Thursday, May 17, 2007

small ones

Four years ago, on a beautiful night in late June, my sister Tabithah was born. (I assume it was a beautiful night. Chances are it was humid and very warm, but I know it was green, and it wasn't raining. In any case, the event made it beautiful.) I was twenty years old.

Taba and I will always have lockstep birthdays. She's four; I'm twenty-four. When she's twenty, I'll be forty. Recently she was playing at getting married. She wedding-walked into the living room, humming a wedding march to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned, and with a twinkly-eyed little smile waved at me.

"Who are you getting married to?" I asked.

She named some fellow from a video she likes.

"And who are you waving at?"

She laughed at me. Little ones never bother to pretend they're not laughing at you. "You-oo!" she said.

I hope, when she does get married, that she waves at me on the way down the aisle.

Twenty years is a big spread between siblings, even if there are ten others to fill in the gap. Not many girls my age have a baby sister who's still well under four feet tall. It's a privilege--a gladsome joy--to have a small one in my life.

As I was working yesterday she came in and looked up at me with earnest blue eyes.

"Rachel, you know that song you teached me? Can you teach me again?"

So I did. Picked her up, set her on my lap, and sang the old spiritual "Down to the River to Pray" with her. My favourite verse is the one that highlights her lisp: "Oh sisters, let's go down/Down to the river to pray."

Sometimes I overlook the privilege I have--the chance to be a part of small ones' lives, to pick them up, to teach them, to be their "big girl." God give me grace to make the most of these years. Someday I hope we'll go down to the river of God's grace together, that we'll drink of His overflowing Spirit in a sisterhood that's deeper than any we can experience in purely earthly places. When we go, I want our quiver of memories to be already full. I want our attachment to be deep and real. I know I'm weaving the future now.

God honours small ones. God help me do the same.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I feel that this should count for something

Every Wednesday I have a giddy rush of excitement as I realize that Debbie Ridpath Ohi has updated my favourite Web comic, Will Write For Chocolate. This week it was giddy rush compounded. Go read the comic and note the thank-you note at the top ;).

Carnival of the Redeemed

As you know if you read this regularly, I've been participating in a lot of carnivals lately. I thought I'd give this one a try. It's much smaller than the other carnivals I've contributed to, but I enjoyed it.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I had several epiphanies last night. One of them was that the sales/introduction page for Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord's Prayer on my Web site was a boner. I've rewritten it entirely. Stop by and let me know what you think :).

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saintly service

Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him."

Acts 16:1-3

Oh, Timothy: eternal ideal of the Christian youth. Is there a young believer on Earth who has never shared in Paul's admonition to you to "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers"? History reports that Timothy made a good job of it. From his first mention in the Book of Acts he is "well-reported of." The Catholic Church venerates him as saint and martyr; church history calls him "the bishop of Ephesus"; the Greek Orthodox recognize him as an apostle.

Timothy's adventure began when Paul all but shanghaied him on his second missionary journey. But what did this shining example of discipleship actually do with his life?

He may have preached. We don't have a single recorded sermon to prove it.

Perhaps he founded churches. Again, we have no record of it.

Two pieces of Scripture bear his name, but Paul wrote them--not Timothy.

My favourite memoir of Timothy's life is found in Acts 19:22:

"So Paul sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season."

Did you catch that? Timothy was "one of those"--he doesn't even get a special, separate mention--"that ministered unto Paul."

The glory of it.

Don't be fooled by the word "ministered." Modern English usage has spoiled it. "Minister" is not something you do from a pulpit. "Minister" is service. It's lugging Paul's bags around. It's making sure he gets his porridge in the morning. It's holding up a candle so Paul can get his letters written. It's trotting around the Roman Empire at the heels of an apostle, always in his shadow, just serving. Timothy did this for years.

Bishop of Ephesus, Orthodox apostle--here Timothy is something simpler and sweeter. Did I say he walked in Paul's shadow? No...the truth is he walked in Christ's pure light. Jesus Himself said, "He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve."

If you desire to serve God, you who are young and searching for meaning, I encourage you to find a servant of God to serve. Receive a prophet; give a cup of cold water to a weary disciple. Hold up the candle. Cook the porridge. Love someone.

Paul's words are a beautiful benediction on the life of this young man who served him so faithfully for so many years.

"To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve... that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy."

II Timothy 1:2-4

Even so may you and I, as a community of servants, fill one another with joy.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

memories of a weekend

Behold! I have returned. Last weekend was an extraordinarily full one, and so I shall blog it--for, in this modern world, what else is to be done?

It began on Friday the 4th, when I packed up a few books and headed over the border to Lansing, Michigan, where I helped represent Write At Home at the INCH Homeschool Convention. I was surprised and thrilled to see these ladies two tables from me!

Sony and Mercy were there representing Wisdom's Gate, a publishing enterprise owned by their family. They have been publishing my devotional work in two of their magazines for years--in fact, Home School Digest was the first magazine ever to print my byline. Despite this long relationship, I had never met them in person before.

(In a strange coincidence, the small boy smiling cutely on the middle cover is the youngest Arndt child. The Arndts have fourteen children and have also been friends of ours for years.)

Jennifer Beck, marketing director and writing coach for WAH, allowed me to put a few copies of Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord's Prayer on the table. Imagine my surprise when the books were recognized and exclaimed over by these ladies! I didn't recognize them, but we were in fact acquaintances...

Some of you may recognize Karen Braun--a.k.a. SpunkyHomeschool--and her daughters :). It was enormous fun meeting them, and not only because having someone recognize my name on a book is a Twilight Zone experience!

Here are Spunky and I :). I am ashamed to admit that I didn't get any pictures of the Write At Home booth or of Jennifer, who made my day a really wonderful experience all the way around. At least, I THOUGHT I didn't get any, until I realized that they're in the background of this one! Jennifer is on the right, waiting to help interested customers while I was off hobnobbing.

When the show was over, Jennifer took my dad and I out for dinner at Smoky Bones, a barbecue restaurant that made me realize, upon stepping through the door, just how hungry a convention can make me. We had a great time and got home late. Early the next morning, I was up and packing for Toronto, where a large pack of siblings, cousins, and friends were headed to see our cousin Carolyn take the prestigious Solo Seal ballet exam.

We stayed with my dear friend Sheri in her apartment at York University. Here's Sheri with my sister Naomi, who cooked for us all weekend and kept our food bills down to about $6.00 each. Cheapest road trip ever :).

My other sisters kept themselves entertained, as usual. Deborah is a photographer and does manage to get some daring shots.

The exam itself took place on my birthday. Carolyn was beautiful, and after I nearly had a heart attack when she first appeared on stage, I enjoyed the performance immensely.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Family Business: Cons to Beware

Read "Family Business: Pros to Embrace" first.

These days, family business is the new homeschooling. More and more families are realizing that a business of their own can be a tremendous asset. I've been involved in family businesses for most of my life, and I'm all in favour of them.

However, family business has a way of eating people alive if it's not kept under control. A 9-5 job can be left at the office, but a home-based business, like death and taxes, is with us always. Here are some ideas for combating this.

1. Set limits and be realistic. Crunch times happen, in which you must abandon all semblance of sanity and work your hardest and longest to make a thing happen. That's okay, but try to plan in such a way that tasks stay manageable. For example, Mom and my sisters try to space our fudge-making over three days before we hit craft shows on the weekend, rather than doing it all at the last minute.

2. Take a break. Sabbath is important. Most of our business happens on weekend craft shows, so many of us work Sundays. When this happens, we try to take Monday as a day to relax. Burning yourself out may feel responsible, but it will cripple you eventually... don't do it.

3. Give rewards. Another way to avoid burn-out--especially in young people who work with their parents--is to make sure that work is rewarded. When we're on the road, Dad will stretch our budget in order to take the family out for dinner somewhere nice. It's more than worth it. We always enjoy eating out together, and these times are both great motivation and great memories. Morale doesn't have to expensive, but it must be maintained.

4. Fit round pegs into round holes. As much as possible, involve your family members in ways that mesh with their natural gifts. In our family, my artistic sister Deborah has created many of the lovely designs you'll see on our candy; Becky, who has mad skills with the computer and graphic design, built our Web site and designs signs and labels.

Like most things, a family business should be a flexible endeavour. See what works for you; take note of things that are not working. Work hard, have fun, and God bless you!

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Writing Tip: What's the Point?

It's the final week of the Spring Semester, and I'm marking essays. My students are given a choice of topics and 30 minutes to wax brilliant. I thought I'd address one of the common problems I see in this column.*

An essay should leave the reader with one strong impression. If he reads and then asks, "What's the point?", the essay has failed. If you know this, you'll find it much easier to put an essay together quickly. You needn't address every aspect of a topic or fill your essay with lots of inconsequential facts and anecdotes. You simply need to make a point.

Start by making a quick outline, either mentally or on paper. (Paper is better. Always.) Try for five paragraphs:

Par. 1. What's the point? Use this paragraph to introduce your topic and make a strong point about it. For example, if my topic is winter, I can make the point that winter is inhospitable to life. I can't just ramble on about winter in this paragraph. It needs to get to the point quickly.

Par. 2-4. These paragraphs should support my point. They should not give facts about winter that don't pertain to my point, nor should they ask lots of rhetorical questions or detail my childhood relationship with winter. Rather, each paragraph should look at one aspect of winter that supports my point.

Winter is inhospitable because it's too cold for most creatures. (Look at the way birds fly south and rodents hibernate.) Winter is inhospitable because nothing grows, so there is no natural food source. (This is why people have canned, dried, and salted food since time immemorial.) Winter is inhospitable because it's dark. (People fall into depression.)

Par.5. Here I make my point again, phrased slightly differently, and sum up my argument. I want readers to leave with a strong impression: WINTER IS INHOSPITABLE!

An essay with a clear point will feel solid and unified, and accomplish the purposes for which it was sent.

Incidentally, aren't you glad it's SPRING?

* It's my blog, so I'll call it a column if I want to :).

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Comforting Miracles

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Acts 20:6-12

Many people in the church today have a sort of mania when it comes to miracles and spiritual experiences. We see them as signs of God's presence, of spiritual health, of something big happening. Conversely, if they're not present, we think there's a problem.

This is unfortunate. Miracles aren't the point. The point is salvation--the point is the great truth we've been caught up in, that God loves us and has sent His Son to die in our place; that we are reconciled to the Father and have access to Him.

In Troas, Paul raised a boy from the dead. It was the single greatest miracle of his life. And when he had done it, he went back upstairs, ate, finished his sermon, and left.

No revival meetings. No setting up camp; no building an altar. No worldwide announcements that the Spirit had broken out in Asia.

Instead, Acts tells us, the disciples in Troas were "not a little comforted" by the event.

In the KJV, "comfort" is a powerful word. To be comforted is to be reminded of the truth. It's assurance that the things you have believed really are true; that you're not going to wake up from this fairy tale. It's to be touched by the Spirit of God, just enough so that we can press on.

When Paul raised Eutychus from the dead, the miracle did not bring new truth, new spirituality, or a new dawn to Troas. It was just a reminder: a word from God saying "This is real." The Holy Spirit has been given, in part, to remind us of this. Jesus said, "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).

My life has been full of comfort: little reminders, little miracles. The list of them grows with every passing year. No one will ever build a theology of revival around my comforts; I won't be canonized for them. But they're enough. Their message continually speaks to me.

This is real.

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CoH #70: The Yes, No, Yes! Edition

Mama Squirrel of Dewey's Treehouse has posted this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling. She's focusing on the many positive attitude submissions received this time around, and chose to use quotes from my Yes and Amen article to tie the whole thing together! I'm honoured... and she did a marvelous job. Have a look!

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Carnival of Family Life

Jennifer of Parenting Toddlers has posted this week's Carnival of Family Life. She did a great job, splitting the carnival into four sections that make it easy to find articles of interest: Kids - Glorious Kids, Family Finances, Relationships, and Parenting Tips.

Check it out!

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