Saturday, April 28, 2007

Reviewing Goals

This week I worked on reviewing our school goals, seeing what's been achieved, what needs to be made a higher priority, what needs to be added to the list, etc. It would be so much easier, in a way, to just buy a stack of books every August, work our way through, and then say that we're done. But I can't. There's so much more to education than that! There are so many fantastically intriguing things to learn! There are so many mind-expanding ideas to expose the kids too! There are so many books ... and so little time!

I've been trying very very hard for the last two school years to cut back DEEPLY on the school goals. Otherwise, my grand plans are simply unachievable. Looking back over the last several sets of school goals, I saw that we had indeed accomplished a lot of them. But there's so much more we could do. Of course, if we did school for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, we still wouldn't accomplish all the things we should. Besides, my read-aloud teacher-voice would never hold out for that anyway.

Now comes the hard part. Again. Paring back the amount of stuff we "should" do to a list of schoolwork that we actually CAN do. And then the harder part: being satisfied with leaving so much undone.

Friday, April 27, 2007


We hear a lot about ethanol usage recently. They're even planning to build an ethanol plant in our tiny little township.

Yesterday I mentioned that there are two gas stations available in the nearby city that sell real gas. In other words, ethanol-free. My dad asked why I'd want the non-ethanol gas. I said because you get worse mileage with ethanol-laced gas. He asked why I didn't want to support the farmers.

Well, how many reasons do I want to take space for?

For one thing, there's the study released from Stanford University last week. Environment Science and Technology Online reported that E-85 (the high-ethanol gas) actually creates more pollution and ozone, and thus will be more damaging to health than gasoline made from oil. The scientist even projected how many hundreds of people would die annually because of the switch to higher use of ethanol.

Ethanol costs more to the consumer because you need more of it to get somewhere.

Ethanol uses so much fuel in being produced (such as the tractors necessary to do the farming) that the savings in gasoline are consumed in the production of alternative fuel.

And then there's the cost of corn. Sure, high corn prices puts money in the pocket of the farmers who grow corn. But what about the farmers who are buying feed-corn for their hogs and cows and laying hens? They're hurting already, and it's going to get worse.

And then there are the direct food prices. Germans are upset over rising beer prices and there were riots in Mexico over skyrocketing tortilla prices.

Being less dependent on foreign oil is something America needs to work on. But we don't need ethanol. We have oil. We just haven't been willing to put in more pipelines from Alaska or pump more oil out of the Gulf.

As for the choice between ethanol and gasoline, I'm planning to keep buying my real gas as long as possible. It's all for the sake of environmental cleanliness, of course.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


My friend Kathy forwarded an email to me a few weeks ago on the topic of recognizing signs of stroke. It's often hard to recognize when a stroke is occurring until it's too late. If stroke symptoms are caught early, something can be done to help. Clot-busting drugs can be given IF it is within the first three hours after the clot blocks the artery. Naturopaths have found good results with cayenne: if the stroke victim is conscious, drinking a teaspoon of cayenne in a cup of water may solve the problem as as he's being transported to the hospital.

The warning signs are S T R -- a mnemonic device from the first three letters of the word stroke.
S -- ask the person to smile.
T -- ask the person to talk, to speak a simple sentence such as "It's sunny today."
R -- ask the person to raise both arms.
If the person has trouble doing any one of these, call 911 or head straight to the hospital. Quick thinking to obtain early treatment may prevent paralysis or save a person's ability to speak, or even save a life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Psalm 119

Y'all probably wonder why I'm going on and on about Psalm 119. It's just that I hated it for so long. I'm such a legalist that I couldn't hear it in any way other than pats on the back for myself for being such an obedient person. And I chafed at that. I couldn't be as obedient as I ought. So I tried to avoid Psalm 119 whenever it came up in the psalm-chart cycle. But last time we got to it (two months ago) I decided to try reading it again. And I loved it! Yes yes yes! It was great! And now I'm so excited about it.

Like when we read keeping God's law. If keeping is "obeying," that means something totally different from keeping as "hanging onto."

And testimonies. What if God's testimonies are kinda sorta like His "testament"?

And each set of 8 verses seems to have something somewhere about mercy.

And what if we look at those places where it says "Your Word" as if it is not only the enscriptured Word but also the incarnate Word? "Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in the heavens." And "that I may keep Your Word."

Psalm 119:teth

"Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word....
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn Your statutes."

And here's another one of those verses that I'm so prone to misunderstand. We so often think of affliction as punishment. We think God has to punish us (and others!) to pay us back for the naughty things we do, smack us for the rules we break.

Is the point of affliction to twist our arm behind our back so that we know we'd better shape up and act right? Or is the point of affliction to work repentance, sorrow over sin, and to make us aware of how much we need a Savior?

God cursed the creation not to get back at us, not to mete out grief for law-breakers. He cursed the creation so that we would know our need for Him, so that we wouldn't skip merrily along on our hell-bound path. Without affliction, we do indeed go astray. Without affliction, we have no use for His word. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Co 4:17).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Today's Dinner

Over three and a half pounds of chuck roast. And we were still hungry after roast, turnips, potatoes, and a gallon of green beans -- we had to dig through the fridge and find some zucchini to stir fry and some fruit to turn into smoothies.

No wonder I never seem to get caught up on cooking.

How are you supposed to know when something has turned the corner from being nicely and thoroughly browned to being burned? When I went to put the potatoes and turnips into the roasting pan, I found almost all my moisture and gravy had evaporated into a thick puddle of goo on the bottom. There was hard black stuff attached to the bottom of the pan. Sounds burned, right? So I carefully removed the meat and the gravy that wasn't stuck to the bottom of the pan. But when I was scrubbing the pot, it seemed that it wasn't really burned, but just very very browned, like as if a couple of cups of water poured into the pot would've been enough to save all that nice brown tasty gravy stuff. I shouldn't've given up on it so quickly, but I didn't want to pollute the veggies by putting them in a pot of burned stuff. Already made that mistake more than once. I just don't know how to know whether it's gone too far or not. I regretted having bailed on the original roasting pan, but the rest of the family thought the dinner was superb anyway.

Psalm 119:39

"Turn away my reproach which I dread,
for Your judgments are good."

and verse 52
"I remembered Your judments of old, O Lord,
and have comforted myself."

and verse 62
"At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You,
because of Your righteous judgments."

Is this the judgment of a God of wrath who's waiting to zot transgressors? Or is this the judgment which Jesus talked about to His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed?
"And when the Holy Spirit has come,
He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
of righteousness, because I go to My Father;
of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."

"The Lord's judgments are good" (119:39). Is this comfort to a sinner (119:52) and cause for a sinner to give thanks (119:62)?

Only if the sinner believes what Jesus said in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday. Only if the sinner knows that a God of love poured out His judgment against sin onto His Son, His only Son whom He loved. Only if the sinner knows that the judgment is that Satan's power has been defeated because God's Law (the power he had over sinners) has been fulfilled in Christ's death for the unlovely.

God's judgments are good and comforting and a cause for thanksgiving
only if we believe the judgment is the judgment of innocence declared in the confessional: "I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Psalm 119:11

"Your word I have hidden in my heart
that I might not sin against You."

I had always thought that this was instruction to memorize God's rules and laws so that we would know how to behave and avoid sin.

What if it's about the word of absolution? What if it's hiding in my heart the assurance that Christ has forgiven me and paid my debt and kept the law for me? What if it's about having that in my heart, such that this word of forgiveness bears fruit that we cleave to Him? What if it's about sin being squelched in our life, not by trying, but by hanging on for dear life to that absolution?

Writing to Learn

I remember being at a writing workshop at the state homeschool conference one year. The leader was an unschooling dad and an English/writing prof at a university. One of the things he mentioned was that "writing lessons" from 100 years ago were to hand-copy a certain chapter from a piece of great literature. He told us that the great writers often learned to write by copying great books.

Last week, when I was sorting through Dr Korby's files, I noticed how many times he had copied out a passage from a book or the Confessions. Copied by hand, or maybe typed. Not photo-copied.

God told the Israelite kings that each one was to hand-copy the Torah. (Not like they actually did it....)

By writing them, we learn things in a deep way that cannot be replicated by another way of learning. That's one reason why so many language students make their own flashcards instead of purchasing them already made.

I haven't made my kids do this enough. On occasion I have them copy things, but then I feel guilty for assigning "busy work," giving them carpal-tunnel-inducing projects. But maybe I need to rethink the benefits of copying out other people's words.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"By Your Agony and Bloody Sweat..."

Last time we watched Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, I realized what was going on in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Satan was tempting Jesus, he used psalms. It's like the temptation in the wilderness, after Jesus' baptism, when the two of them were throwing psalm verses back and forth at each other. Psalm 38:4 and 49:7-8 were some of the words put into Satan's mouth in the movie.

In Weissel's words: "Seek whom ye may to be your stay, none can redeem his brother. All helpers failed." But Satan stopped before he got to "This Man prevailed -- the God-Man and none other."

... By Your fasting and temptation,
By Your agony and bloody sweat, ...
Help us, good Lord.


Those men sure did cut down a lot of overgrown trees and branches for yesterday's outdoor "work day" at church. You can actually SEE the sign on the front of the building now -- it's no longer covered by humongous bushes. It looks nice!

They didn't take down my cherry tree. Last June or July somebody took a chainsaw about 1/4 of the way through the base of my cherry. Don't know who. Don't know why. Don't know when. But it sure looks sorry. There are buds, but I'm not expecting it to recover. It will probably have to join the brush pile for a future bonfire.

One of my two elderberries was taken down yesterday. That surprised me. I don't know whether that was a mistake, or if somebody found it dead after a hard winter and decided to cut it off clean down to the ground.

We should've had Smokey the Bear here to keep an eye on the pastor. He let the fire get big enough at one point that it set a nearby tree on fire. Yikes! Well, it was an old thing anyway, on its last legs. It got taken down quickly and added to the pile of burning brush. Some of the folks from church who helped clean up the place yesterday joined us for hot dogs and S'mores cooked over the fire. It was a nice evening.