13 children, have been on a southeastern tour these past two months, singing in churches and prisons. This talented family sang and played the hammered dulcimer, steel guitar, mandolin, fiddle, flute, and banjo.

I loved the music (and bought their newest CD, Let the Rocks Cry Out) but the real delight was seeing the joy on their faces as they sang about Jesus, and watching the obvious affection that they have for one another.

I took the CD to our home school co-op yesterday and played a few pieces for the 7th and 8th graders. They need a taste of Americana culture, as well as good, wholesome Christian encourgament! The first song I played for them, "Mind of Christ," is actually one of my old favorite hymns, "May the Mind of Christ My Savior" by Kate Wilkinson. I remember singing it to my mother-in-law, Ann, shortly before she died. The second piece was "Let My Life Be a Light," an a capella (vocal only) piece with beautiful harmonies. And the third piece, the title cut, was the rollicking "Let the Rocks Cry Out," written by the oldest daughter, Rachel, who is 27.

I also showed my class a short video clip of a lady playing the hammered dulcimer, so they could get an idea of one of the many instruments the family played. I own a mountain dulcimer, but that is not the same thing. You can Google "hammered dulcimer" if you are curious.

If you live in the Orlando area, I believe that the Wissmann family will be in concert again this Sunday, March 1, at 10:45 AM at Powers Drive Baptist Church and at 6 PM in the evening at Palm Springs Baptist in Altamonte Springs. I encourage you to go experience their beautiful music and family testimony!
You can check the Wissmann Family web site,, for more information on their schedule and ordering CD's. I particularly liked reading the page that introduces each family member. They also have a blog linked to that site.

I will close with the words of that old hymn I mentioned earlier. (Note that the words are slightly different than this when they sing it. This is the original version.)

"May the Mind of Christ My Savior"
by Kate B. Wilkinson

May the mind of Christ my Savior
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel
Seeing only Him.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Songs and Old

Dear friends,

This morning on the way to church, the words of the Doxology (a.k.a. “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”) popped into my mind for some odd reason. We used to sing it every week in the Presbyterian church I attended as a teenager, but only rarely have I heard it since then. I started singing in the van, remembering as I did that this is actually the tenth stanza in Thomas Ken’s longer 1674 hymn, “Awake My Soul” which starts: “Awake, my soul, and with the sun / Thy daily stage of duty run / Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise / To pay thy morning sacrifice.” It turned out to be an apt start to the morning; I’ll tell you more as we go along. (Side note: Be sure to click the links to find more information! And you don't have to stop reading this if you aren't a particularly religious person. You might learn something about what makes us tick.)

Running a little late for the service, I slipped into the sanctuary with the kids just about the time the first song started. I hadn’t heard it before, but was instantly moved by not only the lilting violins and electric cello, but also the worshipful words. I grabbed my pen and paper as fast as I could to try to catch them in snatches. In my most hasty scrawl, I jotted down the chorus… “Oh to see you, Jesus, I can hardly wait to behold the One I love! Oh to see you, Jesus, know your sweet embrace. My heart is yours, for you I long.”
As it turns out, I hadn’t heard the song before because it is brand new! Several internationally known worship song writers had converged on our church in the past few days for a retreat, and this was one of the fruits of their labor of love. It was written by Ryan, Jonathan, and Megan Baird of the California band West Coast Revival, who also led worship. Bob Kauflin, Steve and Vikki Cook, Mark and Stephen Altrogge and others were in town for the conference, too. These fine musicians, all associated with Sovereign Grace Ministries, are working on two upcoming projects: a children’s album and one on the fatherhood of God. The saints of yesteryear still bless us with their heartfelt lyrics, but the saints of now are obeying the ancient call to “Sing a new song unto the Lord!”

Old songs and new! I love them both! My friend Phyllis Reinhardt is 74 and she loves them both, too. She sometimes plays vintage hymns for me when we visit her for speech therapy each week, yet on Sunday mornings she claps and sings right along with the modern praise and worship choruses, the ones with the electric guitars, synthesizers, and full percussion. And so, this morning, the songs continued, new with old, old with new. Sometimes they seemed to intertwine since the newer ones still cherish a hymn-like reverence and the older ones are jazzed up with new contemporary arrangements.

The next song this morning, “Jesus Paid It All,” always reminds me of my daughter Julia. The second time she was in Bolivia, in 2007, she sang it constantly. She is there again on a three month mission trip now (and feeling quite sick this morning), and I know she’ll appreciate the reminder, too. (I love you, Julia!) “Jesus paid it all! All to him I owe! Sin had left a crimson stain; he washed it white as snow!” It is no surprise that these words inspired her to outreach, because, as Matt Redman sings, “Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame / We’re going with a passion for Your name / We’re going for we care about Your praise / Send us out!” (I first heard that song at Julia’s Bolivia reunion meeting in 2007 and bought the Facedown CD immediately.)

Next up? Another dance-in-the-aisles tune, “My First Love” by Stuart Townend, which starts, “My first love is a blazing fire / I feel His pow'rful love in me! / For He has kindled a flame of passion / And I will let it grow in me.” At this point in our worship service, a few folks in our church trickled up to the microphone to share whatever Biblical encouragement God had laid on their hearts. Daniel Howell spoke for a few minutes, asking, “Are your trials blessings or burdens?” and assuring us that “He will receive the glory and you will receive the joy!” Another man, whose face I could not see, ended his encouragement with, “Your life is hidden in Christ, and Christ has already won the victory!” And Stephanie Graham (who is in 5th grade) read Psalm 143 and said she thought God would want us to know, “We do not need to worry because he will bring us the word of unfailing love and show us the way to go.” (You go, girl!) You see, not all worship has music attached, and it is certainly not limited to a church sanctuary or a Sunday morning. Worship is a way of life!

Our friend Regina Brown, who has a hearty “gospel music” voice, sang a solo introduction to “It is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford and Philip Bliss. I don’t know if you are all aware of the story behind this venerable old hymn; according to Cyberhymnal, “This hymn was writ­ten af­ter two ma­jor trau­mas in Spaf­ford’s life. The first was the great Chi­ca­go Fire of Oc­to­ber 1871, which ru­ined him fi­nan­cial­ly (he had been a weal­thy bus­i­ness­man). Short­ly af­ter, while cross­ing the At­lan­tic, all four of Spaf­ford’s daugh­ters died in a col­li­sion with an­o­ther ship. Spaf­ford’s wife Anna sur­vived and sent him the now fa­mous tel­e­gram, “Saved alone.” Sev­er­al weeks lat­er, as Spaf­ford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died, the Ho­ly Spir­it in­spired these words. They speak to the eter­nal hope that all be­liev­ers have, no mat­ter what pain and grief be­fall them on earth.” And so Spafford wrote, “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way / When sorrows like sea billows roll / Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say / It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

We also sang Graham Kendrick’s worship song “To You O Lord” and, after the sermon, “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman, which echoes the same themes as in “It Is Well With My Soul.” (This must have been British morning, since Graham Kendrick, Matt Redman and Stuart Townend are all from the UK!)

I’ll bet some of you are wondering how I remember all of this. I usually take notes during the sermon, but I’m also trying to cultivate the habit of writing things down beforehand, too. This might include names of people I have just met, or a prayer request someone has shared with me, or a word of encouragement, or a reminder to myself to call someone or bring them a book next week, or whatever. And this morning I actually kept a running commentary on the music!

But I’m not done yet! Bear with me a few paragraphs longer. As I mentioned, several noted songwriters were in town for that retreat. One of them is Mark Altrogge, who pastors the Sovereign Grace Church north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (I remember singing his classic “I Stand in Awe of You” many years before we even came to Metro Life Church.) His sermon this morning, titled “The Kind of Sacrifice God Desires” was based on Psalm 50, especially verse 23: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (English Standard Version). Mark exhorted us that it’s not enough to go through the external duties of Christianity. We must have thankful, glad hearts! As he said, “Pigs gobble down the acorns without looking up at the tree,” but we are called to look up and offer our wholehearted praise to the one who has blessed us so abundantly! Yes, even when we are going through times of trial! He quoted Matthew Henry, who had been robbed by highwaymen, as saying in response, “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not someone else.”

If we are struggling with our attitudes, we can always ask God to fill us with joy and thankfulness. Giving thanks is not so much a matter of feelings, but of choosing. As Mark reminded us from Hebrews 13:15, “Through him (Jesus) then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” And so we are back to the first song of the morning, the one in the van, “Awake, my soul, and with the sun / Thy daily stage of duty run / Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise / To pay thy morning sacrifice.” The most important gift we can give to the Lord every day is our praise. That is what worship, musical or otherwise, is all about.


You can download the audio for Mark’s sermon at the web site.

I guess that's about it!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Beauty of Humility

Dear friends,

A friend remembered that I had compiled a list of Scriptures on pride and humility a few years back and asked if I could send them to her. I also found these two quotes along the way. This could make a very profitable Bible study over a period of weeks.

In 2006, I wrote an article for Making Home Magazine called, "Be It Ever So Humbling, There's No Place Like Home". It is now on my web site (click the link above), and it has the full Scripture texts at the bottom as well.

~~ Blessings, Virginia

"All gracious affections,
which are a sweet odour to Christ,
filling the soul of a Christian
with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy,
are broken hearted affections.
A truly Christian love, either to God or men,
is a humble broken-hearted love.
The desires of the saints,
however earnest, are humble desires;
their hope is an humble hope;
and their joy, even when it is unspeakable and full of glory,
is a humble, broken-hearted joy,
leaving the Christian more poor in spirit,
more like a little child,
and more disposed to an universal lowliness of behavior."
Jonathan Edwards, preacher of the Great Awakening

"I am sure there are many Christians who will confess that their own experience has been very much like my own in this, that we had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart are to be the distinguishing features of the disciple as they were of the Master. And further, that this humility is not a thing that will come of itself, but that it must be made the object of special desire and prayer and faith and practice. As we study the word, we shall see what very distinct and oft-repeated instructions Jesus gave His disciples on this point, and how slow they were in understanding Him. Let us, at the very commencement of our meditations, admit that there is nothing so natural to man, nothing so insidious and hidden from our sight, as pride. Let us feel that nothing but a very determined and persevering waiting on God and Christ will discover how lacking we are in the grace of humility, and how impotent to obtain what we seek. Let us study the character of Christ until our souls are filled with the love and admiration of his lowliness. And let us believe that, when we are broken down under a sense of our pride, and our impotence to cast it out, Jesus Christ Himself will come in to impart this grace too, as a part of His wondrous life within us." ~~ Humility by Andrew Murray, South African preacher of yesteryear

A Small Sampling of Scriptures on Humility
  • Genesis 3:1-13; 11:1-9
  • 2 Chronicles 7:1-4; 7:11-16; 26:1-23; 32:20-33
  • Psalm 25:1-22; 51:1-17; 52:1-9; 115:1, 123:1-2; 131:1-2; 138:1-8
  • Proverbs 3:5-8; 11:2; 12:1; 15:33; 18:12; 21:4; 22:4; 25:6-7; 29:23
  • Isaiah 6:1-8; 29:13-24; 57:14-21; 58:1-14; 66:1-2
  • Lamentations 3:19-33
  • Daniel 4:28-37; 10:1-2
  • Micah 6:6-8
  • Zephaniah 2:3; 3:9-20
  • Matthew 3:1-12; 11:28-30; 18:1-4; 20:20-28; 23:1-12
  • Luke 1:38-55; 14:7-11; 22:24-27
  • John 3:23-31; 13:3-15
  • Romans 11:17-36; 12:1-3; 12:16; 14:10-12
  • 1 Corinthians 1:25-30; 13:4-6
  • 2 Corinthians 7:9-10; 12:1-10
  • Ephesians 4:1-6; 5:22-24
  • Philippians 2:1-18
  • Colossians 3:12-21
  • Hebrews 12:18-29; 13:12-17
  • James 1:19-21; 3:13-18; 4:1-17
  • 1 Peter 3:1-9; 5:5-11

Suffering: What Does it Take to Forge Our Character?

Dear friends,

This morning, my husband Thad and I were reading together in the The Message of Hebrews, a commentary that our pastors at Metro Life Church recommended for home study during our current sermon series. There was a certain passage that he thought might be really encouraging to our 19 year old daughter Julia (who is growing through adversity on her three month mission trip to Bolivia). He put a star by it and asked me to send it to her. As long as I have it typed in, I thought you all might like to see it, too. Here it is, along with an essay I wrote a few years ago called "What Does it Take to Forge Our Character?"

"Sufferings introduce a new perfection, a perfection of testedness... For Christians, as for their Master, there is a perfection in suffering. Little as we may like them, the fires of affliction are the place in which qualities of Christian character are forged. No one wants to suffer. No one looks forward to suffering. But the Christian cannot regard suffering as an unmitigated evil. He can agree that it is an evil, but he knows also that, borne in the right spirit, it is the means of an increasing Christlikeness." (Leon Morris, as quoted on page 62 in The Message of Hebrews by Raymond Brown.)


A few years ago, I wrote an essay called "What Does it Take to Forge Our Character?" for my English students when our literature selections focused on the theme of growing through adversity. Here it is:

"What does it take to forge our character?" Does that seem like an odd question? Well, let's think about our goals in life. If the goal in life is to have an easy, fun time and to please ourselves, then we have no hope. There will always be things that get in our way, and we will be continually frustrated and angry. But if the goal of life is to grow to be strong, solid and mature in our character, that's another story, and it's filled with hope. You see, we have all the opportunities we need to help us grow up this way. These opportunities come in the form of troubles, trials, and other tough stuff like work and relationships with family and friends. That's what it takes to forge our character! So we can really see our difficulties as gifts that are custom designed by the Lord to make us strong. However, our response makes a huge difference. We must respond well to our challenges in order to make the most of them. If we fight against them or get bitter, it's not going to help at all. In fact, God is likely to "increase the heat" even higher until we get the message to rely on him and accept what he is doing in our lives. If you think about it, the natural physical world provides so many examples of how difficulties bring about strength.

Diamonds are born from lowly carbon, transformed by years and years of intense heat and pressure dozens of miles under the earth. Diamond-bearing rock is brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions, not exactly a happy occasion. But a "diamond in the rough" is not worth much until it is chiseled and shaped by a master craftsman. Then the facets radiate with beauty.

Gold, silver, and iron must be hacked out of the ground, then liquefied over fire until the dross floats to the top and is burned or skimmed away. The process is not done until the refiner can see his face reflected in the molten metal. Then it is pounded and pounded and pounded with the hammer on the anvil until it takes on the shape of what it is destined to become. Not a pleasant process, is it?

An athlete must exercise and practice, straining his muscles and training his reflexes just when he would rather be back home in bed or eating Twinkies. He undergoes discipline so he can compete and win.

When we talk about writing, we discuss the revision process. Think of yourself as a rough draft, and God as the author. He is going to make many changes in your life before you reach the final version. The Bible says he is "the author and the perfecter of our faith" and that "he will be faithful to complete the work he has started in you" (Philippians 1:6). So, think of yourself as in the revision mode!

In the novel Johnny Tremain, several things happen to test and transform Johnny: a hand injury, his relationships with others, trying to find suitable work, living in wartime, and even learning to ride a skittish horse. Even the symbolism of silver smithing reminds us of the process used to break his pride and bring him to manhood.

The poem "The Village Blacksmith" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow includes many references to the process of growing strong through adversity. First, we see the blacksmith has strong sinewy muscles, developed through the hard physical labor of swinging his sledge. Second, we see that he has endured the grief of his wife dying, yet he still faithfully worships God in church with his children. (Remember that Longfellow himself lost two wives to tragic deaths.) And third, we see the picture of iron that is forged and formed by fire and anvil. The last six lines sum it up:
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.
The Bible, too, reminds us how suffering shapes our character:

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5

"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

I hope that these thoughts have been an encouragement to you to not only endure, but actually embrace the hard times in your life – as gifts from God for your good and his glory. Perhaps this will even help you to be patient with other people (who are in the forging process, too) as God uses them as tools to chisel away at your character.


One last little word of grace from Scripture...

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. " 1 Peter 1:6-7


Virginia Knowles

P.S. If you have kids, you may want to read a related post called Preparing Children for the Storms of Life, which I wrote a while back.

P.P.S. Here is a little more complete information about the Hebrews commentary I mentioned above, along with a blurb from the Christian Book Distributors web site.

The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today By Raymond Brown / Inter-varsity Press Times were hard for the first readers of the letter to the Hebrews. Many had been exposed to fierce persecution. They had been assaulted, their homes plundered, and some had been cast into prison. To such people this letter came as an encouragement. The writer of the letter turns their eyes to Christ, shows how he fulfills the hope expressed in the Old Testament sacrifices, and calls his readers to a steadfast faith that will take them through the hard times they now face. Blessings, Virginia

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Greatest of These is Love


The Greatest of These is Love

by Virginia Knowles

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a,13

If there is one thing that every home school family needs more and more, it is LOVE. A loving mother responds with gentle words and an offer of help when a child is frustrated about a difficult lesson. She doesn't embarrass her children by comparing them against the godly genius in the support group, nor does she breed insecurity by setting them up on that wobbly old pedestal. In her home, she isn't so smitten with her position of authority that she fails to listen to her children talk about what is bugging them or what they want to do different. Instead, she has the humility to realize that sometimes she is the one who needs to change. She doesn't insist that her way is the only way. She tries to teach her children not to interrupt, but when they do, she doesn't lose her temper or act rude in return. When she feels overwhelmed, she tries to stay calm instead of snapping at people, and she refuses to nurse a grudge. When there is some sort of transgression -- and there usually is -- she deals with it quickly, because she doesn't want it to linger all day. She doesn't laugh with the child who makes a really witty but hurtful remark about a brother or a sister, yet she does smile on the one who makes an attempt -- successful or not -- at something noble and true. She wants her children to build healthy relationships with one another, so she works hard at training them, by instruction and example, to speak sweetly and serve sacrificially. She checks up on the ones playing outside with friends, to make sure they are safe -- not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually. When her child has been irresponsible or disloyal, she quickly gives him a chance to prove himself in some small thing and thus begin to regain her trust. She has a hope within her that God will work in her children's hearts to transform them in ways she cannot fathom. When she is tempted to give up, persevering love keeps her committed. When she feels that her family life is ready to wither and die, a fresh dose of divine love is what will make her bloom and flourish at home with her children.

Some would say these words are only platitudes. I certainly don't consider myself to have attained them -- not by a long shot! -- but this is what is on my heart for my family this year: to let the love of God break through our hearts and fill us with compassion for one another. Though I am far from seeing the reality of God's high standard of love, I will keep persevering, with faith and hope, until I do!

The poem "Love Through Me" from Amy Carmichael's book Toward Jerusalem, reflects my thoughts right now. (Amy was an Irish missionary to India, and founded the Dohnavur Fellowship to rescue girls from temple slavery. Though she never married nor bore children from her own womb, she was a spiritual mother to thousands!)


Love through me, Love of God

Make me like Thy clear air

Through which unhindered, colours pass

As though it were not there.

Powers of the love of God,

Depths of the heart Divine,

O Love that faileth not, break forth,

And flood this world of Thine.

Valentine's Day Unit Study

Valentine Mini Unit on Love
by Virginia Knowles


Have your children find several poems that convey love and affection. Copy them into your notebook. (This is a great idea for those who are easing into a Charlotte Mason style of education.) The Book of Virtues is a great place to start.
Write original poems to copy on to cards, using your very best handwriting.
Write an essay about love.
Write letters to family members and make sure you send them on time so they will get there on or before February 14.
Practice spelling words like: love, heart, Valentine, compassion, charity, kindness, cardiology (or any word with root "cardio", which means heart), etc.
How about a little educational game? Let your kids write a list of words using the letters in the phrase "Valentines Day" -- like "daily", "live", and so forth. You can't use a letter twice unless it appears in the phrase twice ("a", "e", "n"). You can't make a new word just by adding "s" to another word. This is obviously a spelling and vocabulary game, but here are some ideas to extend it into a GREAT math activity. Try writing the words in columns marked for one letter words (1 point each), two letter words (2 points each), three letter words (3 points each), on up to 8 letter words. Yes, there are at least four 8 letter words! To score, count the words in each column and multiply by the points for that length of word. Then add the column values together to get your total. (I dare you to beat my score of over 950! Let me know if you do.)


Find out who St. Valentine was, where he lived, what he believed, and why he died.
Research the history of the Valentine's Day card and how people celebrate it around the world.
In other cultures, the heart is not considered to be "the seat of emotions." It could be the kidneys or some other body part! Find out more about this! (But don't ask ME where, because I don't know! I just remember hearing about it because Bible translators have to take this into consideration when working in different places!)


Learn about the anatomy of the human heart and how you can keep it healthy. Those of us who have had children with heart defects have learned a lot from the web about this!
Study what kind of nutrition is best for the heart -- one low in saturated fats, cholesterol, etc. Plan a week's menu with heart healthy foods and talk about how cooking wholesome foods for your family is a great sign of love in action! (OK, so you can still have some chocolate on Valentine's Day!)
Sign yourself or your older children up for CPR classes. These are offered by the American Heart Association, local hospitals, the fire department and other organizations. My four oldest daughters all took a combination CPR / First Aid / Babysitting class from Florida Hospital. If you already have a CPR manual, REVIEW IT RIGHT NOW!


Count out candy hearts, combine groups of them to show addition, put them in rows and columns to teach multiplication, divvy them into piles to do division, and then eat them to demonstrate subtraction!
Calculate how much postage you will need to mail Valentine's cards, or how much you will save by sending e-mail and web cards!


Read 1 Corinthians 13 and answer the question, "What is love?"
Look up some of these Scriptures: Matthew 5:43-46; Matthew 26:36-40; John 3:16; John 13:34-35; John 14:23-24; John 15:9-17; Romans 5:6-8; Romans 8:35-39; Romans 12:9-13; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 5:13-15; Ephesians 3:16-19; Ephesians 4:15-16; Philippians 2:1-4; Colossians 3:12-14; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 6:10; Hebrews 10:24; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:10-20; 1 John 4:7-21 (I know this looks like a lot, but it's only a small sample of New Testament passages with the word "love" in them. You can find more if you have Bible software on your computer. You can look them up first before deciding which ones to share with your children. You could pass out little slips of paper and have your children look them up and read them aloud for the family. They could each choose some short verses to copy, too.)
If you know any Christian songs about love, sing them together! There are some great ones on Steve Green's Hide 'Em in Your Heart Scripture memory song albums. Others are "Oh How He Loves You and Me" and "Oh How I Love Jesus."
Talk about the different kinds of love (romance, friendly kindness & affection, and unconditional "agape" love) and when it is appropriate to show each of these.
Ask your older children, "What is the best way to find a mate?" Compare how our culture views romance with what the Bible says about marriage. (See Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Peter 3:1-10, Titus 2:3-5.)
Find the lyrics of love songs -- good and bad! -- and discuss them with your children. Which lyrics you choose to discuss will depend on the maturity of your children and what they have already been exposed to. Hopefully, this will help them to learn discernment as you help them see what is wholesome and what is not!
Show your children your wedding photos, and talk about how you met your mate.


Make fancy valentines for relatives, friends, neighbors!
Bake cookies and bring them to a shut in.
Prepare a special dessert for Daddy, such as a decorated cake.
Make the felt Heart Full of Love.

    If you know of any great links for Valentine activities, please leave them in a comment below!

     This unit study originally appeared in my Hope Chest e-magazine in the late 1990's.  I'm still publishing the Hope Chest every month or so, and you can subscribe by sending any e-mail to:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our Big Red Valentine Heart

Here is something I made ten years ago in honor of Valentine’s Day, to encourage sweet communication between family members. I took a LARGE piece of red felt, cut out a heart about 2 1/2 feet wide (70 cm), and edged it with lace. Then I sewed on a rectangular red felt pocket for each family member (plus a few extras for those not yet born). The pockets are about 3 inch by 4 inch (9 cm by 12 cm) and are also edged at the top with lace. I sewed two tabs on the back, and it can be hung on the wall with tacks or nails. In the week or two before Valentine’s Day, we put little notes, stickers, service coupons, drawings, pieces of candy, and other small items into each other’s pockets. We could take stuff out of our own pockets every day. Of course, on February 14, I put in some extra special goodies for everyone!

We're still using our Valentine heart a decade later! Somewhere along the way I made name cards for each of us to stick out of the pockets. This year we have a combined one for "Mom & Dad" and we added Ryan's name to Mary's (he is our new son-in-law).

We were short on pockets (there are only 10 -- and I thought I was planning ahead for enough new babies!) so we didn't do one for Julia this year since she is in Bolivia and we already sent her a homemade Valentine in her care package. At the moment she is in Tapeite, a very small tribal village down near the borders of Argentina and Paraguay, about six hours away from the mission in Entre Rios. A team of 12 from the mission went down on Tuesday and will return on Thursday. Apparently the tribe is quite primitive; Julia has been told she is going into another world! You can read more on her own blog at Be sure to read her funny post about serving calzone, too. And don't miss her post "Las Abras: Love" if you want something profound for Valentine's Day.

I'm doing a spur of the moment Hope Chest e-magazine issue for Valentine's Day with lots of fun and educational ideas for celebrating with kids. I recycled it from an issue I did several years ago! If you don't subscribe and want me to send you a copy, just e-mail me at


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fear! (Or Not!)

Dear friends,

Early this morning I dreamed of watching magnificent waves pounding the shore of a beach. Safe on a high observation deck behind a thick glass wall, I exlaimed in awe about how beautiful and enormous they were, towering perhaps 20 feet! Oddly enough, dolphins swam placidly among the tumult. But then, much to my shock, I found myself suddenly in the water, helplessly pulled out to sea by the ruthless undertow, terrifying waves now crashing over me. I could not find my voice to shout for help, and not one of my former companions on the deck realized that I was not still with them, that I was in mortal danger. And then I woke up shaking, shaken.

Moments later, I realized that even though I am unlikely to ever get caught in a massive tidal wave, that was merely a metaphor for all there is to fear in real life. I don't usually fear death because I know that I will go to be with Jesus for eternity. But sometimes I do fear what life will bring in the meantime. I could easily get overwhelmed thinking about how the world economic & political situations will affect our family, or the myriad problems could befall my children, or some horrible injury or illness that might plague Thad or me as we age.

And then, mercifully, a counterbalance....

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed;
for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee;
yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
Isaiah 41:10


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39

I do not need to fear anything or anyone on earth. To fear is to acknowledge that something has a greater power than you do. We should rightfully "fear God" in that sense, because he is sovereign over everything. Even if something else is stronger than I am, he is stronger than that and he loves me. And, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) He is in control no matter what bad things happen. This does not mean I am immune to tragedy. Sometimes I will be in the waves and not on the deck. But he will be there with me.

In all reality, we know several families who are facing multiple simultaneous major life crises (health, finances, family issues, etc.) that I could not imagine enduring. And yet they are overcoming their trials in the grace of God. He is sufficient for them and for me.

I could find more to write, but I sense that is enough for now.
Virginia Knowles

P.S. I wrote a related tidbit, Fear Thou Not, about these verses three years ago and another one, Another Small Note, when I was having a biopsy for possible thyroid cancer five years ago. I trust they will be a blessing to you.
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