Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Susannah Wesley's Apron, Updated

A friend's Facebook status today: "A.H. would love some tips from other moms at my stage in life about how to maintain a realistic devotional time. ALL suggestions welcome!!!"

I figured the easiest place to give my two cents' worth (and it's only worth just about that, mind you) is always here, so here are my thoughts...

I always have had my toddler take two naps a day until he no longer needs them. (These usually fall mid-morning and mid-afternoon by the time he's a toddler and down to only two naps a day.)

Then, when he's ready for only one nap per day (as evidenced by difficulty getting him back to sleep for the second nap) he switches to "quiet play time" in his crib, bed, or room for the morning hours
, during what was usually the morning nap. This involves open shades, Classical music playing, and special toys or books selected by you or him and brought to his room for use during this hour. (You don't want him to fall asleep, but he's used to doing so at this time. Gradually work up to an hour if this is hard for him by adding a few minutes each day, but don't let him fall asleep!) The one nap for the day usually moves to an earlier hour than it was previously, beginning sometime after lunch but never past 3:00. (Later than that interferes too much with bedtime.)

When the child is no longer needing an afternoon nap (as evidenced by no longer sleeping during this time in spite of being left in there for over an hour), his former "quiet play time" in the morning becomes a quiet reading time (where he reads silently to himself, or looks at books if you haven't been teaching him to read) and the afternoon nap time becomes "quiet play time."

What this accomplishes until very late into the "mothering young ones (and possibly homeschooling older ones)" stage of life is that there is always at least an hour during which you have no children around you. When they're very young, they're napping morning and afternoon. When they get older, they're playing morning and napping afternoon. When they're a little older, they're reading morning and playing afternoon. Finally, when they're old enough to need some serious "uninterrupted school time with Mom," they're getting it in either the morning or the afternoon slot while their little siblings sleep/play. The "other slot" (where they're still reading and siblings are still sleeping or playing) is your devotional hour, whether you choose morning or afternoon.

Guard it with your life!

When they get older still (say, six or seven), they either go to school or they have some independent work during homeschool hours, and they know by now never to disturb Mom during her hour alone with the Lord. (It has been an established "given" in either the morning or afternoon as long as they can remember.)

Once the teaching load on you (if you're homeschooling) vamps up enough to crowd out the ability to jealously guard this hour (either because you have continued to have many children and are having a hard time giving each of them the individualized instructional time they need without tapping into that devotional hour, or because you have middle and high school students whose loads are now quite heavy and which therefore take more planning/grading time from you), you will be in your early-to-mid forties and your sleep will get hormonally messed up and you'll be able to have devotional time during whatever is the unique hour that your body decides it won't sleep even though it should be doing so. (I understand this varies from woman to woman, but it is pretty universal, from what I've seen. Enjoy your full nights' sleep now, while you can! ;)

Anyway, that's how I've made it work. I also make a point of reading instructive or spiritual non-fiction in front of my children from earliest ages, while they're playing or whatever. It is good for them to see you read, and it is good to keep that as another guarded-with-your-life discipline even as your days get busier when they get older.

I will mention that our days have never involved daytime television of any kind, and computer time is extremely limited. Kids will never choose to read if there's electronic activity (even "educational" gaming or television programming) available as the other option.

And, here's the kicker - same goes for you, too, Mom! Most women will usually not choose a devotional time or a time of reading challenging non-fiction if Facebook or email or surfing the Web are the other options. Make a deal with yourself that you can't get on the computer or turn on the television until you've had your devotional hour. Maybe this isn't an issue for you, but if it is, cut it out. It is a potential waster of huge amounts of time. Set yourself a timer like you likely do for your kids, and don't allow yourself anymore than thirty minutes a day or whatever.

If "electronic distraction" isn't an issue for you, figure out what is, and make a deal with yourself in that arena. If you can do this sort of thing without becoming legalistic, find whatever "motivation" works for you and don't let yourself have that thing (like a shower, or some other thing that is very important to you each day) until you've had your devotional hour. Usually, if you don't get dinner until it is done, you'll make it happen! ;)

In my experience, once it is an established habit (using this inferior motivation of deny-myself-the-thing-I-usually-make-sure-happens, until the devotions are done), the spiritual and emotional benefits you see in your life - and the fact that it has been planned for and committed to - are enough to keep the practice going.

If anyone else has any other thoughts or ideas, feel free to comment.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Question of Sports

I received an email from a friend of mine, mostly musing aloud regarding some unspecified "pressure" she was feeling regarding getting her young, homeschooled son "Z" into some sort of organized sports simply because that seems to be "what you're supposed to do" with boys. She didn't really have any specific question beyond the rhetorical, but was just requesting for me to muse aloud with my own thoughts and experiences to give her some "food for thought." So, here it is. This is a modified version of an email reply I sent her. I'm sure she'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences, too, so feel free to offer your own input by way of comments.

PT (my son) is not a "sporty" type, so I have not felt compelled to provide lots of structured sports opportunities for him. If he seemed especially inclined and/or gifted with this bent, I might feel differently, but as it stands, any "competitive team sport" participation has been totally for the fun/social and exposure dimensions, as well as to reinforce our verbal assertion that being physically active is important. Basically, I haven't wanted him to be a total nerd. (We tell him that he can be a genius-type if he wants to, but that he can't be a "squishy man," so he has to train himself physically whether he is inclined to love doing so or not.)

Toward that end, here's what we've done...

He did local recreation league soccer for a few seasons when he was little. He took a year of "creative movement" when the girls were doing dance... this was the young boys' version of a class designed to encourage physical-movement-with-coordination-and-agility. He was kind of a spaz before that, since his body was growing faster than his balance could seem to keep up with. That class helped him get a handle on that klutzi-ness, plus it was just lots of fun. One year, I put him in a homeschool tennis class (taught by a good friend through the local recreation program). After that, he did swim team, which was good for him to cinch swimming skills and to push himself physically. He did a season of rec league baseball. For a while he did fencing (with his dad), just because he really wanted to and we found a cheap fencing club. This summer he did a nightly, week-long Upwards basketball camp. We currently have a semi-permanent badminton net set up in the back, which we use for occasional badminton and volleyball fun. We also keep a frisbee and a football handy out there.

So, that is to say, was have exposed him to a lot of these things in the cheapest way possible, just to make sure he's not a secret whiz at something and we don't know it, and to help him figure out what he might be inclined to enjoy enough to continue for life. (I figure that's sort of what goes on in public school PE once you hit middle school... a basketball unit, a soccer unit, a gymnastics unit, etc.) We also just want him to be able to handle the occasional adult scenario that might arise where a bunch of guys grab a basketball and start a pickup game, or grab a football out in a field at a picnic, or start up ultimate frisbee, or volleyball. These things come up, and we don't want him to make a fool of himself or be unable to participate from total lack of exposure to it.

For our official PE program for homeschool, my dad comes over and works their butts off three days a week for about an hour each time, doing "personal training" style workouts... calisthenics, running, weight training, isolated exercises, stretching, etc. They come in sweaty, red-faced, panting and about to faint. I figure that this is something important to work into habitual life, and is much more likely to be continued into adulthood than if your big exercise thing as a kid was soccer or football or something that required a team.

We didn't begin much of this stuff before the age that Z. is now. He, like PT, is going to be more intellectually-inclined than physically-inclined, I'd think, but that remains to be seen with his younger brother. I'd think that a "tad-of-cheap-exposure-here-and-there" approach would be beneficial for both of them. By the same token, their dad is a runner, and you have a built-in, easy thing right there if L. is willing to begin to "train" them in that. If it were my house, starting today I'd have L. (if he's willing) get all decked out and dressed for running like he usually does, and then take the boys with him for their running time (before his). They can walk fast for a minute, jog for a minute, etc. for however many cycles they can handle. If it is only five or ten minutes long, that's great. Make it a positive experience (no severe pushing, no impatient grumping, etc.) and a consistent time with dad, and they'll come to enjoy it. And if he heads out for his full run after this run with the boys, positively spinning that as they get older and stronger they can join him for that, they'll have a "goal" to look forward to.

Then figure out some cheap, quick-season sports option that seems to mildly appeal to Z. and let him do a season of it. Or you could just get deliberate about L.'s going out once or twice a week with him (schedule it) and "playing catch" or doing "dribbling drills" or whatever, just getting his hands and feet on various types of sport balls to improve his eye-hand coordination and ability to catch/throw, etc.

Anyway, there are lots of options, and I wouldn't feel extreme pressure at all. The only thing you're trying to avoid is the "pale, squishy man" syndrome when he's an adult.

Some thoughts from better experts than I:

I Timothy 4:7-8 "...train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." Read it with an emphasis on IS, to remind yourself that there is need and value in physical training. Then read it with an emphasis on SOME, to remind yourself that it isn't, however, paramount, even for little boys and young men. And finally, note that it never says that it is valuable to sit around on your butt spending inordinate hours watching others who have trained themselves physically, while you yourself have not! (Yes, current Olympic madness notwithstanding.)

Susan Wise Bauer, in The Well-Trained Mind: "If your teenager has a good chance of becoming a professional basketball or football player, home schooling proably isn't a good option. There's simply no foolproof way to plug a home-schooled student into the pro-sports assembly line that starts in high school...

"But players who are serious contenders for a professional team sports career make up a very small segment of the total high-school population. For the average, academically-inclined teenager, we think the question of organized team sports has gotten too much emphasis. How many students will find that team sports make up an important part of life after high school? And even in a regular school, very few players are actually able to play regularly on official teams...

"A more relaxed approach to physical education is simply making sure that your children exercise every day, from kindergarten through twelfth grade... (concentrate) on general physical fitness and on sports skills that (can) be honed either individually or without a large team of people: running, cycling, horseback riding, tennis, golf, handball, swimming. All are suitable for individual recreation as well as for competition, if the student enjoys the challenge" - from Bauer, Susan Wise, The Well-Trained Mind (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004) 671-673.

She goes on, and the chapter is a good one. I refer you to the book itself if you'd like to read more. I tend to agree with her that most of the population is not going to be sporty enough to really excel in team sports. If PT (my son) seemed potentially to be one of them, we might handle it differently, but since neither his physical nor preferential bent is in that direction, we've not sweated it. I think it is safe to assume, at this point, that Z.'s bent is similar, and go with a similar "casual exposure" program regarding sports skills themselves, and a "committed to raising a non-squishy man" program regarding regular physical activity.

I know that those who have played on organized sports teams in institutional school (or even those of you who have seen and loved "Facing the Giants") will argue that there is still great value in playing team sports even for the child who doesn't have career potential with it. Granted. But for the purposes of discussion here, we're talking about the intellectually-inclined child who is not particularly naturally sporty. Does one need to feel obligation to provide him (or her, for that matter) with exposure to numerous team sport experiences?

Let us know what you think...

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I'm up early this Sunday morning, the only one stirring in my quiet house. And during my Bible reading and prayerful contemplations, I've been having some more thoughts about "resolve" and the idea of "resolutions."

It is one of those times of the year, as the world prepares for "back to school," that new habits are being considered and new plans are being made (or not made).

I am becoming more and more convinced that it serves us ill indeed to live life in a willy-nilly, come-as-it-may fashion. I want to be deliberate. I want to set goals. I want to strive, whether I fail 'pretty-much-all-the-time' or only 'just-about-most-of-the-time.' It is in the striving, I think, that we engage our Master, who declares that we "can do all things through Him who gives us strength" (Philippians 4:13).

I came upon a link to a very old post of Brett Harris's (of The Rebelution fame) concerning his New Year's Resolutions from 2005. Bear in mind that he was, I assume, fourteen at the time of this composition. How many fourteen-year-olds do you know who are even thinking like this, let alone purposing with deliberation to try, with God's help and grace, to live this way?! This is not to praise Brett, but to praise the One who calls him - and us - to live boldly for Him in righteousness and faithfulness. We cannot shirk the call just because we know that in our human frailty we will fail. And we certainly mustn't shirk it in the name of "grace," using our desire not-to-attempt-to-earn-God's-favor-through-works as an excuse to keep us from ever doing those good works that were prepared beforehand for us to do...

Ephesians 2: 8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

And, hopefully, it is to praise the idea of thinking through what you hope to do - through Him, in Him, with Him - and setting out with purpose to do it.

Check out what young Jonathan Edwards declared when he was still a teenager concerning what he hoped to do and be as He walked with God.

What good works have You prepared in advance for me to do, Lord? May I embrace them with fervor, diligence, and joy!

(See some previous thoughts about resolutions and striving here and here.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cell Phone Photos

This morning, my middle daughter read my previous post and declared, "Mom, we did take some Busch Gardens pictures that day on your cell phone, remember?"

So here they are, ridiculously small and fuzzy and pretty indiscernible because they came from my cell phone. But the kids wanted to post them anyway so their friend could see them. And I'm really happy to have them, poor quality or no.

...drinking frozen lemonade

...on the boats the Land of the Dragons...

... the girls, on the teacup ride...

...the only picture we have of all of them together...

...she and OG on the Flying Machine...

...and OG & EL with her on the elephant ride...

...the brave 4-year-old, with PT on the Big Bad Wolf!

Oh, and by the way, even the dog is sad (and a little confused) about our neighbors' departure. This morning we set up the badminton net in the backyard, and when we let Little out, she immediately ran around into our neighbor's (old) back yard and began to stare hopefully at their back door. She was just sure that this was a scenario when they would be coming out to join us.

Here's to loving folks enough to really miss them when they're gone...

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Neighbor Nearby

"Better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away."
- Proverbs 27:10

The truth of this verse is really being driven home for our family today.

This morning at 5:00 I waved a final goodbye to the very special friends who have been our next-door neighbors for the past fifteen years. They are off on a new adventure... in a new house in a new town, with new jobs for mom and dad, and a new school for their daughter. It was hard for them to leave their home, I'm sure, but they've moved into a new season of life and will be busy settling into it and making it work. It will be fun and exciting.

The pain is for those of us who remain behind. We feel the void. There are lots of tears. In very many ways, my children feel like they're losing a sister.

Three years ago, this sweet little girl came to live with us during the day. She was two years old at the time, I guess. Her mother moved away to attend law school, and was only home on some weekends. Her Chinese grandparents - who had been living with her and were to have been her childcare during the day for this time - had returned to China for some surgery, and had yet to return. Her father worked almost an hour away, and had to leave in the morning before 5:00 a.m. He was having to wake her up at 4 a.m. to take her with him and drop her off at a day care center near his work. She had never been away from home or stayed with anyone but her family before. She was having a very difficult time, and we offered to let her stay with us during the days until her grandparents returned from China. Her father brought her over still asleep, and she woke up with us each morning. She spent the days with us until her father returned in the evenings, sometimes late at night. She shared meals with us, school with us, life with us. We came to love her deeply.

The time of her being with us this full-time was only a few months, but it sealed all our fates... she now had a "second home." She was welcomed into our home and our lives in a way that few ever are who aren't actually family. Her grandparents returned from China, and she was able to be back at her own home during the day. At this point, however, she officially joined with Parkside School in our "kindergarten for pre-schoolers" program, so she was still with us for schooling three days a week for three hours each time. She learned to read. She studied science and history with my daughter EL. We watched her grow and mature academically, and we enjoyed her company socially. We experienced daily contact between our two families - the kind only possible with "a neighbor nearby" - and having her as a regular playmate was something my younger two daughters have enjoyed as a given. She has been like a younger sister to them.

And so, they really miss her. I really miss her. She was a little ray of sunshine in our home each day, and now she is gone.

Yesterday she spent the day with us, as her family finished up the last of the packing and loaded the moving vans. She went to the free summer movie with us. We went out to lunch together at a favorite local restaurant. We took her with us one last time to our Grampa's pool, where we had taught her to swim as part of her Parkside curriculum. When we returned home, she showered and dressed and began to play with my youngest daughter. The older kids and I were rushed to get ready for our evening activities... EV and OG at a dinner/Bible study/movie night, PT at basketball camp, iivo and I hosting Community Group and Music Practice at our home. The night flew by.

Her family came to retrieve her around 9:30 or so. Our meeting was just ending. PT had just returned, and the older girls weren't even home yet. The abrupt parting caught us off-guard a bit, because in our busy activities we'd forgotten to engage the fact that it was coming upon us fast... just like we'd done these past few weeks of her family's packing and preparation. We knew somewhere in the back of our minds that the departure was imminent, but it was always a few weeks off. Now, suddenly, it was here... and amid the movie nights and basketball camps and music practices, we had missed it.

Once our guests left, those of us who were home walked over for a hasty, tearful goodbye. And though her grandparents spent the night in our guest room, she stayed on the air mattress with her parents in her empty house... company for the cat, who was freaking out and threatening to leave.

And so, she is gone. I hadn't thought to take one picture during our last day together. There isn't one picture in existence of her swimming with us at Grampa's pool! I just never bothered to take the camera with us. We forgot the camera the day she went to Busch Gardens with us. I never once grabbed all four of my children and her and captured the friendship with a photo. In fact, when I went looking at the photos we do have, most are from the times when she was with us all day. There are only a handful of pictures from the past couple of years. The most recent one is the one you see on the Parkside webpage, taken almost six months ago. The only other one from this year was taken in February, when she brought us Valentine's Day cookies she and her grandmother had made for us.

So many memories. They are imprinted in our minds, but they will fade. Especially for her. She is only five years old. I know that she will likely not even remember us in a few years. Without photographic promptings to the memories in her brain, or physical contact to keep the relationship alive, we will become hazy. Next time we see her - if we don't get to see her again within the next few months - she will likely give us one of those shy smiles and blank looks that accompany a child who doesn't remember you very well.

And so, I weep a little. Life moves on, in all its bittersweetness. We live, and we love, and often we lose those we love - through varying circumstances - before we were ready to let them go.

Goodbye, our sweet, sweet friend. We miss you!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy Pranking!

My sister-in-law came visiting with her six-year-old son and twelve-year-old neighbor (who is a friend of PT's, too) earlier this week. On Monday, they helped our entire crew weed the flower beds in the front yard. (Eight workers makes for a quick job!)

Anyway, homeschooling mother that I am, we had several impromptu "science lessons" during this time... a live observation of how "runners" work on certain types of grass... an in-depth look at a couple of zipper spiders on their fascinating webs... a hands-on pass-around of a cicada exoskeleton...

This is the one that backfired on me.

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the boys (and OG) headed back out to gather as many as they could find, and secretly placed them all around my bedroom and bath. Needless to say, I've been startled a few times the past few days.

... on a plant in my bedroom...

... on my engagement ring, stowed away on a ring holder during my shower...

... and on my towel, after said shower...

... and waiting to surprise me at various other times on various other things I encounter during my days...

... like the toilet paper holder in my bathroom...

This one, waiting for me on the light switch in my closet, actually made me scream when I touched it, which was their goal and delight.

Hope you are having as much fun around your place as we are around here! If not, get busy. Summer's almost over!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hearing God

Last night my husband and I attended a meeting in which a friend shared - vulnerably and honestly - his frustration with feeling like "relationship with God" (a term contemporary Christians throw around easily) doesn't work at all like relationship with any other person. Specifically, he meant that he feels no give-and-take, conversational, hearing-back-from-Him dimension to his "relationship" with God.

I'm often amazed at how similar the things he wrestles with spiritually are to the things I wrestle with spiritually. And so this morning I composed an email, offering him excerpts from the preface and first chapter of a book I'm currently reading which is helping me very much in this arena. It is Hearing God by Dallas Willard. We don't get much helpful teaching of this sort in our particular denominational affiliation, as a general rule. But without practical doctrine concerning this issue, we certainly flounder and find ourselves frustrated and confused.

And so, here are a few selected quotes to get you thinking. I highly recommend reading the book itself.
You will undoubtedly take issue with some of the things in it, as I do; nevertheless, I have found it extremely helpful in guiding my thinking on this topic. If you will open you mind to the idea that, "the same Spirit who delivered the Scriptures to holy men of old speaks today in the hearts of those who gather around the written Word to minister and be ministered to (p.17)," I believe He will show you new and wonderful dimensions of what it means to relate to Him.

Chapter One - A Paradox about Hearing God

"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because God would have us." - Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

Sunday dinner was finished, but we lingered round the table savoring the good food and reflecting on the morning's service at church. The congregation - where I then served as a very young (and very green) assistant pastor - was excited about its plans for a new sanctuary to replace its old building, which was much loved but long overused and outgrown.

The morning message had focused on the plans for the new building. Our pastor spoke of his vision for the church's increased ministry. He indicated how strongly he felt God's guidance in the way the congregation was going, and he testified that God had spoken to him about things that should be done.

My wife's grandmother, Mrs. Lucy Latimer ("Mema" to us all), seemed deep in thought as we continued to chatter along. Finally she said quietly, "I wonder why God never speaks to me like that."

This simple comment, which came like a bolt out of the blue from the heart of this woman of unshakable faith and complete devotion, forever changed my attitude toward glib talk about God's speaking to us or about divine guidance. Through her words - in a way I came to understand only later - God spoke to me.

I was given a vivid realization, which has never left me, of the extent to which such talk places many sincere Christians on the outside, looking in. It is not necessarily that their experience is lacking, but they do not understand the language or how their experience works.(...)

Mema, in fact, had a richly interactive life with God, as we all knew. But for whatever reasons, she had not been able to relate her experience of God's presence in her life - of which she was completely certain - to the idea of God's speaking with her. This left her at a loss for how to deal with the conversational side of her friendship with God.

Up to that point in my own experience I had rashly assumed that if you were really a Christian, then God spoke to you as a matter of course and you knew it. I was sure that he spoke individually and specifically about what he wanted each believer to do and that he also taught and made real on an individual basis the general truths all must believe in order to enter into life with him.

The Moving of God

Later I came to realize that this confidence was not based on genuine understanding. It came from my experiences of a series of revival meetings in which I was immersed as a young man. During those meetings I became accustomed to interacting with a characteristic type of thought and impulse, which was to me the moving of God upon my mind and heart. It was an experience clearly marked out for me and one that guided my actions, though I held no theory or doctrine about it.(...) Caught up in my own experiences of the workings of God's voice, I really did not understand it at all. I only knew its reality, and I thoughtlessly assumed it was a functioning, intelligible fact in every believer's life. Obviously I had a lot to learn.

So for a long while I was unable to appreciate the huge problems that the very idea of God's speaking to us created for some of the most faithful adherents of the church.(...)


Hearing God? A daring idea, some would say - presumptuous and even dangerous. But what if we are made for it? What if the human system simply will not function properly without it? There are good reasons to think it will not. The fine texture as well as the grand movements of life show the need. Is it not, in fact, more presumptuous and dangerous to undertake human existence without hearing God?

Among our loneliest moments, no doubt, is the time of decision. There the weight of our future life clamps down upon our hearts. Whatever comes from our choice will be our responsibility, our fault. Good things we have set our hearts on become real only as we choose them. But those things, or those as yet undreamed of, may also be irretrievably lost if our choices are misguided. We may find ourselves stuck with failures and dreadful consequences that must be endured for a lifetime.

Then quickly there follows the time of second thoughts - and third, and fourth: Did I do the good and wise thing? Is it what God wanted? Is it even what I
wanted? Can I live with the consequences? Will others think I am a fool? Is God still with me? Will he be with me even if it becomes clear that I made the wrong choice?

While we were young, desire, impulse, and personal associations may blithely carry us through choices that would paralyze us ten years later. In the bloom of youth we just do what we have to do or whatever turns us on. How simple it is! Often we are not even conscious of having chosen. After collecting a few disasters, however, and learning that actions are forever, that opportunities seldom return and that consequences are relentless, we hungrily cry, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!" More than reflecting a mere general concern for world affairs to conform to his will, our prayer expresses the burning need for God to be a constant guiding presence in our individual lives.

God has created us for intimate friendship with himself - both now and forever. This is the Christian viewpoint. It is made clear throughout the Bible, especially in such passages as Exodus 29:43-46 and 33:11, Psalm 23, Isaiah 41:8, John 15:14, and Hebrews 13:5-6. As with all close personal relationships, we can surely count on God to speak to each of us when and as it is appropriate. But what does this really mean? And how does it work in practice? I hope in the following pages to give a clear and workable answer to these questions.

There is no avoiding the fact that we live at the mercy of our ideas. This is never more true that with our ideas about God. Meaning well is not enough. Those who operate on the wrong information are likely never to know the reality of God's presence in the decisions which shape their lives and will miss the constant divine companionship for which their souls were made.(...)

Today there is a desperate need for large numbers of people throughout our various social groupings who are competent and confident in their own practice of life in Christ and in hearing his voice. Such people would have the effect of concretely redefining Christian spirituality for our times. They would show us an individual and corporate human existence freely and intelligently lived from a hand-in-hand, conversational walk with God. That is the biblical ideal for human life.

In the pages that follow, therefore, I deal with hearing God as it bears upon a whole life in the will of God - upon the question of who God wants us to be as well as (where appropriate) of what he wants us to do. What he wants us to do is very important, of course, and we must be careful to learn how to know it and do it, but it is never enough by itself to allow us to understand and enter the radiant life before the shining face of God that is offered to us in the grace of the gospel - a life pleasing to him, in view of which he can say, "This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased."

Chapter one clarifies the tension in which Christians live, believing that hearing God is very important to our walk with him but at the same time lacking a confident understanding of how it works for the individual in practice. Chapter two removes some common misunderstandings about God's communications with us. Chapter three explains the various ways in which he is with us. Chapter four examines some objections to the very idea of God's communicating with individuals. Chapter five deals with the various ways in which he communicates and explains and defends the centrality of the "still small voice." Chapters six and seven discuss the centrality of God's speaking - God's Word - to his creation and to the process of redemption. The Word of God is not foreign to routine reality; it is at the very heart of it. Chapter eight clarifies how we can be sure that we are hearing God. Finally, chapter nine deals with what to do on those occasions, sure to come, when God is not speaking - or at least when we are not hearing him.

To deal effectively with hearing God as part of a life within his will, it is necessary to consider many deeper issues about his intentions for us and about the nature of the world in which he has placed us. From time to time difficult subjects must be discussed. But my hope is to leave you with a clear sense of how to live confidently in a personal walk that is complemented by an ongoing conversational relationship with God.

For a presentation of the larger picture of life with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God, of which hearing God is only one part, I would refer readers to my books The Spirit of the Disciplines and The Divine Conspiracy.

*Quotations from
Hearing God. Willard, Dallas. Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999, pps. 9-17.

I hope those words may give you a glimpse into the book, and that the Lord will use this book in your life as He is in mine to deepen your relationship (yes, relationship) with Him.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Who is Tullio Simoncini?

This video is so different as to be almost unbelievable. In it, Italian oncologist Tullio Simoncini speaks of his great success in healing various types of cancer... with sodium bicarbonate.

Yep, that's baking soda.

The good news... it appears to be working.

The bad news... it is cheap, and therefore puts a dent in the huge profit-making "surgery-then-chemotherapy/radiation" industry, which is currently conventional medicine's only offering for battling cancer.

I don't know what I think about it, and I certainly don't know what I'd do if I had to face a decision regarding cancer treatment. But it is certainly interesting stuff, and I'll be watching with great interest to see how cancer treatments develop over the next few years.

And I'll be paying attention to Dr. Simoncini.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Today is Swiss Indpendence Day

You may not know this thing. You may not have any reason to know this thing. You are likely more familiar with the fact that yesterday was Harry Potter's birthday.

In fact, you likely do not even know from whom the Swiss needed to gain independence, and when.

But since my husband's family has a colorful European history in both Switzerland and Estonia, I know many obscure history facts that you may not, including that today is Swiss Independence Day.

The particulars can be had with a quick Google search, should you care for them, but I'm assuming that you may not. Just know that the dates in view will make you very, very aware of just what a "young upstart country" you live in. (Provided you are in the US, like I am.)

In the meantime, perhaps you would consider joining us for some authentic Swiss music, hearty rye bread and fondue, bratwurst and sauerkraut, all washed down with a good dark ale and topped off with a good dark chocolate?