many beautiful things

saw a lovely documentary last night at the kansas international film festival... the story of one of my favorite people...

while reading the wind in the willows...

...we were inspired by Mr Toad.

Lines scribbled during breakfast with/for my youngest brother (10)... spawning tears of laughter...

Ten millionaires may carry
Their money to the bank,
Still, they can't hold a candle to
The wealth of Mr Hank

A wooden spoon quite often
Gives naughty boys a spank.
But never spoon has touched the rump
Of perfect Mr Hank

Other men need soap or else
Their skin begins to stank.
But only smells of daffodils
Exude from Mr Hank

The wise men were confounded--
Their minds completely blank.
Who solved the age-old riddle?
The brilliant Mr Hank.

Who is that buff young Samson,
With muscles like a tank?
"I only press nine hundred,"
Protests the humble Hank.

Adonis lived in ancient Greece--
Now let me be quite frank.
The man's a warty toad beside
Our handsome Mr Hank.

when I grow up...

...I want to be just like Sybil Coningsby.

Go and read.

we rest in thee, and in thy name we go

"The secret of [Hudson Taylor's] own strength was not far to seek. Whenever work permitted, Mr. Taylor was in the habit of turning to a little harmonium for refreshment, playing and singing many a favorite hymn, but always coming back to--

Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.

...Mr. George Nichol... was with him on one occasion when some letters were handed in to his office, bringing news of serious rioting in two of the older stations of the Mission. Thinking that Mr. Taylor might wish to be alone, the younger man was about to withdraw when, to his surprise, someone began to whistle. It was the soft refrain of the same well-loved hymn:

Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art . . . 

Turning back, Mr. Nichol could not help exclaiming, "How can you whistle, when our friends are in so much danger!"

"Would you have me anxious and troubled?" was the quiet reply. "That would not help them, and would certainly incapacitate me for my work. I have just to roll the burden on the Lord."

Day and night this was his secret, "just to roll the burden on the Lord." Frequently those who were wakeful in the little house at Chinkiang might hear at two or three in the morning, the soft refrain of Mr. Taylor's favorite hymn. He had learned that, for him, only one life was possible--just that blessed life of resting and rejoicing in the Lord under all circumstances, while he dealt with the difficulties, inward and outward, great and small." --Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor

It's tempting to view resting in Jesus as the easy way out. But is it?

Jesus gave himself up to the Father's will, rested in the Father's will--and it caused Him to sweat great drops of blood.

Psalm 69:2 speaks of deep waters... Lilias Trotter wrote this way: “‘I am come into deep waters’ took on a new meaning this morning.  It started with perplexing matters concerning the future.  Then it dawned that shallow waters were a place where you can neither sink nor swim, but in deep waters it is one or the other:  ‘waters to swim in’ – not to float in.  Swimming is the intense, most strenuous form of motion – all of you is involved in it – and every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up.” 

The children of Israel, backed against the Red Sea... Egypt's entire army at their heels... every impulse would be to run, every nerve would be tensed to flee. But Moses says, Stand still. See the salvation which the Lord will accomplish for you.

In that moment, was it easy for Israel to stand still? Easy to rest in the confidence that God would fight for them? Or was it perhaps the intense, most strenuous form of motion...

Hebrews 9:14 says that Jesus offered himself to God through the eternal Spirit... The Son of Man, the Word made flesh, did not have enough strength, enough will-power, enough resolve, to abandon himself to the Father and rest in the Father. But the Spirit... through the eternal Spirit... Jesus offered himself to God, and rested in the Father.

"...the moment the soul yields itself to obey, the Lord Himself gives the strength and joy to do it." -- Andrew Murray

the listening time

Have you ever read Ruth Sawyer? Roller Skates and Year of Jubilo, and The Way of the Storyteller... Storytelling, the traditional art of storytelling, the Irish seanchaí kind of storytelling, was such a part of her life. She was the kind of person who knew to begin a story with--"Listen." How could she not, raised on the stories of an Irish nurse?

Early in the morning the stars drop so close to earth—no, water—that you feel if you cast up in the sky you could hook enough for breakfast…. There you have us, sitting for half an hour, talking in whispers, why whispers I don’t know. Perhaps because the world is enchanted and a loud, harsh voice might break the spell. And as we sat, there came from the four corners of the earth a hush, you know, finger to lips. I’ve sat that way with you so many times waiting for the curtain to go up. And we were waiting for the day’s curtain to go up, and for five minutes no one even whispered.” --from "Year of Jubilo"

At the beginning of this year, I told a friend, oral storytelling is something I've always wanted to study. Can you imagine, obtaining a degree in storytelling and folk lore (as Sawyer did)? Then skipping over to Ireland now and again, just to collect stories (as Sawyer did)? 

Four months later, Jesus brought Simply the Story into my life, the opportunity to learn oral storytelling, questions and discussion--in Ireland of all places (10 wet, green days). To use Lilias Trotter's words, "How wonderful God's timings are. There is a such a strange kind of heavenly poetry about them--& it brought such a strong assurance that His Hand is in it all, working out a purpose worthy of His great thoughts!"

Sabina Wurmbrand tells of a woman who once taught French and English literature, entertaining 84 women in a single, silent train car, telling the story of Dorian Gray over the course of three hours, capturing the imaginations of peasants and intellectuals alike. They experienced something great and beautiful, in the midst of something dark and terrible. 

I've always loved the power of story, but an immersion into the world of oral learners--the 80% of humanity, including developed nations, that cannot or does not prefer to learn through reading--an immersion into the world of spoken story shifts your perspective on the written word, maybe shifts your focus, as well, from a world of your own fire-side and quiet study, to a return to the singing time, when literature was an affair of the market place and the banqueting hall. A return to the listening time, the time of talk and tale-telling, when the longs hours were lightened with stories and conversation much deeper than today's children may ever encounter. A time when there was room for storytelling, and room for listening. 

Simply the Story, this way of sharing that touches the heart, not just the head... The Word who was born and made choices and told stories and asked questions and listened and died and rose again and sits at the Father's right hand. The Word--Logos--opening the doors of our hearts, so that the Spirit may more fully enter in.

blossom in the desert

Favorite discovery of the year: Lilias Trotter.

Come, look, see.

"Will it not make life narrow, this focusing? In a sense, it will - just as the mountain path grows narrower, for it matters more and more, the higher we go, where we set our feet - but there is always, as it narrows, a wider and wider outlook, and purer, clearer air. Narrow as Christ's life was narrow, this is our aim; narrow as regards self-seeking, broad as the love of God to all around. Is there anything to fear in that?"

a fly on the wall (and you thought this house was abandoned!)

Listen in to a recent conversation we had about child training, habit training, and the Holy Spirit. Enjoy, and may your trust in Jesus grow stronger as He reveals Himself as the God who works in us.

We love so many of Charlotte Mason's methods. Living books, feasts of beautiful ideas, hours in the outdoors, short, varied lessons, narration, the importance of free play... the list could go on!

Last year, after reading several volumes of Ambleside's Concise Summaries, I wondered whether it was possible (hypocritical, even?) to embrace someone's methods while disagreeing with their foundational philosophies. We decided that Charlotte's philosophies are not the only way to arrive at her conclusions.

Her methods were ahead of her time. We see the wisdom and benefit of those methods. Yet Charlotte was a woman of her time. Her beliefs and convictions were shaped by Victorian religion, a form of godliness which had largely forgotten the power of the Holy Spirit (which is why the Keswick Convention rocked England).

My question comes from having lived with several families, both North American and European, with a variety of opinions on child training. Some use a consistent method very similar to habit training, and... it's not enough. There's an ever-present tension between law and grace; children who are constantly watched, yet evade and disobey; disciplined and discipled with love and grace, yet their hearts are untouched; ever hearing, never penetrated by the dynamis of the Gospel, by the Person of Jesus.

Galatians 3:23-4:1: "The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.... the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father." Absolutely true. Parents are to train up a child in the way he should go. However, when the child becomes the focus, instead of the Way (Jesus), habit training can quickly derail and cut the legs out from under the Gospel. 

For Charlotte Mason, “the problem before the educator is to give the child control over his own nature” (Volume 1, page 103) so that he can overcome his bad traits, conquer his own inclinations, gain power over his own self. For Charlotte, the Will is what enables us to do that which we know is right but which we may not feel like doing, and therefore she desires to strengthen the Will. She is quick to add, “I do not undervalue the Divine grace––far otherwise; but we do not always make enough of the fact that Divine grace is exerted on the lines of enlightened human effort.”

Charlotte rightly recognizes the importance “of the Christian mother, whose highest desire is to train [her child] for the Christian life.” But she continues, “When he wakes to the consciousness of whose he is and whom he serves, she would have him ready for that high service, with every faculty in training––a man of war from his youth; above all, with an effective will, to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Volume 1, page 323) Hold on! Those last words highlight the way that habit training can easily try to replace the Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:13 actually says, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

Charlotte believes “it is because of the possibilities of ruin and loss which lie about every human life that I am pressing upon parents the duty of saving their children by the means put into their hands. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that ninety-nine out of a hundred lost lives lie at the door of parents who took no pains to... fortify them with the habits of a good life.” (Volume 1, page 330) Is this how the Bible views salvation? Can Christian parents save their children by fortifying them "with the habits of a good life”?

Corrie ten Boom knew something different. “When I try, I fail. When I trust, He succeeds.”

Even if we append "I am, I can, I ought, I will" with, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," Charlotte's philosophy inclines a child to depend upon himself. When faced with the impossible standard of God's Word, such children often experience self-condemnation. The truth is confusing, because it seems to contradict everything they know: I am--a wretch? I cannot--but Jesus can?

I have seen what children are, when given free rein. I have seen what children are, when spanked ten times a day. I have seen what children are, when given time and space to consider their behavior, then gently led by a firm authority into the truth of Scripture. But it is not enough. None of these are enough. We must choose the Holy Spirit every single time, and we must help our children choose the Holy Spirit, every single time.

A couple things helped crystallize and articulate these thoughts. Andrew Murray, a Spirit-filled contemporary of Charlotte Mason:

In this [the child] is to become the master of his own will, that he voluntarily submits it to a higher authority.”

...cast yourself on the covenant for the leading of the Holy Spirit in your work, for the renewal of the Holy Spirit in your child, that it may be your and his joy to see his will given up to choose the good, to choose God.”

...may a due sense of my own impotence, and Your Almighty Power working in me, combine to keep me humble and yet hopeful, conscious of my weakness, but confident in You.”

Also, part of an article by Leslie Ludy, titled Tending to Their Souls:

After walking our children through the Gospel, and joyfully watching them give their lives to Jesus, one of the most important principles we have had to continually remind them of is the concept of the “old man” and the “new man” (See Romans 6:8-13)

As they are newly planted in Christ, our children need to learn the principle of reckoning themselves dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness. When we see a sinful behavior pattern surfacing in their lives, we will often ask them where “old Kipling” or “old Harper” is. And they will remember that their “old man” is dead and buried, and that they are now “new Kipling” or “new Harper” who is in Christ Jesus. In their new position “in Christ,” they have the power to reckon themselves dead unto sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. It may sound like a complicated truth for preschoolers to grasp. But we have found that they truly do “get it.” They are very aware of the difference between their “old” and “new” man. The old man has no ability to overcome sin. But now that they are “new creations in Christ,” old things have passed away. Through Christ, they have been given the power to choose righteousness over sin. When we remind them of these truths often, we see an incredible difference in the way they live their lives.

This certainly doesn’t mean we have perfect, sinless children. (Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice?!) But they are beginning to grasp the secret to living a godly life, and they are starting to understand the fact that sin no longer needs to control them.

For instance, when my youngest son begins to whine and resist obeying, I appeal to his understanding of the Gospel. “Remember that you are ‘new Kipling,’” I will remind him. “You can ask Jesus for the grace to say ‘no’ to sin right now. You are in Christ, Kipling. Disobedience no longer needs to control you. If sin can’t get to Jesus, it doesn’t need to get to you!”

Often, these words will motivate him to stop the downward spiral he’s on and ask for the grace to behave like “new Kipling” who is “in Christ Jesus.”

Frequently there is a marked difference in his attitude after taking the time to remind him of these truths. It’s truly a marvelous thing to watch God at work in his little soul. When you are working with your kid’s behavior issues, don’t stop short and rely only on discipline and character training principles. Incorporate the message of the Gospel, and frequently remind them of the covenant they have made with Jesus Christ. As they grow and develop, the victory and power of the Gospel will become an unshakable foundation in their lives.