Friday, January 25, 2008

Blessings: God's Answer for a Difficult Life

Psalm 127
A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat--
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
Psalms 127:1-5 (NIV)

I was just sharing with a friend how this Psalm hit me in a moment of anxiety and stress. I was struck by the progression in it, particularly from the vanity of frantic working, toiling, and going without sleep in an attempt to handle the difficulty of life. Then came the answer—God’s answer: children. Although a number of my friends had urged me to use my little blessings more extensively, it wasn’t until I saw it in this Psalm that I resolved to really hold the boys up to higher expectations of helping around the house (and around life!).

Tonight I went through some commentaries to see if any of the wise men I respect noticed the same thing. I found some interesting and even humorous things in Adam Clarke’s 19th century commentary.

This Psalm may be entitled, "The Soliloquy of the happy Householder: - The
poor man with a large loving family, and in annual expectation of an increase,
because his wife, under the Divine blessing, is fruitful." All are blessed of
the Lord, and his hand is invariably upon them for good.
—Adam Clarke's Commentary

This is his summary. Read on for some of the particulars that I liked.

Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord - That is, To many God gives children in
place of temporal good. To many others he gives houses, lands, and thousands of
gold and silver, and with them the womb that beareth not; and these are their
inheritance. The poor man has from God a number of children, without lands or
money; these are his inheritance; and God shows himself their father, feeding
and supporting them by a chain of miraculous providences. Where is the poor man
who would give up his six children, with the prospect of having more, for the
thousands or millions of him who is the center of his own existence, and has
neither root nor branch but his forlorn solitary self upon the face of the
earth? Let the fruitful family, however poor, lay this to heart; "Children are a
heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward." And he who gave
them will feed them; for it is a fact, and the maxim formed on it has never
failed, "Wherever God sends mouths, he sends meat." "Murmur not," said an Arab
to his friend, "because thy family is large; know that it is for their sakes
that God feeds thee." —Adam Clarke's Commentary

Kind of cute since my best friend happens to have six children. What a rich couple she and her husband are!!! I also love that he seems to agree with my crazy idea that God will feed my boys and I through “a chain of miraculous providences.” Some of those providences might include different types of work, some might include the generosity and love of others, and who knows? Sometimes it might be manna from heaven or flour and oil that never seems to run out!

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them - This is generally supposed
to mean his house full of children, as his quiver if full of arrows; but I
submit whether it be not more congenial to the metaphors in the text to consider
it as applying to the wife: "Happy is the man who has a breeding or fruitful
wife;" this is the gravida sagittis pharetra "the quiver pregnant with arrows."
But it may be thought the metaphor is not natural. I think otherwise: and I know
it to be in the Jewish style, and the style of the times of the captivity, when
this Psalm was written—Adam Clarke's Commentary

I LOVE it!!! I know a breeding, fruitful wife, and even though she’s a bit fruity at times, her husband IS a blessed man!

With the enemies in the gate. - "When he shall contend with his adversaries in
the gate of the house of judgment." - Targum. The reference is either to courts
of justice, which were held at the gates of cities, or to robbers who endeavor
to force their way into a house to spoil the inhabitants of their goods. In the
first case a man falsely accused, who has a numerous family, has as many
witnesses in his behalf as he has children. And in the second case he is not
afraid of marauders, because his house is well defended by his active and
vigorous sons. It is, I believe, to this last that the psalmist refers.

Heh, heh, heh. Don’t I know all about this! People comment that I don’t have to fear a burglar because of the German Shepherd guarding our house. Forget the dog! Look out for my little "virgorous and active sons!" They spend HOURS a day practicing the use of their weapons, and would LOVE to practice on living human subjects of the bad-guy kind!

Anyway, these are just thoughts from me. I do love this Psalm. It’s interesting how in our culture we’ve inverted the role of children to being our burden instead of relieving our burden.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Review-The Tiger Rising

The Tiger Rising has much of the same flavor as Bridge Over Terebithia. Both focus on children wrestling in contrasting ways with the limitations of their power over their circumstances, and with the decisions of the adults in their lives. Both are stories of redemption. And both stories are expertly crafted to keep the reader's interest, and to explore deeper concepts without compromising a good story.

Ever since the death of his mother, loner Rob Horton is a boy with a lot bottled up inside him. The concurrent discovery of a caged tiger and the aquisition of a new friend begin his journey into the pain of loss and bittersweet memories. His new friend, Sistine Bailey also carries a lot of emotional weight after the divorce of her parents, resulting in separation from her dad. Instead of bottling it up, Sistine is angry at everything, fighting the world. As the two wrestle with the choice of freeing the tiger, they also wrestle with the decisions of freeing their emotions so they can reconcile them. Both of these decisions will lead either to healing or to sealing their emotions inside forever.

I love books with great symbolism--I love to peel back the layers and look for more than the obvious story--and although The Tiger Rising is a quick read, it is rich in depth. True to her other novels, Kate DiCamillo writes vividly, a real treat for me since I live in the region she describes so well. The only objections some might have is the occurence of two uses of the Lord's name in vain. Other than that, there is no mention of faith in this book positively or negatively. I have an idea of writing a literature study to go with this book for children. This novel is appropriate for older elementary students through junior high. It is a great book to use to teach kids about the appropriate dealing with emotions.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Such Tender Memories . . .

OK, book number two read. AJ and I read How Fletcher Was Hatched together today. It's just a simple, old-fashioned story about a dog who feels neglected by his mistress. His friends, an otter and a beaver decide to help him compete with the cute little chicks stealing his attention by building an egg around him. It's nothing flashy, no aspirations of political correctness, just a sweet kids story that I must have read a million times when I was a kid. (Every illustration was etched on my memory as if I had read the book yesterday--it was fun walking through familiar territory!)

So we read the book . . . and I said with a sigh, "I loved this book when I was a kid!"

AJ responded: "Sure mom. Whatever. I'll be outside."

Ah, what treasured memories. (Can you feel the cynicism?) At least I can count another book on my 888 List.

One Down, Fifty-nine to Go!

Today I finished The Tiger Rising, by Kate DiCamillo. I'll post a review on it later and link it to my 888 list. It was a great book, and an easy read--a great starting place for my challenge. I'm also planning on reading one to AJ today, so by the end of the day, hopefully I'll be down two!!!

I'll probably do great until I start hitting books I haven't started yet. Therein the challenge really lies!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My 888 List

OK. I've stayed up way too late to do this, but I have my list. Note that it is subject to change on a whim, as I find NEW books to add to it.

8 Books I’d Like to Finish

  1. A Chance to Die (Elliot)
  2. Smart Organizing DONE!
  3. A House for My Name
  4. Peacemaking for Families
  5. Homeschooling the Challenging Child DONE!
  6. Age of Opportunity
  7. Women in the Material World
  8. The Tiger Rising (DiCamillo) DONE!

8 Books by Some of My Favorite Authors

  1. Number the Stars (Lowry)
  2. The Silent Boy (Lowry)
  3. Redeeming Love (Rivers)
  4. The Shofar Blew (Rivers)
  5. Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman (Ortland)
  6. Surprised by Joy (Lewis)
  7. Calico Captive (Speare)
  8. The Tiger Rising (DiCamillo) DONE!

8 Christian Classics (or Destined to Be Classics)

  1. Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life (Whitall Smith)
  2. The Practice of Godliness (Bridges)
  3. The Everlasting (Chesterton)
  4. Orthodoxy (Chesterton)
  5. Let the Nations Be Glad (Piper)
  6. Till We Have Faces (Lewis)
  7. Experiencing God (Blackaby)
  8. Absolute Surrender (Murray)

8 Fiction Books

  1. The Shofar Blew
  2. Fahrenheit 451
  3. Island of the Blue Dolphin
  4. Calico Captive
  5. Across Five Aprils
  6. The Hedge of Thorns
  7. Carry On, Captain Bowditch! DONE!
  8. Sarah, Plain and Tall

8 Books to Make Me a Better Teacher

  1. I Wanna Take Me a Picture
  2. Future Men (Wilson)
  3. Teach Them Dilligently: How to Use Scriptures in Child Training
  4. Minds of Boys
  5. Piecing Together the Highschool Puzzle (Mastrioncola) DONE!
  6. Shaping the Man Inside Teenage Boys (Beausay)
  7. You Can Teach Your Child Successfully (Beechick)
  8. When the Brain Can’t Hear DONE!

8 Books to Read with My Boys

  1. Duncan’s War (Bond)
  2. Tuck Everlasting DONE!
  3. Boy (Dahl) DONE!
  4. The Three Musketeers
  5. The Giant Killer
  6. Who Put the Skunk in the Trunk?: Learning to Laugh When Life Stinks
  7. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever DONE!
  8. Boyhood and Beyond

8 Books I Loved That I Want to Read to My Youngest Son

  1. How Fletcher Was Hatched DONE!
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  3. Prince Caspian
  4. Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  5. Blueberries for Sal DONE!
  6. Little House in the Big Woods
  7. The Velveteen Rabbit DONE!
  8. Amelia Bedelia DONE!

8 Working on Me (a little)

  1. The Heart of Anger
  2. The Universe Next Door
  3. The Power of Words
  4. Desperate Households
  5. How to Win Over Depression
  6. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
  7. Idols of the Heart, Learning to Long for God Alone
  8. Smart Organizing DONE!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Taking the 888 Challenge

OK, I feel totally overwhelmed in accepting this challenge . . . sort of like I'm dooming myself to failure already . . . .

. . . but I already know I need to read more and watch movies/play computer less . . .

. . . and I would really feel a sense of accomplishing something if I did this . . .

. . . and so I'm just going to do it.

To see what I'm getting myslef into, go to the challenge.

I am going to probably overlap some, and I am going to restrict myself to books I check out or pull off my shelves, instead of rushing to Amazon to buy more books! I haven't got my catagories or lists yet, so check back on this post and I'll add it later.

Now I'm off to scour my shelves for books I want to read!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Good Auto Insurance? Definitely Worth Every Cent of Premium

No, I didn't have an accident. Did I mention the time my car engine got set on fire? No? Well, we had roadside trouble, had "help," and one of my "helpers" set my engine on fire (briefly). Fortunately he put it out quickly, and as far as we could tell, not damage was done. My insurance policy came in kinda handy then, providing towing to the nearby mechanic's shop. Oh yeah, and there was that time that my Suburban coasted to a stop just inside of our church's parking lot, and I had to call to have it towed (again) to the mechanic's.

Today I used it again. Not towing though. One of the boys locked the keys in the car last night. We got up this morning to go to co-op. Good news! The back hatch that wouldn't lock for months, well, it locks now. So we couldn't even go in the back to rescue the keys. I'm learning that when life's minor crises hit, I do well to take some time to consider my options before reacting. A dear friend picked us up and got us to and from co-op (and an appointment I had . . . more on that on my other blog), and in that time I remembered, oh yeah!, I have insurance! So when we got home I called and guess what! They cover lock-outs. So right now I'm sitting here waiting for the towing company to come unlock my car, and I'm thankful for the ridiculous amount of money I pay each month "just in case."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Music in Our House

Music in our house is an adventure.

I have very eclectic tastes. I was influenced by the 60's (my parent's music), the late 70's and 80's pop music, traditional and contemporary Christian music, instrumental music (from band--both jazz and classical), and because I'm a word person, I love anything with great lyrics. My latest favorites are Casting Crown's The Altar and the Door, Mercy Me's new album, Norah Jones, Harry Conick, Jr., and Michael Card. I can also dance to the boys music--most of it, anyway.

Josh, being a teenage now, has been fun to watch as he develops his own musical taste. He loves all the Disney pushed musicians--Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and lately Aly and AJ. He also loves TobyMac, Relient K, and anything else with a serious beat. His tastes are a little young among those of his peers, something for which I am quite proud and am encouraging him in, since he has LOTS of time to discover more mature music, and I'm not in a hurry to see him struggle with the compromise.

Stephen loves much of the same thing Josh likes. It's kind of weird hearing him singing Relient K with all of their angst-filled lyrics, but I'm OK with some of it. His music tastes tend to be a little broader--he really liked my Harry Conick, Jr. Christmas CD. Like Josh, he likes an uptempo beat.

AJ tries hard to follow in his brothers' footsteps, but he is a little more challenged because he doesn't have the fancy MP3 player to listen to, and his brothers are usually a little unwilling to share with him their CD's. Sometimes the little boy in him still rules, and I have to listen to endless repetitions of the Veggie Tales sing Michael W. Smith, or Goofy sings dance tunes, but that's OK. I know his interest in these simple things will vanish soon enough, and this poor kid is already growing up much faster than his brothers did--so of course, I encourage more "little kid" music.

So you see, you could come to our house and hear about anything. You might even catch me on a reminicent day when I've pulled out the old record player to listen to The Mama's and the Papa's, Shaun Cassidy, the Partridge Family, or old, old Amy Grant. Wouldn't that be a treat?

The Blogging Black Hole

As I review what I've done with my year I realize how little blogging I've done this year. Not to fear! I'm planning on making that my first New Year's resolution! Back to blogging!

So for those of you who obviously have no life of your own ('cause you couldn't possibly if you're spending time reading about us!), I'll be offering more anecdotes and oddities of living with three boys!

Are you on the edge of your seat yet?