Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cast Party

Last night, the local middle school put on their production of Fiddler on the Roof. One of my favorite kids from church was playing Tevye, so we went to the play. Lots of thoughts...

Seeing all the folks in town, and their relationships with one another through school and work and 4-H and just being neighbors, etc, kinda sorta made me feel like I'd like to be part of that. There's a community there that I'm not part of. I have my own community, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be part of this local close-knit group. A lot of them are such nice people!

The Sunday School superintendent (who is Tevye's mom) invited us to come over to their house for the cast party afterwards. I was impressed by the ability of the kids to be friendly with us strangers. This group of 7th and 8th-graders was not opposed to interacting with adults like most kids that age are.

Tevye's cousin didn't see the play last night. She was at a dance. She is Maggie's age. She's 12, and she spent her evening wearing jewelry and make-up and pop-style clothing, and dancing with boys. She's not a bad kid by any means. It just makes my head swim, though, to think of 12-yr-olds playing grown-up like that.

One of the boys at the party needed to go home just when we were leaving. He happened to live right on our way, so we offered to drive him. He seems to be a little slow, and his speech isn't very clear, and he was tremendously concerned when we were leaving because he'd lost his money. Perfectly nice kid. Turned out the lost money was 50 cents. I could very easily see Maggie in his position if she were attending school. The other kids were really much kinder to him than I expect from 13-yr-olds. And yet, you could see it -- there were a few rolled eyes behind his back, and the dumbfounded question about "you're that worried about 50 cents???" So then the pendulum swung back to being somewhat relieved that we (and Maggie) aren't so closely tied into the mainstream community.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Moon Phases

Some of y'all will laugh at me for posting something that you find to be SO obvious. But no matter how well I learned the material in school, this didn't sink in. I read an astronomy article in our county weekly after a few years of living out here in the boonies. Then I watched the sky for what I'd read about, and it began to make sense.

The full moon is up for the full length of the night. It rises in the evening and sets in the morning. The half moon is up half the night. It rises around midnight and sets around noon (or vice versa). A skinny little sliver of the moon is up for only a sliver of the night.

Sometimes I think this is goofy for me to be so tickled to have figured this out. But apparently not everybody has it figured out. It's not uncommon to see children's picture books with an illustration of a full moon low in the sky at 2 a.m., or a story that tells about people finding their way through the forest at midnight by the tiny bit of light that came from a sliver of moon overhead.

Tonight, one of the boys noticed the big, pretty evening star. So I showed them Sky at a Glance, my favorite astronomy website, and its weekly planet round-up. Venus is looking very bright in the western sky in the evenings right now.

Always Good?

What God ordains is always good.
His will abideth holy. (TLH 521)

The will of God is always best
and shall be done forever. (TLH 517)

It is part of our sinful nature that we get angry when people sin against us. It is sinful to hold grudges, or to become bitter, or to despair over our mistreatment.

So it is true that we respond sinfully when we are sinned against. And it is true that God will work for good in the situation, even when sin is committed against us. But that doesn't mean we can say the sin itself is good.

The ultimate example of this is the cross. It was not good that Judas betrayed his lord. It was not good that Peter denied his Savior. It was not good that the Sanhedrin delivered up Jesus to death. But it was good. The sin was not good, but what God accomplished was good.

When we struggle with our sinful response to those who sin against us, it isn't exactly helpful to be told that the sin is actually good. If, instead, the sin is recognized as sin, it's easier to forgive and to love and to endure in spite of the sin, even giving thanks for the good that God is accomplishing through the difficulties. But when the sin is called "good," it just really messes with your mind. Sometimes it seems like Job's friends have been reincarnated. When something is a mixed bag of good and bad, do we really have to claim that the bad doesn't exist just to extol the good that is there too?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Adult Bible Class

Samuel was in Bible class again today. He's 4 or 5. The huge majority of people in class are over 70, but there are now several of us who are merely middle-aged. Except Samuel. He's a kid.

He was sitting across the room from me. When we started to pray, for some reason I noticed his face. He was looking at Pastor, watching intently. Then he glanced around the room, looking at all these grown-ups, singing the versicles, praying the psalm and the catechism, singing the hymn.

I know that kids garner some benefit from Sunday School. They are educated in God's Word, and that will not return void. But kids get something very valuable from being in class with the adults too. They probably miss a lot of what's being taught. But they do catch some of it -- probably a lot more than we realize. The one invaluable lesson, though, is what Samuel saw today: THIS is what grown-ups do. Praying together, reciting the catechism together, studying God's word together. This is what grown-ups do. Learning about the Bible isn't some childish activity that occurs in Sunday School and is outgrown. This is not something you graduate from. It's what sustains life all your life long.

I love seeing kids in the adult Bible class.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Don't know what happened today. We managed to get most of the house cleaned, made a nice dinner, and did a good job with schoolwork. How'd that happen?

The thing that's hard, though, is that my voice doesn't last. Ever since that year-long bout of laryngitis, I've had to be careful of my voice. Whenever I get diligent about doing schoolwork with the kids, I end up driving my voice into the ground. Still haven't figured out how to resolve that. My brain knows that I have to find a "different" way to do school that doesn't involve much of my voice, but a "new way" hasn't seemed to work. The "old way" is a good way for us. But there's the little problem of my voice sabotaging my homeschool efforts. Gotta lower the bar on my grand plans. Reading aloud together and discussing books is such a great thing! How do I give that up?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Sanjaya wasn't one of the best on American Idol. The first few weeks of the top twelve, he seemed timid. Each week, it seemed like he expected to be sent home. He acted like he thought he didn't belong in the group. But the weeks have gone by; he has not been voted off; he hasn't even been in the bottom three. It's almost like he's become the heart-throb, especially for teeny-boppers. And his confidence has grown. For the most part, I think our society overrates the concept of self esteem. But watching Sanjaya improve over the last weeks shows that confidence actually does make a difference in ability and performance!

Monday, April 16, 2007


Back when I was in school, I never much cared for Charles Dickens' works. I know he's one of those authors we're "supposed to" study. But you know the saying -- "So many books; so little time." His books were never ones I wanted to foist on the kids. But I always felt like I was leaving them with a big gaping hole in that area.

Then I saw that American Players Theatre was going to be doing a play about Dickens and his works this summer. I thought this was a great chance to fill in that educational gap. So we plowed into the Dummies version of studying Charles Dickens, without desiring to give it serious time or attention, but just enough to give us a bit of a nodding acquaintance with these works. (Turns out, in the end, that the play about Dickens is a one-night fund-raiser that isn't available for the school matinees anyhow. Bummers.)

Having other topics that took higher priority, I decided we'd just watch some videos to get the gist of a few stories. We had already seen the Muppet version of A Christmas Carol repeatedly, as well as some other versions. So the kids knew what "Scrooge" means. We'd also seen Nicholas Nickleby, which my husband and I found quite enjoyable even before we watched it for "educational reasons." The kids weren't as impressed with Nicholas Nickleby as I was, but it was an okay movie even for them.

The first thing we watched was an educational video from our library. It was called The World of Charles Dickens and was only 17 minutes of non-fiction. It touched on the politics and philosophy and history that impacted Dickens and his writing. Although we often hear that Dickens was protesting the shabby treatment of the poor, it seemed to me that his stories soemtimes went further than that, as though he may have bought into certain "progressive" ideas of the second half of the 1800s.

The first movie we got for our introduction to Dickens was Oliver Twist. Boy, that didn't rank very high in our opinion. Too depressing. Too dark. What a bummer of a movie. I wish we hadn't spent the time, even if we did gain some cultural literacy out of it. I wonder if the book is as bad as the movie made it seem?

The next movie we watched was the Masterpiece Theatre version of Great Expectations. That was significantly better than Oliver Twist. A little convoluted and hard to follow in some spots. Not something I think I'd want to bother watching again, but not terrible either.

We were beginning to think that we really didn't need any more exposure to Dickens, but the next movie in our Blockbuster queue arrived in the mail. So we watched David Copperfield. This one was a good movie. I think we liked it even better than Nicholas Nickleby! The host of Masterpiece Theatre pointed out that this is one of Dickens cheeriest stories. On top of that, we liked the way the story was told on film. The kids especially were interested in the actors they knew from the Harry Potter movies. Some of the key characters in this version of David Copperfield included the folks who played Harry, McGonagall, Umbridge, and Madam Hooch. I thought we counted five people from the Harry Potter movies, but right now I can only recall those four. But Gandalf was in the movie too. I was glad that we lucked into seeing the best of the movies as the last one: it left a nicer concluding touch to our brief foray into Dickens.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thomas, the Twin

The story for Quasimodo Geniti (today) is the second half of John 20, also known as the "Doubting Thomas" story. The particular verse being discussed was 24:
"Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came."

The question to the child was
"What was Thomas called?"

The answer?