6 reasons why you are reading this post

How many numbered lists have you read this week on digital media sites? Do you ever wonder how those lists are put together? Do you ever question the research that goes into putting these lists together and ranking the information in them? How do these writers decide the optimal number for their lists? And why do people love to read and re-post these lists?

In attempting to understand this list-writing phenomenon, I think I have come up with the perfect list. 

So here it is, folks, the 6 reasons why you are reading this post: 

1. 6. You are reading this post because I put a number at the beginning. I have defined some limits and you know reading a list of 6 things will not overly tax your brain or cause you to miss out on the other 26 posts on your reading list for the week.

2. Reasons. I am giving you reasons, which you like. Reasons help you understand things, even mysterious things like why you are reading this post.

3. Why. see point 2.

4. You. I used the 2nd person pronoun. I am writing directly to you– how could you NOT read this now that I have written to you personally?

5. Are Reading. You are now on point #5. (This is a verb in the present progressive tense, which indicates an ongoing activity in the present–you are doing this NOW.)

6.This Post. There you have it. I’ve gone and convinced you that I know what I’m talking about. I’ve put numbers and reasons and personal pronouns…and you read THIS POST, didn’t you?

*Disclaimer: If any grain of truth may be found in this, I am happy for the reader. This is just a writing activity to help spark some creative juices. Nevertheless, I hope Distractify  picks this up.
#feelinghopeful #tiredofreadinglists #alittlesarcasmcanbeagoodoutlet

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What it takes to continue homeschooling

There are just so many things in this house that don’t work exactly right.

Today as I pulled back the half-ripped shower curtain and later turned on the stove light, which now has only one dim bulb working, I decided:  It’s time to make a list.

bathroom tap

electrical outlets (kitchen)

walls (dirty and with patches of paint missing in a few spots)

balcony blinds

bathroom light (it only needs a new bulb)

I could go on.

It seems most days our homeschool isn’t working right either. I could make a list for this as well, but it would be too embarrassing. It would include too many mom-faults and too many son-criticisms.

In the last couple of years, I have often said, “Oh, I don’t read homeschooling books anymore” and “I don’t look for curriculum anymore.” I mean it has to stop somewhere, right? Someone will always be writing another book or presenting another curriculum. And I have so many books and guides and projects that I haven’t even used yet. I just keep telling myself to find something I already have and use it.  And those thoughts come on the good days. On the not-so-good days, I just want to get through the checklists and see some completed workbook pages.

This year has probably been the worst for me. This year, #1 son has to take a national exam (at age 12), which he has to pass or retake again next year. So out of necessity I have too often found myself telling the boys (and myself) to just “get the work done.”  I have had to switch off creativity for the most part (just give them the answer that they want), I have had to drop all the really interesting subjects (sorry son, history and geography are not on the exam), and I have had to focus almost solely on exam preparation (real learning will have be put on hold until October). With this mentality, I had reached a point of no longer caring about good materials or even about why we were homeschooling. We are under siege, bombarded with requirements of the law of the land, who has time to read about how kids learn or how to how help this dyslexic boy with his spelling?

And then that Brave Writer lady had to get inside my head and write this blog post.  Just because I have been homeschooling in one form or another for the past 7 years (or 11, if you look at as starting from birth), doesn’t mean I can now switch off my brain and switch on veteran homeschooler auto-pilot. I still need to read blogs and homeschooling books. I still need to look up ideas for fostering a good environment for learning. I had proudly assumed that I didn’t need those forums or email subscriptions, but I do. I have started reading again. I have been looking at blogs and forums. And I have actually purchased an item or two based on what my son is interested in studying after this exam is over. 

Recently, we have come close to a decision that we will continue to homeschool #1 son for secondary school. So again, I find myself back to researching methods and curricula, reading about the experiences of other homeschoolers and looking for things this boy-becoming-a-man is interested in studying. While I must admit that I find homeschooling a teen a daunting prospect in some ways, in other ways I find it rather exciting.

And in order to rise above all the things that don’t seem to be going right, I have *tried* to start writing again. This is critical for me as it is what keeps my brain alive and my vision fresh and my soul cleansed. I can wax philosophical about the undone housework–or at least put it into proper perspective.   And the insane length of the to-do list need not be the focus of my life. These things are the sandbag-weights for my hot air balloon. It’s time to do them, drop them, and fly. 

Giving Thanks

Is it really that simple? 

I hesitated to dole out such a simplistic solution…

…to her–a former addict weighed down by years of hurt and groping in darkness

…to him–a young man striving to make the Good News known in a place that is filled with hardship and disappointments. p>

I stuck my neck out, ready to be rejected, ready for this piece of advice to put up on the shelf with other advice-that-doesn’t-see-my-situation.

But then, the replies came after a few days of trying it. It was, in fact, the antidote to negative thoughts and bitterness.
Ann Voskamp has already written the book. And she certainly wouldn’t want us to be preaching it as her message, but THE message–from THE BOOK. Do the search yourself. See how many times you find people, especially the God-Man Jesus, giving thanks. Start writing down what you are thankful for. Every. Single.Day. Try to get to 1,000 things. See what happens to your eyesight. You will be seeing things you overlook every day. See what happens to your prayers. See what happens to your heart.

The Ends of the Earth

Our missionary friend was telling all of us sitting there on Sunday morning about a survey trip he took to a border area that was rather treacherous. They were on motorbikes looking for some hidden people, some people who didn’t yet have the Word in their dialect, some people that were hard to get to, even in 2013, even for two single guys on motorbikes.

Then he told us they found some of these people…and they were NOT welcoming. They certainly did not look happy in the photo he flashed up for us. But then, he told us,  they saw it.

“Iphone!”

All of us in the congregation laughed at that. I mean here are these missionaries, who had to CARRY their motorbikes to get to this village, doing their best to mark out the GPS coordinates for future missionaries to this location, and the people they encounter recognize the iphone. That is too funny. An incident sure to get laughs on a Missions Month Sunday.

Later that afternoon, however, as I recalled my laughter and the laughter of those around me, I had another thought.

That isn’t funny.

These young me know what an iphone is, but they don’t know who Jesus is.

And I asked myself, “Why?”

Why has the knowledge of this piece of technology reached that place but the knowledge of the true God has not?

This isn’t the first time that some gadget brought into a remote area by a missionary has attracted the attention of the people living there. Nor is it the first time that such a gadget has softened the response of otherwise hostile people. But they recognised this gadget, they knew its name, and I daresay they had some idea of its use.

I will not launch into a comparison of the Apple corporation vs the global Church. People have looked at this concept before–how Coca Cola managed to ‘reach the world’ or how the Golden Arches went global.

And I do not think we necessarily need to adopt a large corporation mentality in Christian missions. Our goals are simply not the same.

Yet the question remains, “Why?” Is it a lack of funding? Lack of leadership? Lack of concern for the unreached?

Not half an hour before the missionary told us this story, the pastor had exhorted us, ever so gently, not to fix our eyes on the ‘difficulties’ of going out as missionaries. And perhaps behind this exhortation lay part of the reason why world evangelism is not complete yet.

He reminded us that missions is not just an intellectual understanding, a matter of study  or even sending off short-term teams and then ticking “missions” off our list of things a Christian is supposed to do.

We sang,
“In Your Presence all our fears are washed away… hosanna..You are the God who saves us…come have your way among us…”

I can only pray now that He WILL have his way among us–even if He sends us to the ends of the earth!

New

When something is new, we all tend to put our best foot forward. We take care of the new car, wiping every spill, polishing away every scratch. Newly painted walls receive our utmost attention when the first scuff mark appears. Newness sometimes bring challenges, like when we have a new baby to care for or a new husband to adjust to, or a new home to move into.

And then there is the most important new thing–the new life we have when we come to Christ and give him all of our old stuff.  When we first experience this new life, we love to tell people about it. We bask in the newness and celebrate it and feel that we are soaring.

But of course we all know, new things don’t stay new forever. Clothes get holes in them, printers don’t work exactly as they should, children don’t do what we say, husbands have their own ideas about running the family (and they snore), walls have so many marks that it seems useless to try to clean them any more. 
Our spiritual life gets its share of dents from disappointment, scratches from sorrow and blemishes from our blundering tongues. We fall, we break down. The light of our eyes that were once on fire grow dim.

But hear the flesh-defying truth: with God there is something new every day.

Even in his Lamentation, Jeremiah could not deny:

Because of the LORD’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are NEW every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
Lamentations 3:22-23

Ash Wednesday, my traditional reading

Ash-Wednesday
by T S Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

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Domestic Pharisee

  • Phar·i·see
    noun /ˈfarəsē/
    Pharisees, plural

    • A member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity
    • A self-righteous person; a hypocrite

When it comes to housekeeping, I am a domestic Pharisee.  Keeping the outside of the dish clean. Making sure the living room is presentable for guests. Keeping the dining table clear when it’s not in use. Posting only what is nice online.

And

Piling all the unsorted, unorganized mess in the bedroom, where I can close the door–and lock it if I need to–against visitors who might wander too deep and see too much.

It’s an easy way to make people think you have it all together. They aren’t likely to open cupboards  or look behind seldom-moved pieces of furniture.

“You’re so organised!” they exclaim with amazement. They don’t know how wardrobes are falling apart on the inside. How water is leaking somewhere under the pristine countertop and causing fungus to grow. How the damp and dark places are seldom exposed to the light, how the falling down things are never reinforced and maintained to keep them going longer.

They don’t know and although I feign humility, I don’t open the mouldy cupboards for them to see the truth.

As much as I am trying to find a place for everything and put everything in it’s place, the fact is: the cupboards are full. The handed down clothes that the children can’t wear yet sit in a bag in the corner.

Matthew 23: 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Now, I am a born-again, God-fearing, Bible-thumping Evangelical Christian. I’ve read all the right books, been on the craziest mission trips, had all the best training (and I bless InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for setting me on the road to growth and learning). To top it all off, I homeschool my children, teach Sunday school, and lead a cell group. My Christian resume is superb. It’s all beautiful on the outside–most of the time.

One day the outer veneer began to wear thin. I was doing my best to keep up appearances. But she saw right through it. She didn’t confront me right away. How could she? I only see her a few times a year. She’s a fellow homeschool mom but we have very different lifestyles and methods although we are both committed to Jesus and to homeschooling. She waited 3 days and she knew she had to do it. She sent me a text and said she couldn’t get me off her mind….that she sensed a lot of anger, bitterness, and frustration in me. She offered empathy and prayers and one last exhortation: “Keep your focus right, sister.”

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“Ouch” is too mild a word but I can’t spell the kind of gut-wrenching pain I felt when I read her message.  First it was the pain of vulnerability–she (by the Holy Spirit) had seen through my activities that evening to my heart…and what she saw was not pretty. I panicked. I wanted to defend myself, to find a way to cover up the filthy interior that she had glimpsed…but I knew I couldn’t. I began to come clean. To confess to a few dear friends who put up with me on a regular basis.

You see, FOCUS was the word I had chosen as my theme for the year. I was three months into the year and severe myopia had already set in. At 8 months in now I feel the lenses are outdated again. So I am starting to write. It is one of the things I know I am to do to help keep my focus right and to help regularly cleanse the inside of the dish. I am sure I will stumble and fall. And I am just as sure that He will lovingly cushion my fall with Grace, correct my vision and set my focus right again.