Monday, January 21, 2013

The Beautiful Fragrance of Unity

Ruth and Rebecca, in a not-squabbling moment.

Being a mom has taught me many things, and one of them is how to better relate to God as my Father.  I've also learned much about myself as I see reactions and behaviors that are typical of human nature being acted out as openly as only a child can act them out.  Children are less concerned about appearing perfect and righteous to others.  Adults, on the other hand, frequently have layers of motives behind their actions, and it can be hard to tell why they do what they do.  But if you understand more about children and why they do what they do, you will see that adults have the same feelings, and often respond in the same way.

Let me make an example.  When I noticed that two of my little angels were at odds with one another, I put them to work to do a job together, hoping that the comraderie would help them to see things the same way.  They didn't trust my judgement on that.  Both of them believed with all their hearts that the other was at complete fault, talking about it would resolve nothing, and that the other child would take advantage of them and make them do more work than they needed to do.  Needless to say, they did not complete their job.  With both of them on the defensive, pushing the other to work, nothing happened. This made a problem for everyone as we had to endure their work not getting done, and the tension they caused in our home.  As I looked at them, with their arms crossed, chins jutting out stubbornly, blaming the other person, and taking no blame for themselves, I was reminded of adults (sometimes me!) with the same attitude.  (Note, the correction of this problem not being part of my point, I am leaving it out, but it was corrected!)

We might not take that posture, but in our hearts we despise others.  We are always on the alert to see that others do their fair share, and when there is a problem, the last place we look is our own hearts and our own actions.  When God gives us clear instructions that we ought to go to the person we have conflict with alone and talk, then go with one or two to judge between, we get uncomfortable, and come up with all kinds of reasons why it's better to talk to all our closest friends about the matter, and why trying to talk to the person in question just won't work.  (Read Matt. 18 for a step-by-step how to on personal conflict.) God knew all the circumstances that could happen ahead of time when He gave us these instructions, but we don't see His wisdom when we are justifying ourselves.  We end up believing that God is wrong, and that belief comes out in our actions.  It also creates a mess for the people of God around us since the work that God wants to complete through us does not get done.  We usually end up hurting ourselves and others and damaging the environment of God's house.

When David thought of how the unity of brethren made him feel, it reminded him of the anointing of the servant of God; that holy day when a person is separated unto God for service. (Psalm 133)  It reminded him of the fragrance of the anointing.  When we live in unity, it is a testimony to all of our holy separation unto God.  It means we are willing to lay aside our own preferences, to humble ourselves at times, and to do it for the sake of the kingdom of God.  It means that at times we will need to not stand up for our own rights, because we love Him, and we know that He is grieved when we are not in united.

As a parent, I understand a small portion of the hurt God feels when His children treat one another hatefully and with pride.  I can see the end of this, and am compelled to correct it.  My children do not look that far, and need to learn to trust me that learning to work together is way more important to me than the washing of a few dishes. God also sees the end of our squabbling.  He sees the good He can do if humble ourselves and follow His word, and He sees the destruction that will come when we resist His wise command.  As His daughter, I want Him to experience the fragrance of unity from me and my relationships!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Homeschool: spelling relief!

All of my kids who have spelling started out this year having trouble with their spelling.  We have been making extra time each week where we focus only on spelling, and I've come up with some fun games that can help the words and rules stick more fully in their heads.  Kids learn in a variety of ways, and while rote memory has its place, it doesn't excite my kids very much.  Quite frankly, if they don't care about it, it doesn't stick.

One of the best games I've come up with is to sing the Spelling Song.  To the tune of "Bingo is his nam-o", we sing, "I've got a word it's name is ______, and this is how we spell it:  ______"  This gets them to repeat the spelling of the word three times to a catchy tune. We then sing it again, with the child saying only the first letter and me singing the rest; then we sing it again with the child singing only the first two letters, etc., until the child is saying all of the letters by herself, preferably loudly!  An added benefit is, the longer the word, the more times you have to repeat it.

I'm also teaching the kids to finger spell letters in sign language.  It's a bit slow, but getting the body involved in any way uses a different part of the brain, and thus gives the child another copy of the information to access in case one copy fails.  It's really fun to try to finger spell and sing the song at the same time-but not at all easy!

Then there's the old-fashioned way: write out the word in question a gazzillion times.  This also works, and can improve handwriting if the child cares about improving her handwriting. (I'm saying "her" because all my children who have spelling are the female variety.)  A side effect of this process is hand cramps, and in our case, some complaning.  I use this method for the really unsticky words.

It's also important to talk about the word list and how the words relate.  They usually have two or three different sounds or spelling rules they are working on.  "That's a 'wa' sound too, and they're all spelled the same way."  If the curriculum doesn't mention the spelling rules being used, I do it!  Any way that I can get them to think of their spelling words with interest and relate them together activates their brain, increasing stickability.

I'm no education expert.  Like most homeschooling moms, we just keep trying new things till we find something that works, and this works for us!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

At Looooooooong Last!

One of the things that a missionary faces is finding things that they like and are not easily available in their host country.  A big one for me is books.  I love to read, to learn, and yes, even to study.  When the kindle first came out, I drooled.  Imagine having all the books you could want at your fingertips, and at thrift-shop prices!  Drool, drool.  I had to lay that desire down though, because we couldn't afford it.

Well!  I got a kindle for Christmas!  What a blessing! (Pardon the triple exclamation points.  I'm excited.) 

Some of books I've really enjoyed have been the Canadian West series by Janette Oke. I read them all when I was a pre-teen girl, and enjoyed them, but they take on an entirely new light now that I'm a missionary in a foreign country, with my own language problems and feelings of isolation.  These books encouraged me to keep ministering patiently and let the Lord fulfill my unrequited desires in His time. (Which He did with my kindle!)

I'm enjoying the free books available on the kindle Amazon store, but I've learned that you need to be choosy about what you download!  Not everything listed under "free Christian fiction" is suitable for Christians.  The reviews are valuable, here, so I don't download a book without reading enough of the reviews to know it's not smutty.

One book that was very favorably impressed with was, Gods and Kings:  Chronicles of the Kings by Lynn Austin.   I haven't read any other books in this series, but since the first one was free I tried it out.  I've never read biblical fiction that was so "right on".  It clearly brings out the fact that there is nothing new under the sun.  Following the life of King Hezekiah up to the moment he decides to be "that" king; the one who leads his people back to God. You can see the temptation of God's priests to compromise their convictions for the sake of people, trying to draw them back into the temple worship, as they make a transition from serving God, to serving the people, to serving idols. God's plan is evident as He protects Hezekiah and His own faithful prophets, while devout Jews find the temple abhorrent and defiled. There are adult themes, though (Worship of Molech described in graphic detail.)  I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

Well, enough of my jabber for now.  Thanks for reading!