On a Sunday

Sitting in the worship service, looking around at others, I may only see ordinary people, but if I look closer, with eyes of gratitude, I may catch a glimpse of a higher truth. I am part of something truer than what my tired eyes are taking in. God has transformed his people into impressive examples of love and grace. I am not naive; I still acknowledge the pain and brokenness among us. We are far from exemplary on our own merits. There a few struggling with addictions among us. Some have been abused; some have abused others. Many endure profound grief. We stand and sing, however, grateful together.


Sometimes I may not sing. Most of the times I am not able to carry a tune, much less contribute to the four-part harmony our tribe practices. Sometimes I dislike the song. Yes, sometimes I am distracted by the unnecessary apostrophe floating on the screen, or the wrong homonym renders the lyrics confusing.

That’s ok, because I see she has made it to church today. She is up and down chasing crayons from under the pew, escorting wriggling legs down the aisle, and back up again, solo, but smiling. I wonder if she hears the sermon…if it is discouraging that she expends this much energy when she could have stayed home, slept in.

He gets up to say a prayer. He seems so austere at times, almost cheerless. We rarely see eye to eye on extemporaneous doctrinal issues. I have found him annoyingly conservative. But there he stands, wording a prayer of contrition so beautifully I am ashamed to remember a time his gentle words comforted me in a difficult moment last year.

We sing.

We pray.

We hear the words of God together.

It all adds up to greater substance than it would initially appear. Some of us are lonely. Some of us depressed. Some of us are struggling with sins we have dragged about as on “ponderous chains” for years. Some of us are just thankful, hopeful, eagerly leaning in to God’s promises. We live and sing and pray as if they are already true. And they are.

God transforms the ugly into something weak and fragile, distinctly vulnerable, but beautiful.

She bothers me sometimes with her abrupt manner of speaking, as if she has no time for being polite, for choosing grace over expediency. I don’t know it, but I annoy him with my stubbornness, forever asserting myself when I could have just let it go. All of these are examples of what the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins meant by “dappled things.” Somewhere among the archaic language, the newly-hyphenated words, and melodic alliterations, we understand his message. We are a mess. We are freckled and plain, mundane, tedious, distorted and ineffective. We are hopelessly hopefully ordinary.

Pied Beauty

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow and plough;

And all trades their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who, knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers -forth whose beauty is past change.

Praise him.

We are, indeed, “all things counter, original, spare, strange.”

And not unlike Elisha and his servants seeing the LORD’s angel armies for the first time encircling Israel upon battle, we gather on a Sunday in pews nominally comfortable, with people who only appear ordinary, with “landscape plotted and pieced,” and we catch a glory-glimpse. And we praise him.

We gather each Sunday, for “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16).

Praise him.

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The name – of it – is ‘Autumn’-

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The name- of it – is ‘Autumn’-

The hue – of it – is Blood –

An Artery – upon the Hill –

A Vein – along the Road –

 

Great Globules – in the Alleys –

And Oh, the Shower of Stain –

When Winds – upset the Basin –

And spill the Scarlet Rain –

 

It sprinkles Bonnets – far below –

It gathers ruddy Pools –

Then eddies like a Rose – away –

Upon Vermilion Wheels –

 

by Emily Dickinson

 

He made himself nothing

I have been reflecting on what Christ renounced to live here on earth.

 “rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In his book Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, Dallas Willard states that we are to live as Christ would have lived our specific life.

“As Jesus’ disciple… You are learning from Jesus how to lead your life as he would lead your life if he were you. Yes, the very life you have…there isn’t a person on this earth Jesus couldn’t have been. .. he relinquished supreme power. He learned to live  in the kingdom of God as an ordinary human being…He could live in your circumstances now.” P. 54

He could have been any one of us. Instead he was a carpenter’s son, living on the wrong side of the Pax Romana. How would he have lived your life in particular? Perhaps that is part of what he gave up- the ability to live all lives, to be omnipresent and to see humanity from every perspective. Jesus was only able to live the one life here on earth, just as we are limited. We can only see with the single pair of eyes that God created for us. How would Jesus have used my blue eyes in America in the 21st century?

Our prayer might be to catch glimpses of his omniscient vision as Creator and Savior. As C. S. Lewis encourages us,

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

In this way, may he teach us as the all-knowing God of the universe, and may his pattern as a man speak to us of his compassion and wisdom as he also was limited in his humanity.

Cultures and Christians: Book Recommendations

Throughout the approximately twenty centuries since Christ, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth have lived in a variety of cultural climates, both apathetic to their cause and enraged by it. Regardless of the century, language, and environment, the levels of freedom and comfort, Christians have always existed. There has never been a time when they have died out. Christianity’s success cannot be predicted by the right moral culture, nor the most conducive political climate. The Christian confession of Christ as Lord spread like wildfire during the Roman occupation and persecution of the first century. Yet, Christianity was also arguably strengthened during the American Restoration movement as it seemed to enjoy a burst of freedom. So, whether or not our cultural environment approves of us does not seem to indicate a tell-tale sign of how well we will flourish in it.

In recent months I have been reading and reflecting a great deal on culture and the proper response to it as a Christian. My natural instinct, honestly, is to shrink back from the excessive amounts of pop culture and trends. However, much of the books, articles, and podcasts I have been reading and listening to have urged me to think more broadly about our responsibilities and opportunities to engage the people around us. I am feeling challenged more than ever to spread truth and beauty and goodness in His name.

I would love to recommend the following books to those of you considering how to live successfully in this post-Christian culture ( in whichever culture you find yourself) as followers of Jesus, while still making genuine connections with people. We do not need to despair, for we know the end of the story. We do not need to be silent, biding our time.

For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 GNB

We need not fight and rage against the machine, for his light of peace is within us. Instead, we have the opportunity to create a culture which best reflects his beautiful face.

Although some of these books have a more specialized focus than others, there is a striking similarity and continuity of thought among them. I encourage you to read these in communion with others and discuss how you can build a culture that is faithful to Christ and open to loving all people.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher is a Roman Catholic turned Eastern Orthodox writer and editor. His book, The Benedict Option, received mixed response as some felt it to be too pessimistic and fear-inducing. I found it both challenging and poignant, and a catalyst to aid me in refocusing my purpose. Dreher makes use of both the symbols of Noah’s ark and Ezekiel’s streams of water “issuing from the altar.” In his mind the Church is both the ark and a wellspring.

“The church, then, is both Ark and Wellspring- and Christians must live in both realities. God gave us the Ark of the church to keep us from drowning in the raging flood. But He also gave us the church as a place to drown our old selves symbolically in the water of baptism, and to grow in new life, nourished by the never-ending torrent of His grace.”

p. 238

Dreher uses the Rule of St. Benedict to make application as to how we should order our lives today. He warns against a consumerist society, promotes a certain amount of asceticism, and believes in prayer as work and worship. He advocates for groups of Christians working together for the stability and flourishing of their local communities. Religious liberty, according to Dreher, is of vital importance if our cultures are to thrive. He reminds us of examples in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and China under the era of Communism. As Christians in America today, we have a choice.

“Part of the change we have to make is accepting that in the years to come, faithful Christians may have to choose between being a good American and being a good Christian.”

p. 89

“Secede culturally from the mainstream. Turn off the television. Put the smartphones away. Read books. Play games. Make music. Feast with your neighbors. It is not enough to avoid what is bad; you must also embrace what is good…ceasing to believe that the fate of the American Empire is in our hands frees us to put them to work for the Kingdom of God in our own little shires.”

pp. 98-99

Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Life by Makoto Fujimura

In 2009 Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura was commissioned by Crossways to create an illuminated manuscript, The Four Holy Gospels, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. It was published in 2011 as part of the English Standard Version. The artist is the founder of the Fujimura Institute and the International Arts Movement, which “creates a new paradigm by lovingly tending to cultural soil and caring for artists as pollinators of the good, true and beautiful.” In his book Culture Care, Fujimura encourages all artists, regardless of media, to produce high quality fiction, film, paintings, sculpture, poetry, etc. in order to cultivate a Creator-honoring culture.

“The God revealed in the Bible has endowed creation with overflowing beauty. There God is not characterized by utility but by abundant love. God desires his creatures-especially those who in Christ are adopted as his children-also to be creative and generative.”

pp. 96-97

As God is the Creator, we are likewise creators, as we bear his image. Fujimura challenges modern-day Christians to move about their spheres in ways they have perhaps not done before. He asks us to look at the entire story of the Bible and to find our place in it today.

“…churches often present the middle two elements (fall and redemption) but rarely connect the whole story of the Bible-that begins in creation and ends in new creation-with the stories of our present lives and communities. We often issue this great book, reducing it to a book of rules, a checklist for earning our way into heaven, or a guidebook for material prosperity or personal well-being. Many churches replace God as Artist with God as CEO of the universe…

Christian communities are thus often busy with programs, but rarely seen as a creative force to be reckoned with, let alone as a power of good that affects whole cities and gives everyone a song to sing.”

pp. 95-96

Fujimura believes in truth telling, but also believes that the Christian has more to tell than just the darkness and grimness of reality. There is more to the real world than brokenness and despair.

“In The face of the undeniable and often unbearable human suffering all around us, we must still affirm beauty and work to make our culture reflect it. This is why a culture care approach will encourage truth telling about alienation, suffering and oppression alongside truth telling about justice, hope, and restoration.”

p. 56

Fujimura invites all artists- and here his definition of an artist or creator is wide and encompassing- to participate in culture care, in creating and restoring.

The third book recommendation, A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping our Kids Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, was just published this year. The authors make a point early in the book of defining culture as morally neutral. There is nothing inherently negative about living within a local culture. On the contrary, some cultures may be extremely moral and beneficial. As creatures, we were created to make something of the world. That is, our culture, not the created elements, the trees, the lakes, the birds, but the art, the cuisines, the sports, the entertainment and myriad of expressions that converge to comprise any one culture. Stonestreet and Kunkle writes particularly to parents, church leaders, youth leaders, and anyone who has spiritual contact with teens. They articulate words of warning and encouragement to both teens and their adults to aid in teaching and training young people to build their faith. They frequently describe us as “image-bearers” in this broken world. Like Fujimura, the authors of A Practical Guide to Culture do not see culture as something to be shunned, but something to take advantage of – a beautiful opportunity on which to construct something beautiful and healing.

“Cultivating is exactly the sort of behavior the Scriptures would have us expect from God’s image bearers… God made humans with the capacity to do something with His world, and that’s exactly what we do. Culture was an integral part of God’s plan for us and His world from the very beginning.”

Celebrating contemporary artists and leaders, the authors give nods to several people involved in various fields who are creating beautiful culture. Educator and Founder and President of Celebrate Kids, Inc., Dr. Kathy Koch, the aforementioned artist Makoto Fujimura, and S.D. Smith, author of the middle grade novel series The Green Ember, and others are all lauded as having accepted the call to be faithful in their sphere, “celebrating, creating, confronting, co-opting, and correcting” in the world.

Addressing contemporary topics like LGBTQ issues, screens and technology, and the media, Stonestreet and Kunkle discuss how Christians should biblically view them. By far the strongest sections of this book are their treatment of racism and Part Four: Christian Worldview Essentials, a final section on teaching our children a Christian worldview. Stonestreet and Kunkle remind us that tolerating racial or ethnic barriers is a sin.

“Do we find our identity in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have we cultivated a posture of forgiveness and reconciliation or of hostility and bitterness? Do we simply dismiss all concerns about racism without listening carefully to others?

Followers of Jesus don’t have the option of tolerating racial or ethnic barriers. It’s sin. We take our cues from Scripture,not from culture.”

The heart of the book lies in the final section. It could easily be read by an adult to help a teen, or by the teen herself. Stonestreet and Kunkle present the Christian worldview in describing why we believe the Bible to be historically true and accurate, but also why we consider it to be the very words of God. They also help teens navigate other world views, and show them how honest people might disagree with them.

“Classical tolerance actually entails disagreement about important matters, but we ‘tolerate’ those who hold differing opinions, treating one another with respect even while disagreeing.”

In a world that purports tolerance, we see pitifully few discussions which seem to epitomize a tolerant or understanding spirit. How much richer and more beautiful would our cultural soil be if we were able to engage our neighbors with truth, beauty and goodness, all while listening?

Considering Dubai

A cardboard box, some packing tape, and a long green line of yarn. A stub of a carrot and an orange crayon. This is all that is needed, apparently, for a six and seven year old to catch a rabbit. A light hand on a shoulder, leaning in for a whisper, the two look as if they have known each other for a couple of years. Not two days.

Our new neighbors have a smiling toddler with a constant grin and a full head of thick, jet black hair. This family is originally from Pakistan, and I marvel how this robust, stocky young man could belong to the slight young woman. Her brother and his family are visiting from Dubai. For the last two days, G and their six year old son, who enthusiastically sings the lyrics to “Eye of the Tiger,” have quickly become acquainted. They have plotted to trap rabbits darting about the yard at early dusk, created itemized lists of supplies for various projects, caught grasshoppers,engaged in squirt gun battles, and examined fireflies in the dark. Their visit is coming to an end later this week, and we may or may not see them again, but I believe this has been a happy event in G’s summer.

He has enjoyed having a conveniently located playmate. He understands how happy his new friend is to discover a temporary friend right next door to fill in for more permanent ones back in Dubai. G is proud to be a part of this little boy’s first United States experience.

After their first playtime together, G and I searched a map of the Middle East so he could discover Dubai nestled on the coast of the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia.

And, friends, this is how a child might best learn geography, cultures, compassion, openness, and an eagerness for the greater world. Even right next door. The world is probably closer than you think.

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Looking at the map, G said, “Well, I never really thought about going to Dubai before.” He shrugged. “But I guess we could go.”

For our records: First grade

In ten years I suspect I will look back on G’s first grade year, and primarily remember us reading together. I might remember him lugging his math manipulatives up and down the stairs, or driving him to his art co-op class, but what I will likely remember most is all the books we read when he was six…together, cuddled up on my bed in the middle of the day, or out on the patio swing in the back yard.

Our daily read alouds were such an integral part of our day. They provided tremendous opportunities for discussion. I believe if we had ever skipped reading on any one day,  I would not have felt we had “done school”, even if we had successfully covered math, writing and art.

In order to collect ideas and grow our book list,  I enjoy seeing what other people are reading with their kids. For our records, and in case you are interested, here is what G and I read for first grade.

G’s READING LIST 2016-2017 SCHOOL YEARIMG_7565

  Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

 The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

  Leif the Lucky,

Columbus,

Pocahontas,

George Washington,

Benjamin Franklin,

Abraham Lincoln,  and

Buffalo Bill by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

Ember Falls by S.D. Smith

In theYear of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Revolutionary War on Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborne

George vs. George by Rosalyn Schanzer

Half-Magic by Edward Eager

The Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager

Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager

The Time Garden by Edward Eager

Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

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G looks at his reading list.

Me: What was your favorite book this year?

G: Probably Winnie the Pooh and the Half-Magic books. Oh, and The Green Ember.

Me: Why those?

G: They were just so magical and fun.

Lilies in Solidarity

With a heavy heart I approach the Easter season. Death is inextricably intertwined with this holiday of faith. In order for there to be rejoicing on Sunday, there must be the death on Friday afternoon. And yet although He died “once for all,” (Romans 6:10) there are still countless lives lost every year because of hatred.  As a Christian, I know these are not pointless deaths. They are horrible and unthinkable. Yet in Christ’s powerful narrative over death He has brought victory.


Here I am talking about the bombings at Coptic churches in Tanto and Alexandria, Egypt this past Palm Sunday. This brief post is a prayer for the families and for the perpetrators that Christ’s love and sacrifice will prevail in all of our hearts. I pray for peace. I pray not only for the kind of peace which erases war and terrorism, but the true peace which obliterates any kind of animosity, jealousy, greed, avarice, envy and prejudices. I pray against even the threat of violence. I pray for the peace that passes our understanding.

The Coptics date their Christian faith and practice back to Mark’s missionary journey to Egypt around 50AD, approximately the time Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians. They broke off from what was then mainstream Christianity in 451 AD at the Council Of Chalcedon over their Christology (their view of Christ’s divinity and humanity). As I am technically a Protestant- although I dislike this term as I am not protesting anything- there are a few doctrinal and practical differences in our faith. This, however, is immaterial at such a time as this. I can only bow my head in prayer for such a people, who for centuries have been persecuted, and yet still seem to endure, who in recent years are only further persecuted, threatened and even murdered for wearing the name of Christ. May He keep His promises and strengthen His church.


We live less than half a mile from this Coptic church under construction. It is a daily reminder of the universality of the Christian faith. Even in the suburban Midwest, I feel a connection to those far away. What could I possibly do besides pray for these people? Indeed, what is the greatest thing we could do, if not to pray?! 

And so I pray. Yes, I pray for peace. I pray for their safety. I pray for the terrorism to cease. But as the early church also prayed, I pray we also have the boldness to live lives of faith.

I want them to know we are praying as well. It may seem trivial, but my husband has been talking about giving them flowers in our support. Ever since the January bombings of last year. And so, today, S and G and I brought them Easter lilies. Lilies in solidarity. I do not know if these Christians have any personal connections to Egypt, or any family members living there. Perhaps they have all been here for generations. But, we take this time at Easter to rejoice together that there is Life even in the middle of death. And I am encouraged that there are others around me who are struggling to live out their faith as well.

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself…

Colossians 1:18-20 KJV

Please pray with me for them.

Walls

We have been hearing a lot of talk about walls. Some people want to build them, and some are concerned about who is going to pay for them. There have been walls throughout history. Some were constructed to keep others out. Automatically, the Great Wall of China comes to mind. It was built in 221-206 BCE by millions of slave laborers in order to obstruct the Mongolian armies from invading.

The Jewish Old Testament writer Nehemiah, after leaving his position in exile as cup-bearer to the Persian king, also built a wall. Nehemiah led the the returning exiles in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. Unfortunately, this was also the topic of the inaugural day sermon with erroneous modern political applications. Both of these walls are examples of division in order to keep invaders out.

Likewise, there have been, and are, walls to sequester or keep people inside its borders. The Berlin Wall, which was suddenly and clandestinely erected in 1961, divided West and East. It separated families and friends for nearly thirty years. Prison walls, with their high fences, armed guards and barbed wires, do the same for punitive purposes.

Yet, two-thousand years ago a greater wall was razed.

“…at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.” Ephesians 2:12-15, emphasis mine.

Now, there is a vast difference between political attitudes and spiritual truths. We must be careful not to confuse patriotism with our spiritual identity in Christ. The first is temporal, the last is eternal. The former is confined, the latter is universal. One necessarily focuses on divisions and pits “us” versus “them.” The other focuses on  our similarities and recognizes our shared humanity and dependence on our Creator.

Regardless of what any nation chooses to do to “secure their borders,” or  “protect their people,” as followers of Jesus Christ, we must see ourselves as a people of God not to be protected, but to protect.

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

also

“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10: 19

Here I am not speaking to American agendas. Honestly, I don’t understand enough about the formation of foreign policy. Here, instead, I speak to the heart of a Christian, whether that Christian resides in the United States,or Egypt, Hungary, the United Kingdom or Burma. Our heart must be against walls of animosity and criticism. While American policies may fluctuate between good and evil, as Christians we live to a higher standard, that of God’s justice and righteousness. The walls have already been brought down. So when I meet someone from Mexico whose child is having a difficult time adjusting at school, I will not question whether or not they are here legally. So, I will no longer question whether or not my recent financial contribution was used in a way that I deem responsible. So, when I hear in someone’s voice anger and hurt at past wrongs, I will not discredit their pain. I will not put up defenses. Instead, I will strive to discover commonalities, and see them through the eyes of Christ’s compassion. Our task is simply to step across the previously existing lines, and be grateful.

What They’ll Remember

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“Come and lie down with me, Mom! Just for a minute.” Exhausted, and ready to be on my own, my six-year-old pleads with me to snuggle in bed with him as I tuck him in for the night. His safari bedsheets and fleece dinosaur pajamas create quick, blue sparks with each wiggle. I would never have volunteered this on my own, but once I lay down, I realize the simple blessing my son has given me. It is something I will remember. We are having a moment, together. It quiets me, and I can feel the roughness and chaos of the day slowly ebbing from my fingertips and the top of my head. I let out a sigh.

“Aah, this was a good day.” G smiles under the covers.

And it was.  I had just forgotten. I had chosen stress instead of appreciation and gratitude, so it had seemed rushed. I had felt there were so many things to get done that day, but that moment, cuddled up in whispers, there in my son’s twin-sized bed, I had been given the most productive part of my day.  And that is what I am choosing to remember. I hope he does, too.

In the past couple of weeks, a few different people have encouraged me to ask my children to name their favorite family Christmas tradition. All children love receiving presents, and sometimes it seems our family doesn’t do anything particularly unique to any other American family for Christmas. Sometimes, I wonder what they will really remember about our family traditions once they are grown.  I encourage you to ask your own children. It may surprise you once you do. To be honest, I half expected my own boys to shrug their shoulders, and not know what to say. However, they each had a ready answer.  Their answers made me smile for their simplicity, like taking a moment to lie down on a bed, and for the fact that I recognized our particular family through their responses. We do celebrate in special ways I believe they will remember.

Here is how they answered:

G ‘s favorite is eating chocolate croissants on Christmas morning after emptying the stockings.

A likes picking out his own new Christmas ornament each year at Cracker Barrel or Kohl’s, and he likes the beautiful candle light Christmas Eve service at our church.

S remembers eating Trader Joe’s Panettone every year since he was little. Seriously, he would sit and eat an entire one on his own if I let him.

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Nothing special….except that they are. They are special memories because they have become something we expect.  They began effortlessly and unintentionally, but have become part of our favorite traditions. They are foods and moments and shared experiences. We can’t imagine the holiday, our life, our relationships without them. You may go to Trader Joe’s and enjoy the panettone, but in no other house does it taste as sweet as in ours.

Candles and pastries and ornaments. A quiet moment lying together on the bed.  This is what they’ll remember.

The Unanimous Election

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Yesterday, while G was coloring in the other room, I heard him say to his brother, “We should just really get rid of this college stuff.” A month ago I would have thought he was making a disparaging remark against higher education, but I knew better. You do, too, right? He was coloring a map of the United States, exclusively in red and blue. Don’t worry. This is not a political post; it’s an historical one. I’m not an overtly political person. This is a post about living in good history books, and choosing to concentrate on the positive.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

This year G and I are delightfully making our way through all the D’Aulaire American history books beginning with Leif the LuckyIt just so happens we are now in the middle of George Washington Because all of my guys and I have always loved history and geography, it wasn’t difficult to roam the house and compile a fun collection of supplemental reads and activities.

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G was impressed to learn that George Washington spent time copying out texts as well. Somehow, I had kept this little used copy workbook from several years ago. Handwriting by George by Green Leaf Press may be a fun way to interest your young one in writing practice as it incorporates history and art. On one side your child can print or write the rules and manners of the day, while the other side of the page provides space for an appropriate illustration. G was diligent with his handwriting but got silly with the drawing. A perfect combination.

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It was easy to print off this trivia sheet and George Washington coloring page, thanks to Zack Franzen, illustrator of The Green EmberYou can print one for yourself here. He has interesting tidbits on the type of soap G.W. may have used.

George Washington is the only United States President who was voted in unanimously, and both terms! Of course, he had no competition. But I like to think there was no competition, because American sentiment was unanimous in their approval of him.img_7135

George vs. George is another great read. Rosalyn Schanzer takes us through the strengths and weaknesses of both of these men of power. She does a good job of using humor, human interest and presenting opposing perspectives. I like both of these reads for young readers. Particularly, the D’Aulaires do not shy away from presenting uncomfortable material, but they treat it gently. Their quality writing and illustrations do not lean too heavily on the deconstructionist theories of history that many school textbooks seem to present today. Please check this website for more of the D’Aulaire’s works.

All three of my guys have spent hours reading The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. G has read several of Jack’s and Annie’s adventures already. Revolutionary War on Wednesday is a good book to include with our study. It even includes quotes from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. 

Here are some of G’s favorite tidbits he has learned so far about our nation’s first President.

  • As a boy he wrote out copywork, too.
  • His fake teeth were made from animal teeth, not wood.
  • He was born in Virginia.
  • We see his picture everyday on our money.
  • He learned many things about hunting and the land from his friend “Halfking,” an Indian chief.