Last Monday I hit the snooze button a few times too many, and missed my train. As a result, I drove in to work later and had to work quite a bit later (traffic being what it is, there is just no sense trying to drive home before 6:30 or 7:00 pm). By the time I got home, ate a little supper, did Rachel’s Special Day with her and read the Chapter to the rest of the kids, it was nearly time to go to bed. Weekends are much too far apart, in my opinion.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about hope. It seems to me that hope is a critical ingredient to happiness (or maybe joy) and is one of the major advantages that followers of Jesus have over the rest of mankind. I am frequently astonished that people who don’t love God are able to face their days at all, without the hope that we have in Christ. Sometimes it is no picnic even for those of us who have that hope … it is quite possible to become bogged down in the hopelessness of daily existence. One of the things I have had trouble with in my job is that there is no particular hope for advancement or improvement. For a few weeks after Christmas, I have been moping around, allowing myself to act as though I had nothing better to look forward to than a series of tedious and mundane workdays, briefly and occasionally interspersed with weekends. The promise of eternity seemed a long way off, and I found myself becoming depressed.

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Christmas morning — breakfast at a very hopeful moment.

I think one of the big lies that Satan would have Christians believe is that our hope is only good for eternity, and that here on earth, we are no better off than the next guy. Nothing could be further from the truth! It dawned on me with surprising force that the hope that I have is a daily and powerful hope … I can eagerly look forward to each day to see what God is going to do in it, in spite of my distaste for the work that I do. The God that I serve is powerful and active and regularly intervenes in the most dismal of circumstances … I run the risk of missing His activity in my life if I wallow in gloomy hopelessness.

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the account of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego … three teenagers brought to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem. I think it would have been very easy for a young Jew to become depressed and feel hopeless during that 70-year period of exile from Israel. These young men, selected for the service of this pagan enemy king, almost certainly resented being wrenched away from their families and the comforts of home, particularly if they were of the nobility. I think I would have been daunted by the hopelessness of captivity and reports of the eventual complete destruction of Jerusalem. But these young men held firm to their faith in God and continued to honor and glorify Him, even to the point of being willing to be burned alive rather than deny their Lord.

The other night Kathy asked me why it was that following God was so hard, sometimes. It made me think for a moment … is that necessarily true? I guess it all comes down to your view of the flesh and the unregenerate heart of sinful man. If you accept the Biblical description of the flesh and the way it wars against the spirit, then it is not surprising that obeying God would be hard, much, or even all of the time.

In the letters to the seven churches in the first few chapters of Revelation, the apostle John, writing through the Spirit, reports on what will be given ‘to he who overcomes’:

  • the right to eat from the tree of life
  • will not be hurt at all by the second death
  • some of the hidden manna
  • a white stone with a new name
  • authority over the nations
  • the morning star
  • be dressed in white
  • never have your name blotted out from the book of Life
  • be acknowledged before the Father and His angels
  • be made into a pillar in the temple of God
  • the right to sit with Jesus on the throne of God

So, what is to be overcome? Certainly temptation to sin and the persecution of others. But for many of us, the most difficult thing to overcome is more subtle … it is the struggle between our spirit and our flesh, and it is not something that can be overcome once for all. Jesus said that the one who would follow him must take up his cross daily — a strange juxtaposition of the mundane daily struggle with sin and selfishness and the extreme heroic imagery of Jesus carrying His cross to Golgotha.

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Toothless in Tacoma

Children are strange creatures. It doesn’t seem that long since I was a child (indeed, some would say I still act rather childishly) yet I am constantly surprised by my kids. Last week Joshua and I were trying to decide what to do for his Special Day … he is so much less competitive than I was at his age. Rather than be defeated, he would prefer not to play … at his age I would have played at least until I could win consistently. He won’t play any game against me these days … we come from such different philosophies. In my thinking, the only shame is not being willing to try … there is no humiliation in losing a game. Then again, I don’t lose very often, so I can afford to be glib.

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Joshua often enjoys a seat by the fire.

I’ve been reading Bible-related animal stories to the kids at night during ‘Chapter Time’ … fictional stories about animals reacting to various human events loosely associated with scriptural stories. After we prayed, I sent each child to bed, calling them by a silly nickname. Names are such powerful things … each child waited until I called them by their nickname and ran off delightedly telling the others what I had called them. “Off to bed, Faithful!” I said to Rachel, making a pun on the lavender-colored hooded sweatshirt that she wears 24×7 until we have begun calling it ‘Old Faithful’. “Get into your bunk, ‘Toothless in Tacoma’!” I said to Daniel, teasing him about the recent removal of his two lower front teeth. Even Sarah wanted to be called something, so I dubbed her “Muffin Toes” which all agreed was appropriate. “Brown Eyes” (David) and “Special Boy” (Joshua, in honor of Thursday being his Special Day) ran off to bed well-satisfied.

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Two roses — both still blooming at Christmas

I really like being a Dad, which is a good thing, considering how much time it requires. It will be a strange thing to have these rascals grow up and move out … assuming they ever do.

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Homeschool Schedule

Here is the infamous School Schedule that I’ve been using for Joshua (5th grade). I have similar charts for Rachel and Daniel (3rd and 2nd grades). Rachel and Daniel share many of the same subjects although they have their own math and language arts programs.

I update the schedules each week (Sunday night) and print them out on cardstock. Each child has their own clipboard that holds their handwriting sheets (using the Start Write computer program) and current chart.

Click this link to view it: Joshua’s Schedule

Hooray for Homeschooling!

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Ice Cream Tantrums

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Special Days with David are full of fun and laughter.

Now that Christmas is over (and we have finally taken down our tree) we are getting back into a more scheduled lifestyle. Kathy has hit the homeschooling trail hard, and I’ve re-established Special Days with each of the kids. Strangely, most of them have come to prefer that I snuggle down on Big Blue (our new double recliner) and read to them, preferably with ice cream at the end of the hour. I recently started reading The Hobbit to Joshua and All Creatures Great and Small to Rachel. David and Sarah gather up a huge stack of books … only Daniel holds firm as a computer game player.

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Book rascals

I was very impressed with little Sarah last week by the way she handled David’s Special Day. Her day is on Friday, and when Tuesday rolls around (David’s day) it seems to her to be about time for another day of her own. It is very hard for her to accept that I am reading to David and not to her. Traditionally I exclude the other children from whatever activity I am doing with the ‘special’ child, but David graciously allows Sarah to listen when I read him books … although he makes it clear that she may not sit between us. When it came time to have ice cream, Sarah had a hard time. I told her that it was not her Special Day and that the ice cream was only for David (and, of course, me). I reminded Sarah that her Special Day was on Friday and that she and I could have ice cream then. (Note that Special Days come, and Special Days go, but I get ice cream every weekday. I wonder who came up with that plan?) I’m thinking about marketing it as a new best-selling eating program — maybe I’ll call it the Fat Beach Diet?

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Who wouldn’t give this girl their ice cream?

Sarah actually handled it very well. She went and reported to Kathy with a sad face that the ice cream was only for David and Daddy. Then she came back and sat on the love seat and watched us eat. I’ve known a few two-year-olds in my time, and I can’t think of many that would handle such a thing without fussing and ruining the time for everyone involved … I was very proud of her character. After waiting a few moments to ensure that she was not about to launch into a tirade, I gave her the rest of my ice cream. I wonder if God sometimes waits to see how I will react to hardship before he rewards or blesses me? How much ice cream have I missed in my tantrums, and was any of it double chocolate chunk? Reflections of this sort can keep one awake nights.

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Pretty in Pink

This weekend a dear friend passed along an adorable little pink hat and scarf for Sarah. In a moment of shyness or stubbornness Sarah refused to try on or even acknowledge the accessories at J’s house (of course). The next morning, however, she suddenly decided they were the most wonderful thing and even wore the combo to bed. Today I was looking through the girls’ closet, picking out a Sunday dress for Sarah, and I came upon her sweet pink dress. I realized it was a perfect match for the hat and scarf and decided she could wear the outfit to church.

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Our sweet pink 2 ½ year old girl.

Sarah loved the whole ensemble and went around the house telling everyone, “I’m Beautiful!” It wasn’t entirely a sign of vain pride as I had said it to her several times. Ha! And to her credit, she immediately followed it up with, “and David is handsome.” We read a book last week in school called The 13 Clocks by James Thurber. In it the beautiful maiden was named Princess Saralinda. Rachel and I both fell in love with that name and think it’s perfect for our very own Sarah Lucinda.

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