Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Where in the world is...

My pitiful knowledge of geography is no secret to my family or anyone who knows me well. Although I navigated the best of the best that public education had to offer in Virginia, both in high school and in college, I learned very little of United States or world geography.

Anything I have learned in the years since has been while homeschooling my children, but all of them save the youngest know more than I do by now.

For a truly humbling experience - unless your world geography knowledge is quite hefty - try this out. My children are playing it daily to review their geography skills, and donating water around the world in the process.

And, so long as you're being humbled, check this out:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fasting and praying for those fasting and praying...

This Saturday (August 22) marks the beginning of Ramadan, the yearly obligatory month of fasting for Muslims. Would you please join us in a time of focused, specific prayer during this time?

A daily prayer guide is available, which allows the Church around the world to pray in unity throughout the month of Ramadan. It is available electronically in your choice of (1) a daily e-mail, or (2) a downloadable PDF booklet.

If you have children, please note that a special kids’ version of the booklet is also available. We are excited about this wonderful way to involve our children in strategic prayer, and hope to use both booklets as learning tools within our family so that we can all learn more about Muslims, what they believe, and how they can best be reached with the saving love of Jesus Christ.

As the children's booklet says in its introductory pages, "We are praying so that Muslims can discover God's love through Jesus."

Special thanks to my missionary friends - serving Muslims around the world in the name of Jesus - who made us aware of this information. You know who you are; I won't compromise your safety by naming you here.

(See the 30 Days of Prayer website for other useful resources.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Law and Order

This is a Fred Thompson interview with Dr. Betsy McCaughey, a health policy expert and former Lt. Governor of New York State. She discusses with Fred Thompson Page 425 of the Health Care Bill and what it will mean to senior citizens and to the disabled. It is well worth the time it takes to listen to the complete interview (about eight minutes or so).

You can read more about it at http://www.defendyourhealthcare.us/

Interestingly, the Senate has apparently removed some of the end-of-life provisions that were in the House version of the bill. (See here.) One question I have: how do you remove something that you insisted wasn't in there in the first place?

At any rate, here's to "raising furor"!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Ordinary Miracle

Last week my youngest daughter went to have a sleepover at her grandparents' house so that the rest of the family could go to a "big kid movie." They checked the schedule on their HBO OnDemand and asked her if she'd like to watch Babe, ("It's a movie about a pig," they'd said...), to which she replied, "Oh, yes, I love that movie!"

Interesting, since EL had never seen that movie.

She watched and watched, frequently indicating, "I don't remember this part. This isn't what I remember."

Apparently she had actually been anticipating the live-action Charlotte's Web. Understandable mistake if you're 8 and don't own either movie, I suppose, but it totally ruined for her the fun experience that Babe would have been had she not been expecting something else.

Although I can't go back and change her sullied opinion of the Babe movie, I was able to redeem the experience (and also the dreary, rainy day) by taking her to the free summer showing of Charlotte's Web at the local movie theater today.

Confession: the live-action Charlotte's Web movie makes me cry. The conversation went something like this:

"You're crying over a spider dying?"

"No, of course not. They don't play that story like real animals, honey. She is like a real person in relationship with a bunch of other real people. I cry because it is moving to watch Wilbur lose his dearest friend. She was the first person to befriend him when he was new in the barn, lonely and scared. He was the first person to befriend her and to recognize her as beautiful. She was portrayed as very neat (intelligent and deep and kind and pensive and thoughtful), and she was faithful and kept her promises and loved Wilbur selflessly. Their friendship was special. And so it is sad to me when she is dying, and Wilbur is having to say goodbye."

E. B. White was not quite so sappy, but I think the book has some profound ideas, expressed in some profound lines in the movie...

"I don't know, but it has happened... at a time when we really don't see many miraculous things. Well, maybe we do. Maybe they're all right there around us everyday, and we just don't know where to look..."

"...the web itself is a miracle... no one taught the spider how to make a web. He just knows. Don't you think that is a miracle?"

"...it is called a childhood phase... and, sadly, she will outgrow it..."

And perhaps the most poignant of all, as we approach the end of August: "Over and gone. Over and gone. Summer is dying, dying..."

And so we move, far too quickly, into the next fleeting season of the next fleeting year in this ordinary, miraculous life. I am once again reminded how important it is to make every day count.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Autumn Resolutions

In a post entitled Let's Make Some Autumn Resolutions, John Piper challenges toward a life of deliberate self-examination and resolve. I am encouraged, in both senses of the word. I am heartened ("encouraged") to hear teaching that praises the practice, and I am pleased to have been exhorted ("encouraged") toward that end.

God approves of New Year’s resolutions. And mid-year, and three-quarters-year, and monthly, and weekly, and daily resolutions. Any and all resolutions for good have God’s approval—if we resolve by faith in Jesus.

I would like to encourage you to make some autumn resolutions. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, the examined life is not worth living either if the examination produces no resolutions. What examination and experience teach us is that the unplanned life settles into fruitless routine. The drifting life—the coasting, que-sera-sera, unreflective life—tends to be a wasted life.

The opposite of this is self-examination—life-examination, routine-examination, schedule-examination, heart-examination—followed by “resolves for good.” That’s what I encourage you to do. Here’s why I think God will be pleased when you do this by faith in Jesus...

Read the entire article here.

Here's to self-examination, and to prayerful consideration, and to godly resolve. I will making a deliberate point of this pursuit over these last two weeks of August. Care to join me?

(More about the idea of "setting stakes"...)

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I'm wanting to log this information for easy access later, and I figured I might as well do it here so you can know about it, too.

Three of my children are studying piano, and we are often wanting to listen to a recording of a particular piece they are playing. While their piano teacher has an extensive collection of Classical CD's, we do not, so we are thrilled to have found www.musopen.com.

For Classical, Romantic, and Baroque-era music - as well as the 20th century composers - visit Musopen. You can browse the site by instrument, composer, or performer. You'll find many free music MP3s that will work on computers and portable music players; you can even download the sheet music, if you're so inclined.

Check it out!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Asking the Right Questions

This list of Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage, posted by John Piper this week on the Desiring God Blog, is a rich and valuable resource of wisdom for anyone thinking about getting married. These are good, important things to explore together before you join your lives as one. Considering these things with gravity and honesty will prevent much conflict and disunity later, and will greatly multiply your effectiveness as a couple for the Kingdom of God.

It sure beats the "Which way do you think the toilet paper should roll off the roll?" and "Who took the trash out in your home growing up?" questions! (Not that those kinds of things weren't important to discuss, because they were. In fact, if I can get my hands on the list we were given before our wedding, I'll post it, too.) But those issues regarding preference and practice, though genuine, are far less critical than these large life questions regarding unity of spiritual vision and purpose and pursuit...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Joey the Squirrel

When my son was about two years old or so, he announced - while looking out our backyard window - "Look, Dad! A kangaroo!"

He was a victim of our practices regarding television, I suppose, and had therefore only ever seen still-life or artistic renderings of the animals in question.

Granted, if he had been glued to Animal Planet all day, he might never have made this mistake. But he also would likely never have become the unbelievably learned, prolific reader he is today.

Thankfully, the young people of Hampton Roads will now have the chance to see the difference for themselves - live - at our local zoo.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sounds "fishy" to me!

An official request has come from the White House, asking American citizens to send any "fishy" e-mails or Web postings on health-care reform to flag@whitehouse.gov.

This is interesting to me, since just today I was interacting with my own "fishy" email regarding some of the unbelievable components of the proposed Health Care plan.

A week or so ago, I received an email, complete with the attendant hype and drama that sometimes accompanies outlandish emails. It had obviously been sent to everyone in my friend's address book, and one of his rude friends hailing from across the aisle had felt compelled to "reply to all" and blast him in front of all of us for his dissemination of inaccurate and outlandish "Repulican b*llsh*t."

I had sighed and cringed and pressed delete, assuming that most of the incredible assertions in the email were, in fact, urban legend rubbish that makes otherwise intelligent people believe insanity. (There is plenty of that these days, you know, especially among people my parents' ages. They're just getting into the email thing, they're retired with a little too much time on their hands, and they're forwarding things around to each other daily by the dozens, I think.)

Anyway, today I received another such email, this time attributed to respected scholar and Dean of Liberty University law school, Mathew Staver. I quickly checked Snopes and other Urban Legends sites, finding nothing one way or another on this particular email and its contents. Certain I was looking at a classic case of urban legend hype, I quickly wrote the following letter to the Liberty University School of Law:

RE: Dean Staver's association with circulating email

The following is being circulated (I received it this morning in an email) and attributed to Dr. Staver. If it was not authored by him (which I suspect it may not have been), quick action to get it onto Snopes.com and some other Urban Legends sites is likely in order. (Even if he did author it - which I don't believe he did - validating it as true on these sites would also be a good idea. As it stands now, there is no way for folks to check the credibility of the claim that he authored it.)

My experience has been that well-meaning but ignorant folks get emails like this and then forward them all around and/or post them on their Blogs; rather quickly, there will be hundreds of Google entries with Dr. Staver's name in them as this document gains a web presence.

I just figured I'd make you aware of it, if you were not already.

I signed it with my name, identifying myself also as a "citizen interested in intelligent public debate."

Within the hour, I had received the following reply from Beverly Smith, Executive Assistant to the Dean:

Dean Staver is, in fact, involved with the material in this email and has agreed to its circulation. For more information, please visit www.lc.org for full text of the HR 3200 document and other information that has recently been distributed via press releases and news bulletins. Thank you for you inquiry.

I recognize that many, many people will discredit anything authored by Mat Staver as right-wing wacko craziness because of his association with Liberty University and the Jerry Falwell shadow under which it exists. However, I know of Dr. Staver as an intelligent, respected scholar, author, and legal analyst, and the fact that he has associated his name with the claims in this email gives me great pause.

That and the fact that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is scrambling in any way it can to try to gather and discredit such emails. "Methinks he doth protest too much*," I'd say!

The following is taken from a Focus on the Family CitizenLink newsletter:

Gary McCaleb, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said the unusual request hearkens back to the Cold War.

"We have an administration in America taking a page out of a playbook that was written by the Khrushchev types in the 1950s," he said. "Why is the government asking neighbor to report on neighbor like the Russians asked their children to report on their parents?"

"There are only two reasons why the government would do this," he continued. "Either to outfox the American public, or to find a way to suppress the American public."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama laying out his concerns about such a request and asking for "assurances that this program is being carried out in a manner consistent with the First Amendment and America's tradition of free speech and public discourse."

"It seems inevitable that the names, e-mail addresses, IP addresses and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House," he said.

In response, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "Nobody is collecting names."

The administration's blog entry cited as an example of "fishy" video a clip in which the president appears to support a single-payer health-care system. The blog offered video clips of the president appearing to say that he does not.

But Cornyn pointed out that in 2003 Obama said in plain language: "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health-care plan." Cornyn said he wondered if a direct quote counted as "disinformation."


*This is a variation on a quotation from Shakespeare's Hamlet, allowing variance for the obvious gender difference between our President and Queen Gertrude. The original quotation is, 'She doth protest too much, methinks.'

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Look away now if you have...

Do you have hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia? If you struggle with spelling, as much of the population does, of course you do. But even those of us who don't struggle with spelling would have a difficult time getting that one correct... even without an actual fear of long words.

How about paraskavedekatriaphobia? (fear of Friday the 13th)
Kathisophobia? (fear of sitting down)
Arachibutyrophobia? (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth)

Do you think we can claim didaskaleinophobia as a way to stave off the looming inevitable?

If you have a little time for some silliness during these last fleeting days of summer break, check out more on The Phobia List.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Upon being published, however humbly...

My poem, This Was Once a Love Song, was selected for publication by PoetsOnline for July 2009.

It has been a little while since I've seen something I wrote published. (This is besides here on this Blog, of course, which doesn't count since it is self-publication in its purest form!)

I had forgotten what a strange mix of emotions it stirs... I feel happy and proud, but intermingled with a profound humility and feeling of diffidence, almost embarrassment. It is exciting and at the same time induces a sort of shyness.

I think I feel vulnerable... exposed... like my emotions are out there for all the world to see, and possibly misinterpret or misunderstand.

It's probably just my own baggage. I have a thing with being misunderstood. Not feeling misunderstood, mind you, but actually being misunderstood. It goes hand-in-hand with being me.

I am pleased, I think, to have taken a stand for marriage, in all its rawness.

...for faithfulness, with all its attendant blessings and burdens.

...for a real definition for and understanding of love.

To read it - or some of the other offerings for the This Was Once prompt - online, see the July 2009 archives of PoetsOnline.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Comparative Piece of Cake

People often ask me how in the world I homeschool 4 different children in 4 different grade levels at the same time. I often answer that it is much easier than anything I did when I taught in the public schools.

Back then, I still had 4 different classes to prepare for on any given day (English 9, English 11, Developmental Reading, and English as a Second Language), but I had over 100 students to teach over the course of that same day.

100 papers to read.

100 tests to create and grade.

100 different students with varied learning styles; varied amounts of sleep the night before; varied worldviews; varied ethical standards at work in their homes; varied levels of aptitude for, interest in, and grasp of the material.

All in all, four students who are motivated, excited about learning, and who want to do their work, is a comparative piece of cake.