Saturday, April 6, 2019

On Easter Baskets and the Concrete Reality of the Resurrection

(First off, I’ve been watching a lot of Jeeves and Wooster lately, so certain phrases keep bubbling to the surface. Consider y’selves forewarned.)

Let's jump right in.

I’ve been thinking about Easter a lot. As a church festival I feel it often has a way of falling by the wayside the slightest bit. But as Protestants to the backbone, who believe in joyously hearty feast days and letting the church calendar (chronicling major events in the life of Christ specifically) shape our days and souls, there’s a rich mine here to be explored. It's like Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, leading to the culmination of Ascension Day and ultimately rounding out with Pentecost -- are each a golden jewel, strung perfectly together, each lending fuller meaning and deeper understanding to the others. We need Christmas -- with its celebration of the full Godhead and humanity of Christ, the Light breaking into the darkness, pointing from the very beginning to the Cross -- and we need Easter, Christ's vindication and full rising in the flesh.

Yet while Easter’s a tremendous culmination, I’ve been puzzling over why it feels more ethereal than the others. Of all of the events it’s the most startling. The disciples were stunned and downright terrified. The earth quaked, a huge boulder rolled, rough blood stained Roman soldiers lay knocked out. All of this is a far cry from cutesiness.

Resurrection. New life. New creation. A restoration to the garden of Eden. Ezekiel’s river running out of the new temple and the entire world becoming a garden. Lucy’s loveliest of lovely stories in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is something like it -- for the refreshment of the spirit. Or like the moment when Shasta bends to drink clear spring water from Aslan’s paw print.

“…after one glance at the Lion’s face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn’t say anything but then he didn’t want to say anything, and he knew he needn’t say anything.

“The High King above all kings stooped towards him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the mane, was all round him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. He was alone with the horse on a grassy hillside under a blue sky. And there were birds singing.

“…‘Was it all a dream?’ wondered Shasta. But it couldn’t have been a dream for there in the grass before him he saw the deep, large print of the Lion’s front right paw. It took one’s breath away to think of the weight that could make a footprint like that. But there was something more remarkable than the size about it. As he looked at it, water had already filled the bottom of it. Soon it was full to the brim, and then overflowing, and a little stream was running downhill, past him, over the grass.

“Shasta stooped and drank -- a very long drink -- and then dipped his face in and splashed his head. It was extremely cold, and clear as glass, and refreshed him very much. After that he stood up, shaking the water out of his ears and flinging the wet hair back from his forehead, and began to take stock of his surroundings.”

I’m not directly equating Narnia and Easter at the moment, but it’s making me think more on the tone I want to foster in our home. Through all responding to the lavish goodness of God. Mystery, passion, wonder, and intense love.

And so now we get to the presents. If all our feast days are celebrating Christ’s tangible coming in the flesh, then I think (somewhere) there should be presents. And if Easter is a culmination in and of itself, snowballing to more and more glories, we need to think how to live this out in real earnest.

The world really doesn’t know how to embody the feast day. Because there’s no Santa Claus etc., from what I’ve read it tends to get lumped in more with the likes of Valentines Day. So we get left with people doing all sorts of rather confused buying, egg hunts, and Easter baskets.

I’ve never been crazy about Easter baskets. Not that there’s anything wrong with the colorful things. It’s just kinda hard to get super excited about plastic eggs and chocolate flavored candies. (Bitter, I know. Acerbic even. ;)) It’s not particularly even the whole goddesses and pagan bunnies thing (though of course that’s an issue). It’s that it’s all too cute. We do emphatically believe God created all the sweet, cuddly things of creation -- puppies and kittens and bunnies and downy ducklings. But when it comes to the great church festivals, I think we must be militantly beware of cuteness. (We can use it, we should just be very certain why we’re doing it.)

I’ve quoted this from The Christian Imagination before, but it’s worth highlighting again: “To many North Americans… Christianity seems soppy. That is because they have not seen the real goods. True Christian imaging meets violence head-on, mine and the world’s, but also God’s. The Christian imagination… must face the reality of Job’s cry, the cry of God’s crucifixion, and of our participation in it. Once this is recognized, faith becomes not only possible, but necessary; it can never again be rose-water belief in Santa Claus.”

So back to the presents.

First off, we’re not talking about breaking the bank. They can be homemade. Or maybe the Christmas budget could be adjusted and some of the gifts saved for Easter. And (if you watch how many things come in your house) this can still have a minimal approach as well. It’s in choosing things very intentionally.

When it comes to children particularly, and thinking on our new white garb in Christ, I love the idea of a new spring/summer church dress for girls. This could work just as well (and might carry nice emphasis) with new pants and a shirt for the little guys too. And this could fit right in too with a smaller, manageable wardrobe. They just wait to get their new things till Easter and then wear them consistently thereafter.

It can be something they need. (One sweet YouTuber mom I've enjoyed watching suggests giving their new swim outfit for the year.) Or a beautiful picture book. Or perhaps something children will share (new play dough or some sort of play set etc, etc). If you’re into games, maybe a new card or board game for the entire family. The idea is to give appropriate weight to it. And (this is a thought experiment) but thinking through the wrapping and presentation. Something wrapped up is most definitely a present -- a surprise. (Or on the other hand maybe an entirely different approach. There’re all sorts of creative presentation ideas out there. The idea is to think on it.)
So there ye are!

I’d really love to hear all your thoughts and if you’re interested in a follow up (including what the Little Princess is receiving this year along with a few home decorations and other ideas) let me know and I’ll try and whip my ideas into some sort of shortish crystallized word form. ;)

Have a lovely evening one and all!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Book Review // For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

This work comes from Francis Schaeffer’s daughter as she builds on and provides a warm, impassioned introduction to the works of Charlotte Mason, a wonderful educator and teacher with a vision for vibrant, Biblical, cultural change in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. Mason's philosophy isn't caught up in some sort of rosy bubble, out of touch with the shifting sands of a post-Christian world. To quote:

“Nor is a social revolution the only one pending. There is a horror of great darkness abroad, Christianity is on its trial; and more than that, the most elementary belief in, and worship of, Almighty God. The judgment to come, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting,--these fundamental articles of a Christian’s faith have come to be pooh-poohed; and this, not only among profane persons and ungodly livers, but amongst people of reputation both for goodness and wisdom. And how are the young to be prepared to meet this religious crisis? In the first place, it is unwise to keep them in the dark as to the anxious questions stirring.” Macaulay quoting Mason, pp. 96

(Note, in the following I’m not really analyzing the method itself so much as reviewing this particular presentation of it, so by extension I’m presupposing some familiarity with her overarching approach/ideas. 😊)

Also, let me say right off the bat that many of the principles can be applied no matter what educational method you prefer. And it’s not just for parents and teachers. As Christ followers, we are to have a tender heart for overlooked, needy children all round us. Sometimes they just need one person in their life (be it uncle, aunt, grandparent, neighbor etc.) to come alongside, throwing open windows to the world and really listening to them. Even if the child is in a God-fearing, loving household, there can be all sorts of opportunities to come alongside and serve. There’s a lot of work to be done and we need to roll up our sleeves and figure out where we’ve been called to jump in.

I do love this approach for its respect of children as persons, made in God’s image. It’s big picture, it’s about raising thinkers, and it’s tremendously helpful in its integral approach (taking into consideration the simultaneous maturation of the child’s heart, mind, and body) in raising children who not only think outside little categorical boxes, but are unafraid to step out courageously in the pursuit of truth and virtue. Of course, every good, serious-minded Christian parent is heartily seeking the same goal, but Charlotte Mason’s ideas (with their strong emphasis on narration and storytelling, the tremendous -- never to be underestimated -- importance of play, the warm parent-child relationship, etc.) does seem to foster a very particular love of learning, an internalizing of the materials, of making broad connections, and finally a deep, vivid understanding of the world.

I love it’s imagery of spreading a feast before the little ones and then guiding them in delving in. Now (to pause a moment), this is where I think the methodology could be misinterpreted (i.e. that we’re to let the child run riot on the loaded table without direction or supervision), but if you stop and think about it the image is perfect. The table is groaning with good things, but there is still an ordered approach to feasting. Table manners must be learned. And properly understood (not applied with an iron fist) table manners lead to rich enjoyment. The focus becomes delight in the feast.

There are a few points in the book I don’t implicitly agree with (though honestly, at this point I can’t specify whether they’re Mason’s or Macaulay’s). And it’s not even that I disagree particularly with her conclusions or the underlying philosophy per se. The biggest one is I’d like to have seen a balancing section on the role of church authority and community in a child’s life (and by extension, leading into adulthood). I think the philosophy itself harmoniously fits with a proper understanding, but since it wasn’t expounded on it leaves a (very probably unintended) slightly lopsided presentation, specifically if someone set out to deliberately extrapolate some sort of autonomous individuality out of it. Again, I have to read Mason’s books themselves, but I’m pretty positive she would have concurred with the dangers of postmodern individualism. She was just operating under a very different society/community structure, which -- even if it was becoming the mere vestiges of the mighty cathedral it once was -- had yet been a robustly Christian framework. Mason (and Macaulay) are both vividly aware of the undermining of the entirety of Christian culture (in fact, that’s rather the whole point). So I don’t think it’s anything to do with the understanding or philosophy of either, just a slight imbalance in this particular book. And to be fair, Macaulay is also stressing/underlining the importance of acknowledging the personhood of each one of our children as God’s unique creation over against the wild errors in that regard running rampant in our modern world. So maybe it’s just a bit of overcompensation going on. It’s very slight too, so how much it jumps out at you probably also depends on the particular battle you’re fighting and your frame of reference.

I (might) also disagree in a couple small areas of application, but they aren’t really worth expounding on at the moment, as one of the great strengths of the whole approach to begin with is flexibility – which fits hand-in-glove with understanding and acknowledging the particular God-given calling of each family.

Sin is very real, and no one approach/method, especially if applied without discernment, is guaranteed to create all gladness and light (which I’m sure Mason understood). There is always the need for discipleship and discipline, with understanding. We must take the time to understand the child, know the heart of the child -- leading the little lambs back to their Shepherd, pointing them to Christ time and time again.

We are called to be Christ-centric. Not parent or child or even family-centric. Each has a hugely important, weighty, and glorious calling. But Christ and His kingdom must be the focus and center, and everything else falls into its proper place.

Our covenant children are little saints (born sinners under the same sun as us) given to us to bring alongside, training as warriors. The goal is mature children (not little adults -- we are called to guard their tender hearts in the process), but mature at each and every stage, right all the way up into adulthood. We’re all in this together. And we’re in the business of sharpening arrows.

"Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ, the King. How? How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes? Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it; the style of their clothes, the ring of their voices, the carriage of their heads--all was one proclamation of boundless devotion to their king and his cause. . . what shall we say of 'the Chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely'?" Macaulay quoting Mason, pp. 94

So beautiful…

As a final note, I’m doing this review slightly backwards as (if you’re new to Charlotte Mason’s ideas or just getting into them), there are a couple other titles I might recommend first, making this a kind of second, deeper introduction. That being said, it’s definitely a foundational educational classic with which to be acquainted and (if your library doesn’t have it) well worth purchasing for ongoing future reference. I can see myself reading it again in a few years and can already tell certain sections will be helpful to reread many times down the road. 😊

Hoping you're all having a lovely Saturday!


Have you ever heard of Charlotte Mason? I'd love to hear in the comments!

Friday, March 23, 2018

5 Reasons I Love Living in a Small House

First off, for a little background, I’m no stranger to tight quarters. Till I was eighteen, my family lived first in an apartment and then in a 900 square foot house (all 7 of us). My mother was, and is, a master organizer. In addition, a comfortable level of orderliness and purging was the order of the day.

So now (and not to say I don't love looking at and dreaming of visiting places like


or this,

or that if we have a large family and decide to build someday we might not plan something bigger), but, since getting more of a handle on my own organizational plan in this second year of marriage/seeing how the work I put into the house in the first year is paying off, I’ve come to personally really appreciate a small floor plan.

So here are 5 reasons why I love living in a small house:

1. There’s the obvious plus of more inexpensive heating and cooling. And changing/playing around with interior design elements is less of an investment -- i.e. your $100 worth of paint goes a long way.

2. Cleaning. Cleaning is WAY faster. It'd be misleading to say it's easy peasy (it most definitely isn't and I do not in any way have my cleaning schedule down pat yet), but because it’s smaller there just is LESS. Fewer windows, less floor to sweep/vacuum/mop. One bathroom.

3. It forces you to purge.

4. It’s easier to keep track of everyone. You don’t have to shout. And you can hear what the baby or toddler is up to.

5. First for a quick proviso, this is NOT to say you can’t have a close knit family in a mansion (I’m not saying that A’TALL), but, by nature, living in a small space does tend toward creating close knit bonds (between parents, parents and children, and child and child). Of course, it can all very easily turn sour, too, so it’s really and always God’s grace granting the fruits of the Spirit to each and every member, but living in a small place can definitely facilitate/be one of the means He uses. You’re bumping elbows all the time and it forces you to keep short accounts. (Note: I’m not against corners and reading nooks and quiet places either – on the contrary, it’s one of the first things I’ve been thinking about when rearranging things in the house.)

Now since everything’s happening in the same areas you do have to stay on top of things or everything will quickly start falling to pieces. The mess is right there under foot, and you can’t close the door on it and just move to a different area of the house. No, one must simply gird up ones loins and just do something about it. ;D But then, when it's all tidied up and you can see the floor again it's such a very rewarding feeling.

So there you are! What are some of the reasons you're thankful for where you are -- large or small? Would you like some organization posts sometime? :)

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