Anger

July 30, 2006 Categories: Kid Stuff , Rants | 12 Comments  

Two boys who live across the street from us were being especially nasty to Noah this afternoon. Noah went out to tell them that he would be out soon to ride his bike and ask if they would like to join him. They responded by whispering, laughing, and running away from him without answering. This happened three times before Noah came running in the house in tears and told me what happened.

Why is it that an hour later Noah is happily riding his bike with them and I still want to smack their little heads together?

Job

July 29, 2006 Categories: Faith | 8 Comments  

“In summary, the Book of Job nails a coffin lid over one idea – the idea that every time we suffer, it’s because God is punishing us or trying to tell us something specific. It just wasn’t true of Job. Nobody deserved suffering less than Job, and yet few have suffered more. Sometimes God does send suffering as punishment (as in the ten plagues of Egypt), but you cannot argue backwards, as Job’s friends tried to do, and assume that each incident of suffering can be linked to a specific failure. God Himself contradicted their accusations.”

excerpt from pages 70-71 of Where Is God When It Hurts? by Phillip Yancey

I believe there are times that God uses or sends suffering in order to teach us something specific. But I also believe that there are times that suffering comes to us simply because we inhabit a fallen, sin-filled world. Just as good fortune and blessings can fall upon those that are unrighteous, suffering and illness can come to those who seek to follow after God.

As Christians, the danger is when we try to interpret other people’s suffering for them. If I see someone struggling with an illness, it is not up to me to tell her what God is trying to teach her through this. It is also not my place to shower her with platitudes like, “All things work together for good for those who love God…” Yes, all things do work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. But often we cannot see that in the midst of what we are suffering. When we spout Scriptures to someone who is in the depths, we reduce God’s Word to cliche.

On the other hand, God’s Word is full of passages about God’s faithfulness and comfort. A well-thought-out note with a Scripture reference that shows that God is faithful in the midst can be a solace. Well-thought-out is the key. There have been times when I struggled that I was comforted by friends who quoted Scripture to me. During those same circumstances, there have been people in my life who made me want to scream when they spouted off Scripture without thinking about how it would sound to someone in the midst of true sorrow.

When a friend is burdened by an illness or a family situation, the best thing I can do is wrap my arms around her and be present. Sit with her. Pray with her. Listen to her. Tell her I love her. Offer to help in specific ways – and then follow through.

The worst thing I can do is start a conversation with, “So, what do you think God is trying to teach you through this?” or “Do you think there is an unconfessed sin you need to deal with that could be causing this?” or “Maybe if you just had more faith…” I do not want to be one of Job’s friends.

Links for Friday

July 28, 2006 Categories: Books , Homeschooling | 1 Comment  

Kind of late, I know. We spent the day with my parents – the kids floating down a gentle stream that runs through Chewelah park. A good day.

Sherry at Semicolon is hosting a Saturday Book Review blog round-up. Check her site on Saturday and use the Mr. Linky to add your review.

The folks at A Year of Reading are compiling a list of 100 Cool Teachers in Children’s Lit. If you have a favorite teacher from a children’s book, head on over and add it to the list.

Jen at Jen Robinson’s Book Page is compiling a list of Cool Boys from Children’s Lit. She’s up to 175! Go see if she’s missed your favorite.

Homeschool eStore is offering a multi-level writing course called Igniting Your Writing to download for free.

That’s it – have a great weekend!

Congratulations, honey

July 27, 2006 Categories: This and That | 8 Comments  

My husband received wonderful news this week. He has worked for the same company for over 9 years now. He started out in the shipping department. A little over a year later, the owner took a chance and moved him to the IT department. Kevin has always been a computer nerd, but never studied it in college and therefore has no degree. Many employers would not give him a shot because of this, but he definitely had the knowledge, all self-taught. (A little plug for homeschooling, there!)

I should clarify: Kevin went to public school through high school, but the skills he is using for his new position are self-taught. He unschooled himself!

The IT department consists of two people: Kevin’s supervisor, and Kevin. Kevin designed and manages the company’s web store. He wrote a shopping cart program to deal with the specifics of their multi-level type marketing sales. He writes programs, he designs flyers, he takes photos for the labels. He is learning to program the computers that run the bottling machines. He has learned a lot and, in my opinion, been a huge asset to the company. It has been hard for him, at times, to work “under” someone else who has a very different work ethic than he does, but he has hung in there.

On Tuesday, the owner of the company called Kevin into the office and told him that Kevin’s supervisor is leaving in two weeks. Kevin is the new head of the IT department! (I know, I know, it’s only him and someone else, but still. ;) ) We don’t know any specifics about pay increase or hours yet, those details are to come. But I am very proud of him. He deserves it. I am so blessed to have a husband who goes to work every day, with no little complaining, and does his job with integrity. This allows me to be at home teaching our children. I will be forever grateful for this.

So: Congratulations, Kevin! I am so proud of you.

More on suffering

July 26, 2006 Categories: Books , Commonplace Book , Faith | 6 Comments  

“Some Christians, notably those who stress God’s miraculous healings, are puzzled by those parts of the Bible which don’t easily mesh with their beliefs. “Why didn’t God intervene more in Bible times? Why doesn’t He heal all Christians now?” they ask.

The questions flow from a persistent undercurrent of wanting to avoid pain at all costs. We seem to reserve our shiniest merit badges for those who have been healed, featuring them in magazine articles and TV specials, with the frequent side-effect of causing unhealed ones to feel as though God has passed them by. We make faith not an attitude of trust in something unseen but a route to get something seen – something magical and stupendous, like a miracle or supernatural gift. Faith includes the supernatural, but it also includes daily, dependent trust in spite of results. True faith implies a belief without solid proof – the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for. God is not mere magic.

Recently I watched a TV call-in healing program. The biggest applause came when a caller reported his leg was healed just one week before he was scheduled for amputation. The audience shouted, and the emcee declared, “This is the best miracle we’ve had tonight!” I couldn’t help wondering how many amputees were watching, forlornly wondering where their faith had failed.

A sick person is not unspiritual. The Bible does not pretend that a Christian should expect life to be easier, more antiseptic, or safer than for a non-Christian.

The natural laws which rule this planet are, on the whole, good laws which fit the design God has for men and women. And becoming a Christian does not equip us with a germfree, hermetically sealed spacesuit to protect us from the dangers of earth.

If God halted all tragedies which involved Christians, it would insulate us from complete identification with the world. Paul begged for a “thorn in his flesh to be removed,” but God declined. As a result, countless Christians have a deeper understanding of Paul; to them he becomes more human. They see him struggling, living out the principle he gives to us, that God’s grace is sufficient.”

excerpt from page 73 of Where Is God When It Hurts? by Phillip Yancey

Where is God When It Hurts?

July 25, 2006 Categories: Books , Commonplace Book , Faith | 3 Comments  

“Consider earth, our home. Let your eyes absorb the brilliant hues and delicate shadings of a sunset or a rainbow. Dig your toes into sand and feel the rolling foam and spray of a dependable ocean tide. Visit a museum and study the astract designs on butterflies – 10,000 wild variations, far more staggering than the designs of modern abstract paintings, all compressed into tiny swatches of flying fabric. Belief in a loving God is easy among these good things.

Yet the sun which lavishes the sky with color can bake African soil into dry, cracked glaze, dooming millions of people. The steady, pounding rhythm of surf can, when fomented by a storm, crash in as a twenty-foot wall of death, obliterating towns and villages. And the harmless swatches of color which spend their lifetimes fluttering among flowers are snatched and destroyed in the daily ferocity of nature’s life cycles. The world, though God’s showplace, is also a rebel fortress. It is a good thing, bent.

Consider man. The country which produced Bach, Beethoven, Luther, Goethe, and Brahms also gave us Hitler, Eichmann, and Georing. The country which fathered the Constitution of the United States brought us slavery and the Civil War. In all of us, streaks of brilliance, creativity, and compassion jostle with streaks of deceit, selfishness, and cruelty.

And so it is with pain.

Up close, pain may seem a trusted, worthy friend. The nervous system, so obviously stamped with genius, can be admired like an exquisite Raphael painting. From the nearsighted viewpoint of a bioengineer, the pain network surely appears as one of God’s greatest works.

Pain, however, comes to our attention not through the microscope, but through throbs of torment. If you relate each warning signal to its specific cause, the pain network seems well-functioning and good. But if you step back and see all humanity, a writhing, starving, bleeding, cancerous progression of billions of people marching toward death…there, a problem arises.

Philosophers love the larger, farsighted view which discusses “the sum total of human suffering,” as if all human pain could be sucked out and extruded into one great vial to present to God: “Here is all the pain and suffering of Planet Earth. How do You account for this mass of misery?” It is a dilemma. Pain may have been intended as a smooth, efficient warning system, but something about this planet is in dreadful revolt. Suffering is raging out of control. (snip)

The Bible traces the entrance of suffering and evil into the world to a grand but terrible quality of human beings – freedom. What makes us different from cavorting porpoises, roaring lions, and singing birds? Humans alone have been released from the stereotyped, instinctual behavior of an animal species. We have true, self-determining choice. We can even manipulate and control our environment.

Free man, however, introduced something new to the planet – a rebellion against the original design. We only have slight hints of the way earth was meant to be, but we do know that humanity has broken out of the mold. “We talk of wild animals,” says Chesterton, “but man is the only wild animal. It is man that has broken out. All other animals are tame animals; following the rugged respectability of the tribe of type.”

Man is wild because he alone, on this speck of rock called earth, stands up to God, shakes his fist, and says, “I do what I want to do because I want to do it, and God had better leave me alone.” We’ve built a wall separating us from God. Inside the wall, we live pretty much as we please. Sometimes we follow the rules God laid out: the way of love and peace and goodness. Sometimes we don’t.

Most remarkably, God listens. He allows man the freedom to do what he wants, defying all the rules of the universe (at least for a time). “In making the world, He set it free. God had written, not so much a poem but rather a play; a play He had planned as perfect, but which had necessarily been left to human actors and stage-managers, who have since made a great mess of it.”

Discussion of the universal aspects of suffering must begin here. Do not judge God solely by the world, just as you would not judge Picasso by his Blue Period alone. The world is in revolt. God has already hung a “Condemned” sign above the earth, and He has promised judgment. That this world full of evil and suffering still exists at all is an example of God’s mercy, not His cruelty.

Somehow, pain and suffering were unleashed as necessary companions to misused human freedom. When man chose against God, his free world was forever spoiled. (snip)

But there is a further question – would it have been good for God to create a painless world, or one with less suffering? The Bible clearly demonstrates that some things are more awful to God than the pain of His children. Consider the psychological pain Abraham underwent when God asked him to kill his son Isaac. Or the awesome pain of Himself becoming man and bearing the sins of the world. Skeptics have cited these incidents as examples of God’s lack of compassion. To me, they prove that some things – like declaring the truth – are more important on God’s agenda than the suffering-free world for even His most loyal followers.

One can argue all day about whether God could have permitted our world one less virus or three less bacteria. None of us knows the answer to those questions, or even to the prior question of how a specific virus entered the world (Was it a direct creative activity of God?). But the practical result of suffering is consistent with the Bible’s view of Planet Earth. It is a stained planet, and suffering reminds us. (snip)

You may accuse the Christian doctrine of suffering’s origin – that it came as a result of man’s aborted freedom – of being weak and unsatisfying. But at least, as Chesterton notes, the concept of a great-but-fallen world squares with what we know of reality. Some other religions try to deny that pain exists, or to rise above it. But suffering is consistent with the Christian view of the universe that reveals our home as the stained planet.

Pain, God’s megaphone, can drive me away from Him. I can hate God for allowing such misery. Or, on the other hand, it can drive me to Him. I can believe Him when He says this world is not all there is, and take the chance that He is making a perfect place for those who follow Him on pain-wracked earth.”

excerpts from pages 51-57 of Where Is God When It Hurts? by Phillip Yancey

Whining…

July 24, 2006 Categories: Rants | 10 Comments  

Okay, I haven’t wanted to whine about the heat, because from what I hear it’s hot all over. But at our house on Friday it was 116 degrees. Today at noon it was already 101, and rapidly rising. Now, if we lived in Arizona or New Mexico, that might be normal. But we live in Washington State, folks. Granted, northeastern Washington tends to get hot in the summer. We usually have a couple weeks where we get over 100 in August. If it’s this hot now, what will next month be like?

Carnival of Children’s Literature

Categories: Books , Writing | Comments Off  

The Fifth Carnival of Children’s Literature is up at Big A Little A, featuring a post by yours truly. Lots to read there, so click on over.

Confessions of Super Mom

July 23, 2006 Categories: Books , Reviews | 7 Comments  

supermom.jpg

I first “met” Melanie Hauser online when she asked if she could add me to the blogroll on The Refrigerator Door. I started reading her blog and discovered that the woman has a great sense of humor. Not only that, she has been in the same room with the great Hugh Laurie. Lucky girl.

When I saw a post on her blog offering free copies of her book, Confessions of Super Mom in return for a review, I jumped at the chance. And I am so glad I did.

Birdie Lee is an average mom. She’s divorced, raising her two teenagers, and trying to get over the very public betrayal heaped on her by her ex, the despicable Doctor Dan. Her life is pretty boring. Until the day of the Horrible Swiffer Accident.

Suddenly Birdie is transformed into a super hero. She can clean like Martha Stewart on speed, hear her daughter’s internet conversations, and reduce the most sarcastic teenagers to tears of repentance.

“I’m… I’m -” I stopped. I hadn’t said it out loud before. This was my big moment. “I’m Super – oh gee, I can’t believe I’m saying this, really, if you knew me at all you’d never believe me, but – well, I’m Super Mom!” And then I giggled.

He snorted.

“Super Mom? You? What’s with the cape? Can you fly, Super Mom?”

“No. At least not yet. But someday, I hope – hey! Wait a minute! Tell me about the beer. Where did you get it?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“Because,” I suddenly thundered, drawing myself up to my full five feet, three inches. “Because I am Super Mom. I am all mothers. I am the embodiment of nurturing. I am the seeker of truth by and for all children, including minors under twenty-one years of age, which means you, buddy. I have the power and the authority of all mothers to protect children from harm. To teach them right from wrong, to punish if necessary with a swift but gentle hand. Wow!” I paused to take a breath. “I have no idea where that came from! Oh, I can also clean with the power of ten thousand Swiffers.”

This is a funny book. Laugh-out-loud funny. And there were also a few parts that brought tears to my eyes. Watching Biride balance her new-found powers with her responsibilities at home and her budding romance with science-nerd-love-interest Carl was sheer fun. It was the perfect book for my two days next to the lake, watching the kids play in the water.

I can’t wait for the next installment in Birdie Lee’s saga, Super Mom Saves the World, due next spring. I will be eager to find out how things work out with Carl, if Doctor Dan ever gets what’s coming to him, and if Super Mom receives the elusive power of flight.

Summer Reading Challenge

Categories: Books | 1 Comment  

summer reading challenge.jpg

Finished so far:

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Out to Canaan by Jan Karon
The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge
The Novelist by Angela Hunt
The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
A New Song Jan Karon
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates
Obsessed by Ted Dekker
Last Light by Terri Blackstock
Fresh Brewed Life by Nicole Johnson (re-read)
In This Mountain by Jan Karon (audiobook)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey
Confessions of Supermom by Melanie Lynne Hauser

17 down, 1 to go. I just started Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz and I have Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church by Phillip Yancey waiting for me at the library.