Saturday, November 18, 2017

Lost Metaphors: Light (Part 2)

Last week I mentioned that there is a dimension of light in science that most of us can't even really fathom.  It is essential to the way our universe works and goes beyond just the sun.  This week I will mention a few other thoughts on our misunderstanding of light and then focus on the one that has been most on my mind.

Here's an article that talks about how the distraction of the closer lights blocks the view of the lights of heaven.  Think about that - your phone light, street light and others - block your view of the heavenly bodies that inspired and guided people for generations.  You can't navigate by the stars or understand their courses because you can't even see them!  We are generations not inspired by the beauty of the stars.  What are we missing? 

There are also the health issues that come up because we don't follow the day and night pattern of life.  I am SO guilty of this issue.  Sleep and rest are gifts and we mess with them because we have artificial light available to us. 

As you read through the Bible you often read about thankfulness for the morning (or read children's prayers from bygone years).  That's because the night was truly scary!  Today this darkness is symbolized by the "dark alley" that we are told NEVER to take.  All of night was a dark alley - not just one poorly lit spot! This is one reason why the Jewish day started in the evening - because they asked for God to keep them safe until morning.  This was a true concern and real prayer.  Today it sounds like a platitude - of course we'll be up in the morning.  We don't fear the night.   (Not that we want to live in fear - but it shows how different our world is today.)

I want to talk about one passage in particular.  Many of you are probably familiar with it (maybe you have the Amy Grant version playing in your head if you are of a certain age . . .)

Thy word is a lamp onto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105 

When we read that verse we feel like it is limiting. God, where are the floodlights?  We want to see the whole path and beyond.   It seems like God is not giving us enough with just a light unto our feet. Have you camped with flashlights?  We are so used to a fully illuminated world - day and night -that we feel a bit unsafe with just our flashlight.  However, this passage meant the EXACT opposite of that to people prior to last century.  Most of humanity has lived by a candle or torch - not full illumination.  In their lives, having enough light for the path in front of you was comfort and care.  That was walking in safety.

Having light all around us has made us think that we constantly need to see the "whole picture" to be safe.  NO!  We need to see the next step and have someone we trust leading us to be safe.  It is scary to walk the path with just a small light when you are used to a fully lit world.  However, if you are always in a fully lit world it is MUCH harder to see the one true light - the one that leads you on the path you should be going.  Every path looks like a possibility - instead of sticking to the path as outlined.  We are overwhelmed by options and then wonder why we are tired, confused and uncertain.   

In our lit up world we believe that we can "see" more, but often, our more, is merely distraction. We can't follow well because we can't focus on the true light in the midst of so many.  We don't want to walk in darkness because it is scary and FOMO.  We feel like God isn't giving us enough, instead of, receiving the comfort of having a guiding light.  Our well lighted world actually deprives us of the comfort of a trusted light. 

We also think that in order to be a "light" to somebody we must light up the whole room for them.  We don't trust in the relief that a small flickering flame brings into a dark place. Light is meant to guide - whether stars or candle - it is only in this past century that it was an option to illumine all things.  Lending our light to help with the next step is enough.  That allows us to walk the path with them! 
Do you use light well?
Are you following His light - even if it seems like only the next step is illumined?
Does fear dominate because you feel like you don't have enough light or need to see the whole picture to take the next step?
Is there someone that you need to bring your candle to so that they can take the next step? 

As we experience more darkness this winter, I challenge you to think about how light was used for centuries and the lessons that it taught and comfort that it brought. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lost Metaphors: Light (Part 1)

Be careful what you write about!  Last weekend, inexplicably, for about 16 hours we lost most of the water pressure in our house (if I was smelly at church - now you know why).  We had a little water and it further emphasized just how fortunate we are to have easily accessible, clean water.  Hubby somehow fixed it and all is well again.

This past summer we listened to Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything as we traveled to see the solar eclipse (my father in laws dream come true).  We are huge fans of Bryson.  He writes for adults so some content is inappropriate for younger ears - but we just skip those small sections.  We were somewhere in the middle of Arkansas as he told us about Einstein's brilliant understanding of the universe (sorry I can't give you a page number).  Essentially he said that Einstein explained that it is all about light. 

Bryson might be a Christian but his book isn't Christian (I guess this is where I should warn you the book talks a lot about evolution).  As I heard that Einstein believed it all came down to light it made me think of the first words, "Let there be light."  If you've read the Genesis 1 account you probably wondered how does God created light on the first day but there wasn't any sun or moon in place until the fourth day?  Aren't they pretty much the same thing?  For those less tutored in science, like myself, they are. 

Apparently, there is an understanding of light that goes much beyond the stars; Einstein got it, I don't, God did -from the beginning.  Light is the most fundamental part of our universe, it does more than make sure that plants grow. I honestly can't explain it, but I get that it is a mystery beyond me and I am okay with that.

I also thought of Jesus proclaiming "I am the way, the truth and the light".  We aren't talking about a flickering candle - this is something much more essential than that. 

Our most brilliant minds can catch a glimpse of what God purposed from the beginning - it starts with light and He is the light.  Next time we'll look at this metaphor from a different perspective.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Truths from the Wizard of Oz

Was Halloween only last week?  Here, it was a mad dash to make Harry Potter robes and scarves - but they turned out decently.  At least three families we know went as Wizard of Oz characters.  Re-listening to the book this past summer, I realized something I hadn't heard before (and I don't think is highlighted in the movie).

In the book, the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy are enslaved to the Wicked Witch of the West.  They have no idea how to get out. Dorothy had been given gifts from Glinda the Good Witch that would have beaten the Wicked Witch easily - but she didn't know it.  The Wicked Witch of the West knew exactly what Dorothy had and plotted to steal what she could.

Glinda had given Dorothy a kiss on the forehead.  Dorothy didn't know the power of that kiss but the Wicked Witch was afraid to hurt Dorothy because of it. The Wicked Witch could be mean to Dorothy but wouldn't do more than that.  

Glinda also gave Dorothy her famous shoes - silver in the book, red in the movie.  Dorothy thought they were just shoes; the Wicked Witch knew they were powerful.  When the Wicked Witch tries to steal them from Dorothy, she reacts by throwing water on the witch and she melts. It was an accident on Dorothy's part, but it sets them free. Dorothy now knows that the shoes are valuable - but still doesn't know their full power.  

As I was listening, I realized that as Christians we are often like Dorothy.  We are sealed by the Holy Spirit.  Do we really understand what that means though?  It is not a magic potion that shields us from all wrong (she was a slave after all) but it does mean that we know who we belong to - even if we are in adverse circumstances.  We are His - no matter what.  Do we believe it?  Do we live like it?

Secondly, the shoes were a gift.  Dorothy didn't realize the power of this gift or know how to use it.  The Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit gives us gifts.  How many of us live as if God has given us nothing to work with?  How many of us have wished we had different gifts?  Do we know what our gifts are and how to use them?  

Dorothy would have stayed enslaved indefinitely!  She could have walked free at any point but she just didn't know it. 

How many of us lived trapped in lies not realizing what it means to be a Son or Daughter of the King?  Dorothy was kissed, but we are sealed by the Holy Spirit.  How many of us have gifts we have never really explored, used or even received?  Dorothy had been given everything she needed by Glinda but she didn't know it.  Instead, she lived as a prisoner. 

Are you living as a prisoner to lies?  Do you know that in Christ Jesus you have EVERYTHING you need for life and godliness?   It was finished at the cross where Jesus died - you can't earn it - but you can receive it as the free gift he offers to ALL who repent, call on his name and believe (Romans 10:9 - 10). 

Look into all that God has for you - don't remain ignorant like Dorothy.  Realize all that you have been given in Jesus and live into the truth - not the lies. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Lost Metaphors: Living Water

This past week my kids and I read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park.  I haven't cried that often while reading in a LOOONG time.  We read lots of books about people in hardship but normally they are distant. - in time or culture.  In this book every chapter shows the dates and these are my dates - when I was in high school, after my sons were born, just a few years ago.  It made it more immediate.  Water is still precious to SO many in our world. Reading about the change that pure, living water can bring was amazing. 

In this village it meant:
  - the end of many preventable diseases - HEALTH
  - a chance for the children to go to school (since they don't have to walk to get water) - EDUCATION
  - opportunity to serve their neighboring villages - SERVICE
  - a place to gather (taking gathering around the water hole to a new level) - COMMUNITY
  - a chance to grow crops more easily and then begin a market - MEANINGFUL WORK

Living water - not stale, dirty, infested water - meant new life on so many levels in this dry and dusty land. I have never wanted for water a day in my life.  As I compared this young girl's life - providing water for her family; to my son's life - focused around play dates and great experiences.  The contrast was what brought the tears. I was so grateful and convicted.  

As I read, I realized just how powerful the image of "living water" would be to this community.  Dirty water means lack of opportunity and death.  Jesus' listeners knew the value of living, fresh water.  streams of living water - no wonder they wanted to know where this was and how they could get it. (John 4)

The depth of this metaphor was lost on me until I realized what a community without water suffers.  I realize I am latecomer - but hopefully my boys heard the message and better realize their privilege - the chance to easily get clean water - every day.  Something so simple and essential but not available to so many.

This past year the first graders memorized Psalm 23.  We talked about the shepherd making sure that the sheep weren't caught up in the current and sent downstream - thus leading beside still waters. My kids loved demonstrating the sheep rolling down the river.  Later, I realized that I had an English version of shepherding; the middle eastern version is not nearly so verdant and water is not nearly as abundant.  A place of abundant water is a place of health, wealth, relief, and life.

Now, listen to what Jesus says, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)   Do you see what this metaphor really means for the people around you?  It means that His Spirit in you brings life, health, education, community, service and meaningful work to those around you.  This is God's heart; that those who love him will be like an oasis in the desert for those around them.   

Are you an oasis to those around you?
Are you in a place that needs living water?
Is there something that is stopping those waters from flowing out of you?

I encourage you to find an organization you trust and think about helping to provide clean water somewhere in the world this season - out of thankfulness (you can search clean water projects and find a TON).  Also, consider if you are allowing His life to flow through you to bring life, health and  community to those around you. 

Don't let this metaphor be lost on you any longer!


Monday, May 8, 2017

Meaningful Minutes: Geography, Part 2

The morning after I posted last week I thought of at least 4 more great resources for geography.  So here is part 2.

Barefoot Ragamuffin has a full curriculum but she has pulled out all of her geography readings and put them into the Geography Literature freebie (scroll down on the left hand side).   I found great books and authors I hadn't heard of before in her lists.   She also has a reprint of Charlotte Mason's Geographical Readers for free (you have to sign into Lulu though).  These are VERY basic but great for small tidbits of information.

If you want to focus on American geography you might want to check out "8 for each state".  A mom has put together 8 interesting sites to help you learn about each state.  There are some neat things on there.

Atlases and maps.  Of course!  My hubby found a HUGE atlas for $2 at the Half Price Book sale.  I always love a good historical atlas around.  Of course you can't really go wrong with a National Geographic Atlas. As you read, look up where things are.  You can also use wall maps (I got mine from Costco at one point).  I have used a shower curtain map in my class (really good for younger kids) and I have had fabric panels of the world and the United States which are also good for groups.  To be honest, we still don't own a globe.  Maybe that's what we should get this fall (they show up at Costco come August).

The Draw the . . . series teaches you how to draw places and continents all over the world.  If you want a place to start without investing - try blob maps (and here is a video series for younger kids to try it out.)

Right now my son is enjoying The Lost Art of Nature Signs.  It ties together geography, science, social studies and much more to help you understand how people used to read the stars, the land and more.  He is constantly stopping to tell me what he just learned - it is fascinating.

Peeps at Many Lands . . . this is an older series of books that gives you a sense of the land and history of different places around the world.  As with all older books you might want to read first and edit or discuss as needed.

Have fun with geography this summer.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wednesday with Words: Nouwen and Staying Home

A while back I re-read Parker J. Palmer's book I only picked it up because on the back was a recommendation by Henri Nouwen.  I have thought about how Nouwen's experience - going from being a professor and well regarded theologian to working with the mentally disabled - is similar to many stay at home mom's experience.  Nouwen was well respected in his field and honored but he constantly writes about how working with those in an institution is all about being in that moment, being kind and gracious - they don't care what your degree or background is.  Honestly, that is what makes being a mom humbling and difficult.  I can handle a professional situation, make a great presentation, be an "adult" but my kids don't really care about that.  They care about spending time, enjoying each other, being in the moment - that's a bit tougher for me.  This clashes against where many of us have placed our value for so long.  I think this is one reason I appreciate his work is because of his deep humility.

A few weeks ago I was rummaging through the local library's books for sale.  I am pretty sure a pastor had recently dropped off his library because of the type of books that were available.  What caught my eye was a book of the hours using sections of Henri Nouwen's writing.  Fascinating.  It has about 6 short readings that are spread throughout the day.  The idea is that you can read words to remind you about who you are, who God is and what you should be about on a regular basis.  I just started with the new month.  WOW - it is going to be good.  I don't always read it "on the hour" but am trying to at least read it each day.

Yesterday's Vesper passage was what I needed to hear.  I have been called the "least stay - at - home" mom by close friends.  However, after 10 years I am realizing that I might have missed the boat in my ridiculous running around. :

Yes, God sees the hidden work and it is fruitful.  I need to remember this.

ETA: I got mine for a buck - who knew it would be worth $10+.  If you plan to use it faithfully it is probably worth it.  It isn't dated just Sunday through Saturday for four weeks.

See what others are reading a Ladydusk.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Meaningful Minutes: Geography

You might not think of geography as something worth pursuing - you can always just look it up. However, it isn't just trivia - it speaks into history, science and much more.

Here are some fun ways to add it to your life:

Geo Puzzles - Get these for the summer and enjoy.  There is also one that helps you learn US history as well.

Holling C. Holling books - Often we think of geography as just knowing where things are on a map but there is much more to it and these books bring that to light.  Follow down the Mississippi, across the Great Lakes, on the Trails of the West.

10 Days in the _______ -  This is a series of board games that are fun and easy to play and teach geography at the same time.

Ticket to Ride - This is a bit more complicated than 10 days but is also fun.  My boys are constantly making up their own versions.   There are some that are other parts of the world and others depict maps during different eras.

Scrambled States -  This is game to help you learn the United States.  I think it is based on the book Scrambled States of America.

Halliburton books - I just recently learned of this incredible author.  He was an adventurer in the 1910s and 1920s - flying bi planes through Africa.  Some of his books are fictional and some of them are his own adventure stories.  I haven't read them all so there is a chance that parts aren't PG and they are for upper elementary and older students.  

Flag Frenzy or Flags of the World - I haven't played these - but if your kids are flag fans this might be a fun way to tie it to geography.

Montessori also has a World Map and Flag that could be a great combination.

You could also spend time considering the explorers and follow their exploits around the world.  Here is one book to get you started.   If you enjoy eating - you can try a fun take like Eat Your Way Around the World. A few weeks ago I mentioned Give Your Child the World which has stories from around the world.  

If you are a AAA member you can get free maps from your local office.  Consider getting out a map if you are going on a trip and having your kids follow along - instead of just listening to Siri tell you to turn right and left.  Try the old fashioned way!

I won't mention Risk - I don't want to bring that game into your home (ha ha).  I am positive there are other great resources out there.  I hope that this summer you will find ways to make geography fun.  I haven't really even touched on all of the physical geography and exciting exploits like Mount Everest.