Tag Archive | Bible

How Concerned is God with Freedom in America?

This week, tens of thousands of people stood in long lines to support a company which had been under fire for words said and dollars spent.  Although there were various motivations within those enormous crowds, it seems as though the vast majority were there in support of free speech.  The specific topic of the speech in this situation was homosexual marriage, but people from both sides of the coin on that topic ate their chicken sandwiches as a support for an American’s right to free speech.  I can assure you that I ate delicious, flaky, buttery biscuits three times within a week as my own support of Cathy’s right to free speech.  My kids and I ate there so many times, my three-year-old son stated this morning, “I’m ready for my morning biscuit.”

However, a new thought has been whirling around in my head.  What if God isn’t really concerned about freedom of speech in America?  From what I can tell, His ultimate goal is for EVERY PERSON to know Him and understand his immense love for them (“for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”).  So it seems like as His followers, we Christians should live our lives with that ultimate goal at the forefront.  Jesus’ Great Commission to us is, “Go and make disciples of all nations…”  All along as I’ve thought through the CFA situation, I’ve tried to think about how it fits within that goal.  I’m now wondering, is the continuation of free speech in America within God’s over-arching plan of reaching all people with His love?

We Christians in America have had it pretty easy for a long time.  I personally love my comfortable life.  Right now, I’m sitting in a cozy glider rocker with my feet propped on the matching glider ottoman in my spacious living room typing about God on my computer (which I plan to post on the internet, where potentially anyone in the world can read it), while my children each sleep peacefully in their own large bedrooms and my husband plays a video game on a different computer in a different room.  All of this is in a well-lit, air-conditioned home.  If I decide I’m hungry, I have probably a hundred choices of snacks – junk food, veggies straight from the local farm, cereals, frozen foods…  I have it good, and I am incredibly grateful for every detail of it.

A lot of Christian organizations fight hard for keeping our freedoms in America.  There’s a big emphasis on keeping Christian values front and center in our nation.  All of that is great for keeping our comfortable lives in America, but is it helping with God’s ultimate goal?  What has been the result of American Christians having so many rights and such comfortable lives?  A fair amount of spiritual laziness, to be honest.  Especially across the Bible Belt, there is a culture of Christianity that is not any indication whatsoever of a person’s actual relationship with God.  There are plenty of people who have been going to church every Sunday their whole lives, but only because that’s just what you do.

We want to keep our nation “Christian” and comfortable.  But what if that’s not what is important to God?  When we’re comfortable, we’re less likely to actually rely on God.  Christianity becomes more of a feel-good “cause” or culture, rather than a fully dependent relationship with God.

Is it important to God that we continue to have free speech in this nation?  If we didn’t, our reliance on God would be significantly greater.  To be a follower of Christ, you would have to really take it seriously.

How would Jesus have handled this CFA-focused controversy?  What response would fit best with God’s ultimate goal?   In the Bible, we see a lot of times when Jesus got frustrated, even angry, when those who had studied the scriptures were doing things contrary to His ultimate goal.  On the other hand, he lovingly socialized with sinful non-believers.  He had completely different expectations for the two groups.  I’m trying to remember, but I can’t even think of a time that he called out a non-believer’s sin in anything other than a gentle conversation, and even then, it was only after he had connected with the person and begun building a relationship.  Then, after receiving that loving attention from Jesus, the person wanted to change his or her behavior.

A non-believer is going to live a sinful life.  We shouldn’t be surprised by that.  And we shouldn’t expect anything else.  It’s only after discovering the power of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice that any of us have motivation to “live rightly.”  Paul described this so well in his letter to the Romans:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

What would Jesus have done on Wednesday?  As I think about it now, it doesn’t seem like one nation’s free speech would have mattered that much to him.  It seems more likely that he would have been off in a bar or on the streets or somewhere building a loving relationship with a sin-filled person who did not yet know the power of His love.

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“The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

Jesus in the Manger

The Montessori philosophy on art is to allow children to do open-ended artwork where their creativity flourishes.  That can involve pretty much any art project that doesn’t have a specific end product in mind, including painting, drawing, coloring, making collages, working with clay, stamping, etc.  Craft projects where every child is supposed to end up with the same result is too focused on the end product instead of the process.

That being said, Drama Queen created a very cute baby Jesus craft at church yesterday.  It looks very easy to make, so I thought I’d share it with you in case you would like to give your children the opportunity to make it.

You start by cutting a square.  This one is 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″.  This has the look of wood grains; you could find a similar thing on-line to print out, draw your own, or just hand it to your child as a white square.  Give the child the opportunity to color the square.  I hear that purple is a perfect color for a manger.  😉

Fold the square in half and make a cut 1 1/4″ from the fold, about 3/4″ inches from each side.

Cut two other pieces of paper, each 2 3/4″ x 1 1/2″.  Allow your child to color these.  Insert these into the cuts.  These are the stands for your manger.

Set a tissue down into the manger.

Cut out a picture of baby Jesus (maybe like this one).  Allow your child to color him, then set him in the manger.  Another option would be to use a toy baby to fit in the manger as baby Jesus.

Within just a few minutes, your child has a sweet, homemade 3-D manger scene to play with.

A (Preschool) Day in the Life of… (including DIY Land and Water Forms)

I recently posted a description of how we approach children’s Bible study in our home.  This time I thought I’d take it a step further and show you step-by-step what a day of homeschool in Our Montessori Home looks like.  This particular day was last week, I think Thursday.  Not every day looks like this, but it can give you an idea of our approach.

As previously explained, we start the preschool period with Bible study.  We either do that in the reading corner of the playroom, on the front porch, or on a blanket in the back yard.  This day was a front porch day.  The children sit on the porch swing with me for catechism, memory verses, and Bible study.

   

Then they dance and go wild while singing hymns.  On this day, they were having so much fun, we sang 3 hymns (and I mean the full hymn – all four or five verses!), and Drama Queen sang almost all of it along with me.

   

After prayer time, we headed inside.  On a typical day, I give each child one new lesson, and they choose which other materials they want to work with during the rest of the time.  They only have permission to use materials they’ve already had a lesson on.

I started by giving Mr. BANG a new lesson with the Pink Tower.  He previously had the original lesson with it, where I taught him to stack each cube in the middle of the previous one.  Today I showed him a different way he can stack them by matching up a corner, making two smooth sides.

Drama Queen, in the background, had gotten out a rug and chose to work with some insect cards.

    

When she finished her work, she put the cards away, then rolled up her rug and put it in the rug basket.

Next, I gave her the Tactile Numbers lesson.

When Mr. BANG had put away the pink tower, he chose to work with the Sandpaper Globe.  Now, Nienhuis and copycat companies make beautiful globes for children to use.  The first one has sandpaper to represent land and a smooth surface to represent water.  The second one has a different color to represent each continent.  I skipped the globes entirely with Drama Queen, but I do really think they’re wonderful.  So I have made my own fairly pathetic version of the sandpaper globe for Mr. BANG.  I just cut sandpaper into the general shapes of the continents and taped it on a small globe a friend gave me years ago.  It’s not much, but it does the trick.

Next, Drama Queen did some more work with the Tactile Letters and Mr. BANG practiced with the Binomial Cube.

     

One work that Drama Queen especially likes to practice is sewing buttons.  In the left picture, she’s measuring out her thread.  On the right, she’s tying a knot in her thread after putting it through the needle.

      

Many times the children like to take a break and watch the other child work for a minute or two.  I have given them a lesson on how to do this without distracting the working child.  Drama Queen has sewed buttons on several of these little squares.  She excitedly tells me that she’s making a rain coat for me.  🙂

      

Mr. BANG got inspired I guess, because he chose the Button Frame for his next work.  Then he worked with the Snap Frame.

      

Both children have fun with the Fabrics and like wearing the blindfold, but don’t actually like it to cover their eyes!  So they just keep their eyes closed as I put two pieces of cloth in their hands and let them determine whether or not the fabric is the same.

The children can do Walking on the Line at any point.  It’s a good way to practice coordination and balance, but also is just a fun, relaxing activity.  We’ve made it a pattern that when it’s time for the preschool day to come to a close, I start walking on the line.  That’s the signal for them to finish up their work and put it away so they can join me on the line.

One other note about the Montessori materials.  In an actual Montessori classroom, there are about 30 children within a 3-year age range (3-6, 6-9, etc.)  A big part of the Montessori experience is having the opportunity to learn by watching the older children, and having the opportunity to teach by helping out the younger children.  I realized early on that my children were missing out on that opportunity.  So during the time I’m not giving lessons, I practice with any lessons in the room, just like they do.  That has worked really well.  I’ve noticed that it inspires them to work with materials they haven’t worked with in awhile, and gives them a reminder of how to work with the materials properly without me having to give them another direct lesson.

We usually end our preschool day by reading poetry and singing a few typical children’s songs.  I think the poetry reading is their favorite part of the whole preschool day!  During singing, again they get to dance around and play instruments, which they love!

       

On this day, Drama Queen did some drumming…and Mr. BANG buried himself in pillows!

      

This day was a little unusual.  Drama Queen had been asking to do more Land and Water Form work.  It was a great day for it, so I decided to do all the rest of our preschool work, and THEN head outside to make the land and water forms.

To do this, they first shovel some sand from the backyard into their bins.  (The sand is leftover from the previous residents, as well as from when we dump sand out of the water play table.)  If the water play table is not already filled with water, I do that.  Then I show them a card with one type of land or water form and help them construct it with their sand.  Once it has been formed, they fill in the water spaces with water from the water play table.  There is an actual Montessori material for this, but it’s one that I’ve chosen not to buy or make.

      

Once we do a few of those…it’s time to simply have fun playing in mud!!  😀

Side Benefits of a Church’s Children’s Program

Obviously this isn’t the main purpose of church, but it can be such a great supplement to homeschooling!  The children get a lot of fun and age-appropriate biblical teaching, of course, but other than that, they get so many other great opportunities!

One of the main homeschooling myths is that homeschooled children don’t have opportunities to develop social skills.  That’s a whole different post, but in terms of this particular post, I will state that church is a wonderful opportunity for children to make friends, practice sorting through conflicts with peers, respecting authority other than Mom and Dad, and learn group behaviors such as standing in line and following teacher directions in a group context.  Between Sunday morning church, Wednesday evening church activities, my Thursday morning women’s Bible study, and my regular MOPS meetings, Drama Queen and Mr. BANG have up to four opportunities a week to spend time developing social skills with a core group of children.  (And love it every time!)

Another great opportunity is making fun crafts and artwork.  I must admit, I’m not a craft person.  As they get older and are able to do crafts more independently, we’ll definitely incorporate that type of thing into our homeschool curriculum more.  At this point, though, I mainly let them do open-ended artwork with a variety of materials:  paint, colored pencils, finger paint, crayons, collage, etc.

The projects Drama Queen did this weekend at church were really neat, and would be easy to do at home.  (Which I don’t have to do because she had the opportunity to do them at church! 🙂 )  The first is a picture of Jesus walking on the water, approaching the disciples stuck out on the sea in a big storm.  The cool thing, though, is that Jesus is made into a popsicle stick puppet, which the child can move back and forth through the waves.  What an awesome idea!

The second project she did was make a rainstorm, including lightening.  She said it was from the Noah’s Ark story.  Isn’t it so cute?!

I love that these art projects help the kids be able to retell the Bible stories more easily, but I also just love that they get to have fun experiences with artwork!

My favorite “side benefit” of the children’s program at my church, however, is the children’s choir.  When Drama Queen started children’s choir this fall, she was very hesitant about it.  When I picked her up afterward, though, she was positively giddy!  She kept asking, “Do I get to go to choir again?!  Did you sign me up for choir?!”  She loves it!  So at first, I was simply pleased that she was having a positive experience with learning some music skills.  Then I saw one of the older children’s choirs perform in church.  I was BLOWN AWAY!!  These children were precise in their pronunciations, had perfect mouth formations, and were very crisp in their cut-offs.  I loved watching their director – she wasn’t just moving her arms up and down and mouthing the words, she was directing!  It was without doubt the best church children’s choir I’ve ever seen.  In my mind, it compared to the auditioned children’s choir my baby brother was in as a child – and that was a choir which performed in Carnegie Hall!

I was prepared to pay for my children to be in some type of class where they can get some solid music instruction.  Now I’m thrilled to learn that they’ll get such a fabulous musical experience for FREE at church!!

What about you?  If you’re part of a church, do you feel like your children experience great “side benefits” in terms of instruction you might not feel equipped to give them on your own?  If you’re not part of a church, do you have another type of community organization that provides similar “side benefits” for free?

Living and Active

As a child, I grew up in a church-y home, but not necessarily a personal faith kind of home.  As I’ve grown and matured over the years, it’s become clear to me that there’s an enormous difference between being religious and actually being an “apprentice of Jesus” (as labeled by Dallas Willard inThe Divine Conspiracy).  My desire is for my children to learn from the beginning how important knowing God’s Word and spending time with Him in prayer are.

When Drama Queen was just a little bitty crawling thing, we would start each day by reading a chapter or two or three from the Bible.  I was doing a read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan, so I would just read that day’s plan.  Of course, I had no expectation of this sweet girl sitting still and listening, but I wanted to set that foundation of starting the day with God – both for her and for me.  She would crawl all over the room and me as I read – with periodic tickle and zerbert breaks.

(20 months old, looking through a Bible at a doctor’s office)

Once Mr. BANG was born, I didn’t know quite how to continue that routine – so I didn’t.  For over a year, we didn’t have any routine Bible reading.  Of course, we read plenty of Bible story books.  Also, Drama Queen was obsessed with a few different Bible story stories (David and Goliath, Paul’s conversion, and the first 6 chapters of Daniel were the main ones), so to be able to act them out multiple times a day as she wanted, we also read them from the Bible multiple times a day.  That was actually very cool, because I learned the details of those stories so much better.

Last fall, though, with the help of Charlotte Mason ideas and my friend Corrie who introduced me to the idea of doing catechism (I thought it was “just a Catholic thing”), we began starting our days with a Bible study time.  The kids and I immediately loved it!  I remember one day early on when the kids were playing in the dirt in the backyard (their favorite activity).  I told them that in one minute, it would be time to come to the front porch for Bible study.  Drama Queen immediately dropped her digging tools and ran to the porch yelling, “Yay!  Bible study!!  I LOVE Bible study!!”  THAT’S what a mom wants to hear!  🙂

We have 5 aspects to our Bible study:  catechism, memory verse, Scripture reading, hymn, and prayer.

For catechism and memory verse, I made two separate binders.  I introduce one new catechism question and one new Bible passage a week.  (For longer passages, I just do a section each week until we’ve learned the whole passage.)  The catechism I use is written for children and is very simply worded.  It covers the basics of the Christian faith in a very clear manner.  I love that pretty much every time Drama Queen has a question about what it means, the next week’s question explains that detail.  Here are some examples of the questions and answers:

  • Who made you?  God made me.
  • What else did God make?  God made all things.
  • Are there more gods than one?  There is only one God.
  • In how many persons does this one God exist?  In three persons.
  • Who are they?  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Who is God?  God is a Spirit and does not have a body like men.
  • Can you see God?  No.  I cannot see God, but He always sees me.
  • Who wrote the Bible?  Holy men who were taught by the Holy Spirit.
  • What is your soul?  My soul includes all of me that should know and love God.
  • What is sin?  Sin is any transgression of the law of God.

(She said this illustration is a banana tree with bruised bananas.)

For Bible verses, I typically go by a specific list of verses I found on a Charlotte Mason website.  However, I do vary from that some.  Last December, we focused on learning the original Christmas story from Luke 2:1-18.  There have also been times that the children were learning a particular verse at church, so we focused on that same verse at home.  In the binders, I leave space on the pages for the children to illustrate it.  So far, Drama Queen has always been the illustrator, but now that Mr. BANG’s artwork is moving beyond complete scribbles, it’s probably time to give him that opportunity as well.

(This is Adam and Eve.)

For Bible reading, again I follow a plan I found through a Charlotte Mason site.  I like this plan because it provides short passages through the whole Bible and kind of makes each one it’s own little story.  For instance, in the “Moses vs. Pharaoh” section of Exodus, each plague is it’s own story.  In the New Testament, each parable of Jesus is its own story.  The passages are never overwhelmingly long, but they do give the children the opportunity to hear the whole Bible over a period of time.  We read an OT and NT passage each day.

Now, again, my children are only 2 and 4 years old.  I have absolutely no expectations of them sitting and quietly listening and participating during all this!  We sit in the reading corner of the playroom/school room (or the front porch swing, or on a blanket in the back yard), and sometimes they do just want to sit and cuddle against me.  However, they usually are climbing across the pillows behind me, or fixing my hair, or doing flips over my legs.  That is perfectly fine!  I don’t require them to give the answers of the catechism questions or say the Bible verses, but they frequently do on their own as they’re climbing, flipping, and sometimes diving.  My rules for them in that part of Bible study are that they stay in our reading corner, not play with toys (unless it’s something small for them to have in their hands), and not talk or make loud sound effects unless they’re joining in with the study.

(I have made video of them reciting the catechism and memory verses, and I would love to post that here, but unfortunately I don’t have a clue how!)

The next part is probably their favorite: hymns.  For that, they get to choose an instrument from the music shelf and dance around the room while I sing.  (They always bring me an instrument to play too, and, yes, I sometimes do dance around with them!)  I introduce a new hymn each month, and normally toward the end of the month, Drama Queen is joyfully singing along with me.  Usually, once we finish that hymn, they ask for more hymns, so we sing one of the hymns we’ve learned previously.  Drama Queen gets excited at church on Sundays when we sing hymns from our morning Bible studies.

For prayer, we gather back over at the reading area.  We use this time for intercessory prayer.  I ask them who they would like to pray for that’s not in the room with us.  The most common response is “Daddy,” but at times they also mention a friend or an extended family member.  I always ask if either of them wants to say the words, but 90% of the time, they want me to do it.

This Bible study time is such a precious time with the kids.  I love getting to start our day this way, and pray that it creates a foundation for Drama Queen and Mr. BANG of always making that daily focused time with God a priority in their lives.