Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic

IMG_2754 2

By mid-September students everywhere have returned to classrooms and if it were marketed simply as “reading, writing, and arithmetic”, most would scoff. They would wonder where the STEM programs were and what computer programs were being utilized. It tends to be easy in our modern era to deride anything that is more than a few years old as antiquated and by implication, “less than”. I get that! I spent 15 years of my life teaching in a public educational setting in the 1980’s and early 1990’s and was blessed to have one of Apple’s first computers in my special education classroom. That is nearly 30 years ago and behind the times in many ways by 2017 standards.


My education did not start that way as a child. I had the rare privilege of spending grades one and two in rural Ohio in a one-room school where eight grade levels managed to be taught by one teacher with fairly amazing results. (For many homeschool mothers today that would not be surprising.) I confess that I learned a great deal by overhearing the lessons of students in older grades.


The school I attended was the same one my father had attended years before me, but the curriculum had changed by the time I entered first grade at age five. My father’s class used the famed McGuffey readers and other texts authored by McGuffey as well as Ray’s arithmetic books, texts that educated and trained thousands of students in the late images (1)nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I cherish a few copies of those very books that I have on my bookshelves that belonged to my dad and his sisters.


Few except homeschoolers would consider using these texts today since they went beyond basic academic subject matter. Stories in reading texts were meant not only to teach reading, but also a set of moral principles and values, love of country, and respect for parents.


When I review the contents of these books on my shelves, I see words and concepts that might cause some contemporary students to stumble not only due to vocabulary words that are no longer common but also due to the level of thinking and maturity evidenced.


That old fashioned generation without smartphones, high tech computers and scientific calculators managed to build the economic engine of the United States. They did so by 22f0da4aec880a351ca034c698c89bfe49b2ed58grounding it on moral, biblical, ethical values and principles as a sure foundation along with academic standards we all now benefit from and take for granted or even shun.


Perhaps we have gone too far, however, in this modernization and started to see something was lost in the process. Homeschooling seems to be one response to an educational system that set aside the very values we all once cherished. Many ridiculed this movement when it started but despite the critics, students who are homeschooled are standing tall in their accomplishments equaling and often exceeding the academic performance of their public school peers. The subjects taught them are quite inclusive and include things like rhetoric and dialectic skills as well as numerous languages, math, sciences, history, geography, music,  and arts. Many are taught in various co-op formats where students have spirited interaction around subject matter taught by highly educated mothers (and sometimes dads).


As I reflect on the return to studies by millions of children around the world, I am especially grateful for mothers (and sometimes dads) who are investing time, skills, and numerous resources to homeschool their children. These parents are unsung heroes who sacrifice a great deal in an effort to hold a high standard of academic performance as well as skills such as thinking, evaluating, organizing, time management and more. In the mix they base everything on moral principles that respect God, country, family values, and authority. They are not wimpy followers who are socially inept, but leaders who have been challenged to consider consequences and take responsibility for not only learning material, but also their own behavior and choices.


How do I know this? Our daughter and daughter-in-law have homeschooled all six of our grandchildren in Maryland and Tennessee. Our oldest granddaughter earned a scholarship and graduated with honors from an excellent university with a BSN this spring. Our oldest grandson earned a trustee scholarship to a highly ranked private college in a pre-medical program and is studying abroad in Chile this semester as a college junior. Another grandson is hard at work in his freshman year of college looking at how he can use his creativity and marketing to help make the world a better place. The remaining three grandchildren are able to hold their own in discussing nearly any subject that comes up as seventh, ninth, and eleventh graders. The oldest of these takes AP courses and writes a column in an online student newspaper.


These six have played on basketball, soccer, and swim teams. The one who played high school basketball was on a top nationally ranked team. Among them we have singers, thespians, pianists, a drummer, a violinist, and a cellist. None of them are socially inept or backward. All have held various jobs and completed internships with more to come.


Today I salute my daughter and daughter-in-law for equipping the next generation with the academic skills and moral fiber to make a difference in the world and for eternity. I am so proud of both of you.


Perhaps the admonition in Proverbs 4:7 ESV says it best:

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”




The Discipline of Waiting



Of all things that we humans do poorly, waiting (for or on almost anything) is where we are most likely to score a poor grade. It’s strange that we struggle with it when we have so many opportunities to experience it. We experience it in big and small ways more times than we can count. If practice makes us better at anything, I wonder why we don’t improve more in this area?


Some of our “waiting practice” goes with whatever season of life we find ourselves in. As children we are waiting for a new bike, waiting for Christmas, waiting to go camping, waiting for the treat I was promised, and waiting to grow up to be able to do all the things I see older kids getting to do. A bit later those same children are waiting to graduate from school, waiting to buy their first car, or waiting on that right person to share the rest of life with.


Adulthood brings other waiting related to the season. There are things like waiting on a promotion or a raise, waiting for a child to be born, waiting for a service member to return home, waiting for a diagnosis, waiting on approval for a mortgage, and more.


There are all those mundane daily kinds of waiting too. There is the “waiting in line” at grocery stores, gas pumps, theaters, doctor’s offices, traffic lights, and toll plazas.


Waiting exposes the truth we cannot avoid: We are not in control.


Waiting tests what we know or believe about ourselves, the situation I am in, and certainly what I know or believe about the Lord and His faithfulness, mercy, and goodness. What I know and believe will have a direct influence on my level of hope.


In Learning to Know Esther Meek reminds us of what hope can be:


“…well-placed hope does not disappoint us. It is not a certainty, but it is perhaps delicious for its anticipation. We rejoice in the prospect of knowing.”


As believers we wait in expectation for God’s coming. To the degree we know the truth Scripture teaches us, we watch for Him as a result of the fulfillment of the first promise of His coming to earth. Without a certainty of when He will arrive, we have the confidence that He will. The first knowing helps us to have confidence in the promise of His return. Wisdom teaches us what Esther Meek points out: “Certainty is an illusion.”


 The discipline of waiting does help us to know ourselves and the Lord better if we are willing to recognize that, but it also helps the Lord to know us better. Perhaps we fear that as well.


For all the times in Scripture that we see someone long to know, see, or hear from the Lord, when He shows up as an angel, in a burning bush, or as a warrior what happens first is very often fear or terror. Quoting Esther Meek again, The gaze of God is both what we fear and what we can’t do without…Our knowing is warped, especially when it comes to knowing God, because of human rebellion against God. There is something inside us that doesn’t want to know him, even as another part of us does. Our blindness thus requires the terror of his meeting us.”


 In the timeless work of C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy very much wants Mr. Beaver to assure her this lion he speaks of (Aslan) is safe. Most of us recall Mr. Beaver’s answer: “Safe! Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good! He is the king, I tell you.”


 The discipline of waiting turns us toward seeking to know the Lord and His response to where we are and how we are.


What we miss is that He is the one who is pursuing us!


He pursues us in the midst of our waiting and for whatever we may feel about that, His pursuit of us is what will lead to calm in the midst of waiting. Lucy discovered that and chose not to run.


“Seated on the back of a loving lion, as Lucy found, is the best of all possible places to be.” Esther Meek




Lessons from the Vineyard II



As I began to walk through the lush vineyard, it was evident that it was the beginning of harvest time. Row upon row of grape vines stood planted in equal distances from one another. The hidden roots had produced sturdy vines branching out in two directions guided by wires above them so that the branch of one vine intersected with the branch of another.


The vintner had pruned all the branches lower on the vine to allow the nourishment for the grapes to be at the top of the branches. He eliminated anything that would hinder the health and productivity of the vines. Grape clusters hung heavy on the vines in varying shades of purple, blue, and green. Mesh screen on both sides of each row of vines secured and protected the grapes from becoming dislodged from the vines and falling to the ground. The arrangement of the well pruned vines near the soil, the stakes, wires, and mesh also allowed the sun to shine on the grapes uncovered from the branches themselves.



At the end of the rows beautiful red roses bloomed on the bushes planted there as guardians of the vines. They are perfectly suited for their assignment since both roses and grape vines are susceptible to some of the same diseases. Various types of mildew and fungus can attack the vines, but the rose bushes help the vintner to catch evidences of the diseases in early stages so they can be treated and the grapes will not be harmed or lost.


Even though some varieties were not fully ripened, others were already being picked. The cool September breeze and the warm sunshine would need to complete their work for the other varieties to be ready. The vintner would watch carefully for the exact time each varietal would produce the sugar content and taste he desired.


But long before this season of promised harvest, the hard work of preparing the soil was done to assure the exact needed nutrients were worked into the ground. Then the stakes were installed that would support the young vines as they grew and later held up their burgeoning branches of fruit.


The vintner knew well the value of protecting the vines. This year’s harvest would come from vines that had grown and been tended for more than a few years. Any vintner knows that growing a vineyard will be a long investment. It is not unusual to be eight years until the first bottles of wine will be sold if only the juice of a new vineyard is used.


As I walked through the vineyard, my mind turned to John 15 where Jesus tells His disciples that He is the vine and we are the branches. As I considered the many steps needed to produce a good harvest of grapes, I sensed Him pointing to His patience with me (and each of us) in order for us to be all He has envisioned, to produce the harvest He has envisioned.


For years He has worked the soil of my heart to provide what is needed to even consider a harvest. He has allowed hurtful things and painful disappointments to happen because He knows they will strengthen what He has planted to ensure the harvest. He has cut away what will interfere with His plan.


I was reminded that my friend and I had come to the vineyard and winery to celebrate a harvest of sorts. We had tended a project for many months and already pruned it several times. He was showing me there was more ripening to accomplish before the harvest and perhaps some pruning also. Only then would the harvest be as He desired when He had given us the assignment.


If He were to be glorified by our efforts, it would be as a result of our humbling and His handiwork. His vision for the project was greater than ours.


He knew we were not fully equipped for the task.


He was reminding us once again of our utter dependence upon Him.


I love the way Margaret Feinberg describes the picture He was giving me in her insightful book, Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey:


“The vine is the source of everything for the branch – every nutrient, every life-giving drop of water, every hint of growth. The branch is completely dependent on the vine. But even in those moments when I grow wild or unbalanced, God is faithful as a vinedresser to perform all the small cuts I need to remain fruitful. So, in that place where I am abiding in Christ under the watchful eye of the Father, I can trust that the Father will be pruning those areas and desires in my life that don’t line up with where He wants me to go.”

















Lessons from the Vineyard – I





It was to be a time of celebration when a dear friend invited me to share a gift she received of a two-night stay at a local vineyard and winery. The time away was scheduled weeks ago to celebrate something we had worked on together. But the story was upended several days before we were to leave when we learned the project we expected to celebrate was stalled and perhaps given a deathblow.


What would the time look like now?


Despite the plans we had made, the shift did not catch the Lord off-guard. What did He have in mind? Could He restore peace to our hearts and show us the next step? We both knew He could, but how? Our hearts were crushed from the disappointing news we received.


We had not had time to process the news prior to our arrival so after catching up with each other’s lives over dinner, we sat down to see how the Lord was moving in each of our hearts. We discovered we both were certain we needed to wait on the Lord to move. This was not a time to try to fix anything we had done. It was a time to lay it down before the Lord since it was clear only He could show the way forward.


The following morning as I sat with my Bible and journal in hand, I looked for the place I had stopped the previous day. Romans 5 was the starting point. The first five verses are some of my favorites, but as I read them they spoke directly to my heart as I paused at verses three through five:


“Not only that, but 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 ESV


Suffering comes in many forms and disguises. Sometimes it comes with a dashed expectation or dream. When we look at the significant physical suffering around us, it can be easy to devalue the way our hearts and spirits can be bent low when disappointment crushes us. But it is also suffering. The harvest of suffering a significant disappointment is often doubt. That is where the Lord knew I was and His words through Paul were the balm for the hurt as well as a reminder of the truth. My spirit rested in the grateful grace and provision for that doubt that only He could provide.


A short time later I received a text from a mutual friend and prayer warrior who did not know any of what had happened or where we were staying. She wanted to schedule our next coffee date. I agreed to check my calendar. The friend who was with me suggested she meet us for lunch if she were free since she only lived five minutes from where we were.


Once more the Lord showed provision as an appointment on her calendar had just canceled. Before we went to lunch, she came to the house where we were staying and we shared with her what was happening. After fellowshipping for a while, we spent a precious season in prayer together turning everything about the project before the Lord yet again. We did not end the time with a direction, but a sweet peace. After all, He had supplied the next step a few hours earlier when she contacted me for coffee and came to fellowship and pray with us before lunch. This evidence did not escape our attention.


That evening we had dinner reservations that included a few special others who helped us with some aspect of the project. We shared the news with them at dinner with lighter hearts, but no clear path ahead.


The waitress asked us when we sat down what we were celebrating. Our response was that we were not celebrating anything. Throughout her interaction through the meal she repeated the same question and always received the same answer. Then as she brought the check she mentioned to my friend another name in passing. It was someone my friend knew and within a few moments, we shared an overview of what we hoped the celebration was to be and how it now was not. Without hesitation she laid down the check and put an arm around my friend and me as she stood between us and began praying.


IMG_2717The Lord had provided yet again. He demonstrated clearly that He knew our disappointment and wanted our hearts, minds, and spirits to be encouraged.


The following morning before we left the vineyard we talked about how the Lord met us in more than one unexpected way.


It had happened only after we had laid down the burden we carried. He had picked it up and shared the yoke.


We came to a vineyard and winery and before I left, I walked through the vineyard and sensed there was more He wanted me to see.


What He reminded me of still did not give me a direct answer, but it wrapped me in His love.


What did He show me on the walk? Join me next time to hear about the walk.












The Clock Is Ticking




In January 2017 members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board announced they were moving the Doomsday Clock thirty seconds closer to midnight. This clock has been maintained since 1947 by members of this group and represents the likelihood they feel exists for a man-made global catastrophe. By their calculation that puts us at 2 ½ minutes to midnight.


Their estimation and statement results in fear and panic in some as they consider the fate of the world. Too often the information does not lead us to consider where that should point us if they are accurate. If true, it would seem logical to repent and turn to the Lord to “set our houses in order.” The problem is that none of us naturally repents and obeys. We would prefer to suppress and deny the truth. It is too easy to vacillate between two poles: “I’m not that bad” or “I am such a mess, so terrible.” We can also dismiss current events and point to other times in history when everything appeared dire.


I am not so concerned about the Doomsday Clock, but it causes me to consider the biblical scriptural possibility that we are moving toward what we call “the end times” at an accelerated pace. For those of us who believe, scripture has never been more current and relevant to where the world is in the present day. From the beginning of God’s Word of the many things he tells us, He points to the future and what we can expect. He used the prophets inspired by His Spirit over and over again and as we trek through the Old Testament we see more than a little evidence of the truth of their fulfillment.


We should not be surprised! God is a loving Heavenly Father who desires that none of us be separated from Him. He wants us to be prepared for Him, turn to Him, and be watching with anticipation for what He will do.


More and more Bible theologians and writers are encouraging us to read Ezekiel 38 and 39. Much of what we are seeing in Russia and Iran are setting the stage for Ezekiel 38 and 39.


The headlines that disturb us become our focus.  I wonder if we have forgotten that God is at work behind the scenes ruling and overruling the affairs of mankind. That should give us a sense of anticipation even though we do not know the day or the hour that something is coming, Someone is coming.


In Mark Hitchcock’s newest book, Russia Rising, he senses the clock is ticking and counting down.


“Never before have so many signs converged so quickly in such a short span of time that correspond to the matrix of end-times events predicted in Scripture. The pieces are moving.”


In Clash of Kingdoms: What Does the Bible Say about Russia, ISIS, Iran, and the End Times, Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey refer to the Ezekiel chapters and wrote:


“The parallels between Ezekiel’s prophecy and events today are compelling, almost frighteningly so.”


 Of all the “signs of the times” that mark “the beginning of the end”, the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 and the return of the Jews is considered to be a “super sign” that sets many gears in motion. Mark Hitchcock says, “Israel is God’s timepiece – his clock. When we want to know where we are on God’s prophetic timetable, the first place we need to look is Israel.”


 A. W. Tozer has said:


“The point of Bible prophecy is not to alarm us but to alert us to the circumstances leading up to the Lord’s return. This alertness is to spur us on to be ready; and the Bible says a lot about how we can be ready for His return.”


 Our responsibility is to be ready and to not only be waiting, but to be watching. In Mark Hitchcock’s newest book, he shares a story that shifted my focus beyond the headlines and lifted my heart to where I sense we should all be. I want to share it in full as I finish this post. I hope it will encourage your heart and fill you with excited anticipation.


“I like the story about a bunch of sailors who were returning from a long voyage away from home. As the boat approached shore, the men were all looking eagerly for their wives and girlfriends on the dock. As the men scanned the crowd of women lining the railing, the air of excitement and expectancy grew. One man, however, was all alone as he watched all the other men find their wives and girlfriends, and they all embraced. But his wife was nowhere to be found. Worried, he hurried home and found a light on in his house. As he entered he was relieved to see his wife. She quickly turned and said, “Honey, I’ve been waiting for you.”  His response displayed his deep disappointment. “The other men’s wives and girlfriends were watching for them!”


Are we just waiting for Jesus, or are we watching for him? Are we watching closely?


The clock is ticking.


Live looking!”