Prairie View

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revisiting a Minefield--Part 4

This post will deal with "equipping the saints" as taught in Ephesians 4, applied specifically to the administration of a church-directed education program.

In an earlier post I noted that when teaching occurs in the churches we read about in the Bible, it's an adult-to-adult activity.  While it's possible that children were present when this occurred, they were apparently there as onlookers.

Ephesians 4 says that the various gifts that Christians possess--teaching among them--are given to the church "for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry."  What if churches made a concerted effort to equip each parent for the work of ministry in their own home (To minister means to serve.), specifically as teachers to their children? 

In one possible scenario the choices would look like this: 
1)  At church expense, unless performed by volunteers, teach one set of parents who will then teach their own six children at home.
2)  At church expense, unless performed by volunteers, teach each of the six children as part of a group in a facility designated for that purpose, with a hired teacher.  
Option one turns out to be not only logistically more reasonable, but it fits in with what Ephesians concerns itself with, while option two is outside the parameters of what Scripture directly addresses.  With option one, the church is responsible for teaching fewer people, and the ones they are teaching are adults, not children.  These factors exponentially reduce the costs and the time required away from home.

I will not belabor this point by spelling out all the details.  Suffice it to say that I see equipping parents involving some combination of group instruction and one-to-one mentoring.  Some of the group instruction could be in separate gender groups.  Also, I envision a program like this implemented first and most intentionally with parents whose oldest children are still preschool age.  

Another factor in completing this picture involves how the father in a family makes a living.  Experience has taught me that clearing out this minefield is particularly arduous.  Even when the subject comes up for public discussion, the discussion is always led by men, and I've never heard a conclusion different than something that amounts to "men have to make a living somehow, and if it takes them away from their family most of the time, then so be it."  This actually seems like a fairly reasonable and accurate analysis, but to me it represents something akin to rejecting the family ideal with a careless shrug of the shoulders.  

After such a discussion in our church, one very perceptive little preschool girl  asked her father afterward why no one said (about a father making his living from home) "It's nice for a family to work together."  I wish everyone could have been this insightful during the public discussion.  Instead it leaned very heavily toward justification for fathers NOT making their living from home.  If we could at least agree on the little girl's simple ideal, a lot of what is necessary (working away from home) could at least be seen in perspective--necessary, for a time, perhaps, or necessary part-time perhaps, but it would move us away from what seems to me a defeatist attitude:  This is the way things are, and we'd best learn to live with it.  

Unless I miss my guess, the word from mothers and children would always favor Dad making his living without having to be gone all day every work day.  I can't think of a taller order than a mother being responsible all alone for making everything happen that needs to happen during the day.  This involves many incidents of crossing a child's will, and, even courageous and capable mothers can spiral into depression when they are alone with this task, day after day.  Trust me, I know how difficult it is to come up with ways to make this ideal possible.  It never happened in our years of child rearing--not for lack of praying and thinking and trying.  I still remember with deep gratitude two people--Milton and LeRoy--who actually offered us materials and suggestions along this line.  I believe far more could be done within the church to facilitate this for each other--but not without first nurturing a vision for it.  

I know of one church where the men meet regularly to pray for each other and to help each other find a way to make a living in a way that allows them to involve their family.  I'd like to see that happen in every church.

I know very well that producing goods and providing services both require contact with buyers of goods and services, and making connections will require leaving home sometimes.  Furthermore, the laws of the land place increasing restrictions on where production and marketing can take place, and how goods must be produced.  Child labor laws can be inordinately restrictive.  This, in fact, is one excellent reason for finding ways for parents to put their children to work at home--because working for one's parents is still far less regulated than working for anyone else.  Also, marketing from a rural location, for example, is often less regulated for goods that are produced directly on the premises of that location--a distinct benefit for family-based home businesses.  A home-centered mindset makes possible the production of more food at home for the family's use.  Anything you consume is tax-free, available without having to consume fuel and time to drive to the market to buy it, and all the inputs are known to you, making possible a more limited chemical load in the food you ingest--again, an exponential gain, far more significant than might be apparent at first.  

A number of years ago, in our community, a young man decided to sell wagons (the little red kind).  I have always admired how he proceeded to do this.  He could have borrowed money to build a manufacturing facility and hired people to do the work.  I'm not sure of all the details (There may have been a partnership with one other family man.) but I know this:  He did not build a central manufacturing facility.  Instead, the wagon chassis was made at the home of a friend who had welding and other metal-working equipment and skills, the wooden wagon boxes were painted at the home of another family with a paint shop inside a farm shed, and the wagons were assembled and sold by the first young man, who lived next to a road combining a state highway and a US highway.  He put a big sign out by the road, and the business was up and running.

The young wagon seller was killed instantly in an accident while his children were still very young.  His widow, with help from others, continued to run the business for some time.  Consider how different this prospect might have been if there had been a big debt to pay off on a building, and hired men coming every day to take orders from the factory boss.  More than that, consider how doing it the way he did it enabled at least three family men to make a bigger part of their living from home.  This kind of  intentional decentralization of manufacturing is one of the things that needs to happen, in my opinion--to facilitate more fathers working from home, able to involve their own children in their work, and available to their wives throughout the day.

In some cases, community-built processing facilities would enable many home businesses to thrive.  For example, goat dairies require a much smaller land base than "cow dairies."  The problem in our area is that there is no milk processing facility in the area that accepts goat's milk.  Another very specific example:  Lots of people know how to raise beets, but the market for fresh beets is limited.  How might things improve if they could produce canned pickled beets to sell?  This would require an inspected food processing facility--a great group project--something that could easily happen in a church kitchen, if there were a vision for it.  Raising rabbits is easy on small acreages, but, again, no nearby facility processes rabbits.  We're an unusually resourceful people.  Why can't we make things like this happen?

What's the bottom line on this "equipping parents with home businesses" bunny trail?  Just this:  It takes two parents to raise children.  Teaching them is not just a mother's job, and academics is not the only kind of teaching required.  To cover all the bases, a father's direct involvement is necessary, and doing all he needs to do when only a few waking hours are shared is very difficult.  A father needs the equipping help of the church in meeting his responsibilities just as surely as the mother does, no matter who actually teaches the academics.

When a father dies, God Himself promises to be a father to the children.  Fathers are that important in a child's life.  When a woman has no husband, her Maker promises to be her husband.  Husbands are that important to women.  When a husband and father absents himself voluntarily and regularly from his family--even for the purpose of making a living, with no awareness of what is being lost, I think it matters to God.  I know it matters to women and children.  It ought to matter to everyone in the church.

The Bible is full of family imagery when it describes Kingdom realities.  Christians are family.  "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him."  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  The church is the bride of Christ.  Christ is the Bridegroom.  Jesus is our elder brother.  How are we to understand the depth of these truths if we have never fully experienced their counterpart in life?  How are intact families to experience it if they are regularly disassembled for most of their waking hours?  Only by the grace of God, surely.

This matter of equipping the saints for the work of ministry as parents in their own homes is a palpable burden to me--of the multiple-cement-bag variety.  I pray it becomes a shared burden.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


We interrupt the regular programming to talk about ham-handedness.  That would be me, being ham-handed, ever since yesterday when my weed pulling was rudely interrupted by one or maybe two painful wasp stings on my index finger. I think painful is the only kind of wasp sting there is.

Today I have a very fat hand, with the skin stretched tight, and looking shiny and pink.  It also feels hot to the touch and is still painful, as I discovered when I unthinkingly slapped a mosquito that landed there.

Those tall weeds along the edge of the driveway finally reached the top of the priority list yesterday and I donned the nice lightweight, strong work gloves Grant gave me for Christmas and I made war on those ugly prickly weeds whose name I can't remember.  The ground was already getting a bit too dry to make pulling them really easy, but I persevered, reaching in bravely among the prickles and then leaning backward into the pull to dislodge them.

I never saw those wasps till after I felt them.  I still don't know where they came from.  I only know that when I jerked my gloved hand back and flapped my hand wildly, two wasps flew away.  I was in too much pain to pursue them.  I hurried indoors.  An onion?  Benadryl?  Ice?  All three, I decided.  I kept switching off when it got too painful not to do something.  I wished I had some of that medicinal charcoal on hand.  I'll have to ask Rhoda where she got hers.  My hand hurt for hours.

If you're ever around someone that gets stung by a wasp, don't accuse them of over-reacting to the sting.  Within one week's time I've been stung by both a Carpenter Bee and a wasp, and the wasp sting was far, far worse.  No one was around to witness my dramatics, but if they had been, I suspect they might have been suspicious that I was over-reacting.  Not so.  Not me. . . .

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Revisiting a Minefield--Part 3

How might a church educational system look if it were designed according to the previously outlined principles of essential content and primary parental responsibility?  This post will deal only with the latter principle.  

A critical step in building a Scriptural educational model is to get the burden-bearing teaching straight.  Earlier I made reference to classroom schooling being a way people in a brotherhood can help bear each others' burdens.  Surely widespread agreement exists on burden sharing being a good thing.  

What are we to make, however, of that other verse in the same chapter (Galatians 6) that says "Every man shall bear his own burden"?  In trying to understand this, I've turned for help to others who have studied this apparent contradiction with the benefit of some scholarly insight that I lack.  From this I've learned that the burdens we are to carry ourselves are the "backpack" variety.  The ones we are to help each other carry are the multiple-cement-bag kind.   The original-language words make this distinction clear.  In a general sense, the focus of this teaching is on providing assistance to others, not on expecting others to help carry our burdens.

How do we apply this teaching--to finances, for example, in a church's educational program?  I confess to having resisted the most obvious application for a long time, but obedience demanded of me a change of heart.  In short, I believe now that parents ought to pay whatever their own children's education costs, rather than expecting the church or the state to do so.  This can happen most easily in homeschools, or in a patron school setup where a predetermined tuition amount is paid for every student.  In the matter of finances for education, I see no better way to honor the parental-responsibility imperative in Scripture.

Everyone would pay for their own curriculum, and those parents who don't do the teaching themselves would pay for someone else to do it for them, either in a private tutor arrangement or as part of a classroom school.  The financial implications of the various choices would be abundantly clear.  If delegation of teaching responsibility happens, it will be deliberate, after counting the cost, rather than by default.  This is exactly as it should be.  Delegation by default is, historically, and Scripturally, a departure from the standard.  To give a homespun example of how this works--Hiromi once explained to someone that if  he has a car needing repairs, sometimes he takes the time and spends the money to repair it himself.   If he doesn't have time to do it himself, he pays someone else to buy the parts and do the work for him.  He delegates it, in other words.  Hiromi thought the teaching of children should be like that.  Parents should either do it themselves, or pay someone else to do it for them.  

I see a variety of possible strategies to handle this.  Instead of regular church offerings with a tacit understanding that  "Every wage earner owes the school fund this much every month,"  taking up church offerings for the school would cease.  Instead, a scholarship fund would be established that would be open at all times for donations.  

Before the beginning of each school year, every family or wage-earner would meet with someone from the church (appointed or elected) to see what the family or individual's needs and resources are.  If needs and resources within a certain household with school-age children are well matched, the financial part of the interaction may need to go no farther.  The family will pay individually for what they use themselves.  If the family has more resources than they need, the church-sent person will note that also.  

If parents choose an education model that costs too much to be paid up front, setting up a mechanism for payment and distribution of monthly amounts of money would need to happen.  If, after breaking it up into monthly amounts, it is still unmanageable, then there will be an admission of need for access to the scholarship funds.  With the need properly noted, the church-sent assistant continues making the rounds, till all the families with school-age children are contacted.

The households without school age children are contacted last.  By then, the "assistant" will know where additional funds are needed in families with school-age children.  In each of the households without children, there will be an inquiry by the assistant about what amount the household might be able to provide to help someone else. By way of the scholarship fund, grandparents and aunts and uncles could perhaps help those in their family who need help. Where no family connections are present, brothers and sisters in the church function as family.  All will be eligible to provide help and all who need help will be eligible to receive it.  

In each case, the process is transparent.  Every family receiving help knows who is helping them, and everyone who is providing help knows who they are helping.  Money does not disappear into an invisible pot, for undetermined purposes. The needy and the helpers all have faces.  This goes a long way to help provide built-in accountability and a source of many kinds of  non-financial support from the helper, who has a legitimate interest in seeing his investment pay off.  Ideally, the helper will feel gratitude extended toward him from the ones being helped.  In a natural sense, this has the potential for being far more rewarding than merely meeting a monthly school fund obligation when it's time for the regular church offering.  

In financing a church-wide education undertaking there are indeed ways to apply Scriptural burden-bearing principles of both the backpack and the cement-bag variety in ways that preserve the parent-responsibility directives and the group-effort dynamics we idealize.  If we aren't using them, we should hardly be surprised when there's more floundering than we would like.  We should probably also not waste our time in trying to whip up enthusiasm for a flawed system that produces disappointing results, but set about instead to examine and, if necessary, improve or replace the system.  (Oops.  That sounded like a 1960s utterance.)

(To be continued)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Revisiting a Minefield--Part 2

What do we learn from Scripture?

At the crux of the teaching in Scripture about child training (What is education if it is not this?) are two truths:

1)  It is primarily a parental responsibility.
2)  It must be undertaken with the goal of leading children to learn to love and serve God and others.

Hillary Clinton famously quoted an African proverb by saying "It takes a village to raise a child."  While there is certainly some truth in the saying, note that this is not a Bible verse.  It would, in fact,  be closer to Scripture to say, "It takes parents to raise a child," and it can be done well on a lonely farm as well as in a bustling village.  It's reasonable to conclude, however, that if parents are unable to do so, the "village" helps out.  In a Christian context, this is one of the ways people in a brotherhood can help bear each other's burdens.

Child training instructions in Scripture are always directed to parents.  Delegation of this responsibility is never commanded, and possibly never mentioned. From this I conclude that no matter what else varies in educational approaches, all of them must be built on this foundation :  The education of children is primarily a parental responsibility.  Note that it is not a state responsibility or a church responsibility--not primarily, at least.  When people come together in an educational effort without this understanding, the door opens to all manner of wasted effort, misunderstanding, and disillusionment.  This matter encompasses one of the systemic changes I believe are necessary if our church education programs are to continue effectively.  People simply must understand that when the question is "Who is primarily responsible for the teaching of children?" there is only one correct answer, and it is not the church and it is not the state.

Note that I am not saying that delegation is always wrong.  I am simply saying that it is not the default understanding taught in Scripture.

When the New Testament talks about the teaching that happens when Christians are gathered, it's  in the context of activities like worship, working together in an evangelism effort, in fellowship, or for the purpose of relating to other believers--encouraging, teaching, challenging, etc.--adult to adult interactions, in other words. Never is there an account given of children gathering in groups to be taught by adult Christians.  Jesus Himself, when the children came to him, did not teach them.  He touched them, received them, and blessed them.  Then he taught his disciples, while the children presumably went back to their parents.  

Jesus modeled discipling (training in loving and serving God and others)--the second foundational necessity in understanding Biblical child training--not by asking those who followed him to enroll in a discipleship class.  Instead, he walked with them, worked with them, lived with them, and taught along the way.  This way of teaching is reminiscent of Deuteronomy 6:7, where God says to His children, speaking of the commandments of the Lord:  "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."  (KJV)  I don't see much here that describes a typical classroom scene.  This context for teaching and learning is clearly everyday home life--relaxing indoors, traveling or moving about in the course of working, going to sleep, getting up. 

How can the understanding that parents are primarily responsible for their children's education make a difference in a church's educational program?  All kinds of ways.  Only one predictable effect will be mentioned now:  Where parents have already taken up the primary burden of child training themselves, without automatic recourse to delegating it, people regard classroom schooling in ways that make a profound difference.  To summarize, there is no sense of entitlement among parents and students who access the services in a classroom school.  In its place is a profound sense of gratitude.   Parents feel the lifting of a burden they have already wrestled with and found too heavy to bear. Students who have regularly struggled to master difficult material on their own know how valuable a teacher's help is, and they appreciate all the help they get.  Students and parents will express gratitude regularly to the classroom teachers.  Students will respond eagerly to what they are taught.  They will do whatever they're asked to do without complaint.  Teachers will feel appreciated and affirmed, and not taken advantage of unfairly, or treated with disrespect and even disdain.  This is a huge and essential shift from business-as-usual in a classroom school.  It's as dramatic as a shift from a "welfare mentality" to a sense of personal responsibility and gratitude.  

I know whereof I speak--both from the standpoint of a homeschooling parent and a classroom teacher.  I have taught dozens of homeschooled students in a classroom setting where they have come for one class at a time--to join others who are full-time classroom students.  I have also felt deep gratitude for what other Godly teachers, men especially, could pour into my boys' minds and lives when their own father and I could simply not manage the course material or find the necessary time to do so ourselves.  

Regarding child training, the central truths to be conveyed to children are commonly understood in our circles, I believe.  Primary parental responsibility for doing so?  Not so much.  In this matter, there is widespread selective and very uneven application--only until age six, for example.  Until then, God forbid that any of it should be "farmed out."  After then, "farming out" child training is often regarded as the default, and sometimes becomes a church requirement.  Lord, have mercy!  I'm still praying that someday I will hear primary parental responsibility taught from the pulpit and see a program designed that proceeds from this fundamental principle.

(To be continued)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Revisiting a Minefield--Part 1

Are you up for wading with me into a minefield?  Some of us have been here before, haven't we?

Someone from another community told me recently "The vision for Christian education in our community is tired."  Is this the inevitable result of 50 continuous years of operating a Christian school?  Maybe.  My dad is famous for saying "God has not sentenced us to failure," and I'm sure he would say the same about operating a Christian school.  I wonder, however, if the system we've adopted for our Christian schools does not contain some elements that predispose it to failure.  No more than many educational systems, certainly, but present nonetheless.

The origins of the typical group schooling system have far more in common with the model of industrial production coming out of Germany in the late 1800s than conforming to a model spelled out in Scripture.  The German model emphasizes efficiency above all else.  Uniformity and assembly-line production are essential elements of this model.  John Taylor Gatto, in his book, The Underground History of American Education, traces this route from Germany to America by way of American industrialists who were as inspired by Social Darwinism as they were by German principles of efficiency.  If people were to willingly submit to the mindless repetition of assembly-line production, they needed to be preconditioned for such a life by the educational system.  The educational system we have now was, according to Gatto, expressly designed to produce robotic individuals by employing robotic educational methods.  Those who could not succeed in the educational system would be weeded out before they got to the factories, which was OK, because only the ones fittest for the industrial system were of value to it anyway.  None of this sounds anything like an educational vision grounded in Scriptural principles.

Schools as we know them are not mentioned at all in the Bible.  The one time the word "school" is used it apparently refers to a center of philosophical disputation--the school of Tyrannus.  Unlike families and churches, which are clearly Biblical, schools are extra-Biblical.  Schools are not expressly forbidden in Scripture, so I do not consider them un-Biblical.  But they can never be accurately described as Biblical.  People try though.  Several decades ago I was vociferously criticized for not being properly loyal to "this Biblical institution" (the Christian school).  I didn't buy the argument then.  I still don't.  

Also several decades ago, I once wrote what I feared would eventually develop in the school system our church was setting up:  "I see tired teachers, disillusioned students, and everyone tired of paying for it all."  Are we there yet?  I'm sure not everyone is there.  Some teachers are still feeling energized, some students are still curious and eager to learn, and some people don't mind digging deeper into their pockets to pay for what we have.  I believe, however, that we also have, in some measure, all of the elements I "saw" a long time ago.  I also believe that this would not have to be true of any church educational system, if a program were built on a firmer Scriptural foundation than what we have attempted so far.

In general, Christian schools have adopted the state's educational system and attempted to make it serve Christian purposes by using Bible-based curriculum and employing Christian teachers.  My theory is that this practice is flawed because it is not sufficiently grounded on what we know from Scripture about how Christian institutions are to function.  Schools, in fact, will be successful only to the degree to which they adhere to what is clear in Scripture about the proper function of the family and church--the two institutions  described in Scripture that are most closely intertwined with what schools concern themselves with.  

(To be continued)


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Things I Learned at Farmer's Market and Elsewhere

Yesterday at Farmer's Market, I had a long visit with someone I'll call Janet.  I've known her for a number of years, mostly through, but not limited to Farmer's Market.  Visiting with people like her help me remember how life looks to people whose perspectives on faith and life are diametrically opposed to my own, in many ways.

Yesterday when I asked Janet about her grandchildren, among other things, she told me that one of them had converted to Catholicism in order to marry the woman he wanted to marry.  It was a tremendous disappointment to the young man's mother, Janet's daughter.  That particular religion was not the problem.  The fact that he had committed to any religion at all was the problem.

A granddaughter married an Evangelical young man.  "But I don't think she ever goes to church with him.  And right down the block is a Unitarian church, and I'm hoping some time he'll go there with her."

Janet told me yesterday "We are completely unchurched."  In an earlier conversation on matters of faith, after I had told her that having a personal relationship with Jesus is precious to me, she said "That's what I cannot personally accept."  In that same conversation she told me that she and her family are Unitarians.

The steady flow of conversation slowed only briefly yesterday when I told her I had seen her husband's obituary in the paper and was sorry about her loss.  She got tears in her eyes and said she was trying to focus on having been blessed with nearly 60 years together.  We talked briefly about the necessity of  adjusting to how things are and going on.

When her daughter joined her at our table, Janet introduced me as her wonderful friend.  ?????  I hope she keeps coming to visit.  She is a genuinely pleasant lady, and I truly enjoy hearing about her life.  If I can convey caring and provoke her thinking by what I say and who I am, that might be a good thing too.

Janet is passionate about politics.  When she was describing the house where she lives, she said that during the political season she has as many as ten signs out front.   She also recently ordered a sign to post by her house:  "Parking for Democrats only.  All others will be towed."  She also told me happily that one of her grandchildren lived in Vermont.  "That's a very liberal state."  Her grandchildren say they knew they were Democrats before they knew what being a Democrat meant.

Janet's local grandchildren were homeschooled.  Our family had some interaction with them during that time.  They are very gifted in the arts and, now, as adults, they're all finding ways to make a living in creative professions--from dance to web design.


Last week at the market, a long-time friend of the market stopped by to visit.  I had served with him on the board at one time.  Before that he had been a vendor.  Growing produce had screeched to a halt when highway construction overran their land, and for 36 years he worked for the same small company--right up until they fired him recently.  I had overheard him tell Shane he got laid off, but he confided in me that that wasn't strictly true.  Work had slowed down and the company dealt with it by getting rid of the newest guy and the guy with the most seniority.  He felt a little better when a friend of his who knew his employer said that "firing" action was no surprise to him, given what he knew of his attitudes toward money and people.

My market friend told me they had just bought a new car, which they certainly would not have done if they had seen the job loss coming.  Otherwise, they're debt-free, and his wife has a job that provides health insurance and enough money to make the car payments.  He thinks they'll be alright.

He decided to consider himself retired and set about enjoying life.  He'll need about 6 months to "get my feet back under me" and work on some maintenance projects around home.  Then he wants to gear up to do market gardening again.  "I love this place," he said, looking around at the market.  "This is what I want to do."

I certainly wish him well and would welcome him back to the market.


The Iwashige family did not have a roaring start in their marketing ventures yesterday.  Shane had gone camping at Kanopolis (more than an hour away) with his family and other young-married families from church.  Before they went to bed he made plans to get up at 5:00 and drive here to get the meat truck and head to market.  That plan was right on track till he got to the campground gate and read the sign saying that the gate would be unlocked at 6:00.  There was a thunderstorm taking aim on the campground, and he could tell on his cellphone radar that there was storm activity here.  So, while he waited, he tried to call and tell me that he would be late and that he needed me to round up a few things he had forgotten to put in the truck from home before they left to go camping.

Meanwhile, we were having an intense thunderstorm, and we had judiciously unplugged the portable phone, which also connects the computer to the internet.  When all efforts to reach us by the usual means failed, he called my cell phone.  I have a very distant relationship with my cell phone.  But surprisingly I actually heard it warbling away inside my purse (Can't believe it was charged up.) and guessed that it might have been Shane trying to reach me.  I called him back and got the information he needed to give me.

Then I gathered my flowers and other things, and, because it was still pelting  rain, I got partly soaked loading everything.  I stepped into mud while I was getting some things out of the truck that I needed in order to do the setup by myself.  I'm surprised I was not thinking unkind thoughts toward Hiromi who was still in bed while this was happening.

I got everything set up just before Shane rolled in at the market.   Grant and Clarissa soon arrived.  Their troubles began soon afterward.  Clarissa had forgotten at home the little girls' dresses she makes to sell. So Grant drove the 12? miles home to get them.  After he left, Clarissa remembered that her chair had left with him.  She got by by trundling over to the far corner of the parking lot where my van was parked.  I had an extra chair inside.  Grant came back and the dresses were duly placed on display and Grant left to run some errands.  That's when Clarissa remembered that the cookies she had baked to sell were still in the car.  It was a good time to just laugh at all the misfortunes of the morning.

We got another half inch of rain in that storm.  And no.  This wasn't nearly enough inconvenience to prompt any complaints about rain.  It's still welcome here any time.


Talk of having a year round farmer's market in Hutchinson is gathering intensity.  Our board president is in conversation with development people from the city, and there are some significant opportunities opening up.    Indoor facilities with garage door access for every stall would be ideal.  Apparently such a facility is under consideration.  The present market building could conceivably be dismantled and moved, as I understand it.  The pillars that  support the structure have six mates that are presently in storage, so the structure could actually be extended also.  On the current lot, there is no room to extend the length of the building.  At a new location, the open air structure would the be primary  venue during the summer, and an indoor location would serve that purpose during the winter.  Climate control would be minimal, probably in use only during the winter, and then used only conservatively.

Ron (board president) said that research has shown that wherever markets have begun to stay open year round, revenues during only the standard market season (May to October here) have increased by 30%.  This is apparently due to people never losing the market shopping routine as they tend to do now by stopping in the fall and having to restart in the spring.

For Shane's meat sales, year round marketing in a public venue would be very welcome.  Being able to do it without having to brave the elements for several hours at a time as he did last winter looks appealing.  Vegetable growers would adapt their planting to meet the winter marketing needs, I believe, by growing more vegetables that can be stored, and perhaps by using season extenders that would allow some growing all winter long.  Bakers could, of course, bake as well in the winter as in the summer, and crafters could craft.

The facility that is being considered would also allow the sale of ready-made foods by a vendor who was properly licensed.  With an emphasis on marketing locally produced prepared foods, that could be a marketing boon also.


One little girl who was shopping yesterday with either her father or grandfather spied one of Clarissa's dresses and informed the man with her that she wanted "that one."  It was too big, so the man tried to interest her in one that was actually her size.  Nothing doing.  They went on shopping, but when they circled around again, she latched on to another dress.   This one was too small.  She could not be dissuaded, however, and the man ended up buying the dress.

Some day someone will have to reckon with that child's strong will.  She was quite charming, however, and I don't blame anyone for wanting to please her.


Clarissa is targeting a niche with her angel food cakes.  She bakes whole wheat angel food cakes in various flavors, sugar-free angel food cakes, and does all of them in a mid-sized tube pan.  Apparently Wilton is the only company that makes that size pan currently.  She would love to have more pans, but they aren't readily available except new, online.  If you know of a good source, pass it on to me and I'll pass it on to her.


My parents and Linda came for dinner today after church.  I really enjoyed having them here.  My dad is as interested as ever in what goes on, and my mother looks on benignly, usually without saying much.  Her confusion is coupled with lucidity in some matters, as evidenced by her trying to figure out who lives here and then concluding that this is where she grew up, (No, it's where I grew up.) but also recognizing familiar pieces of furniture as distinct from things that were unfamiliar.  As is often the case with people whose mental functions are in decline, dealing with Mom one on one is not nearly as awkward as having to do so in the presence of a crowd of people.  Dad and Linda both do well in looking out for Mom.


This morning when I was hurriedly sweeping the porch (something I didn't get done yesterday), I paid no attention to the Carpenter bees buzzing loudly around the Blue Bedder Salvia in bloom around the porch until one obnoxious critter dived in and stung my ring finger beside the knuckle.  So far, I had not been too worried about getting stung, even though the bees are quite active right now.  I'd heard that they are seldom aggressive.

True, off and on over the last week, I have been stalking them with a murderous gleam in  my eye and a can of wasp spray in my hand.  By waiting till they land on a flower and then blasting them with a spray from the can, I've wiped out several.  Believe me, I'll be back on the warpath tomorrow.  I was too busy getting ready for company this morning to hunt them down then.  The bee that stung me this morning acted more shrewdly than insects have any right to act, as far as I'm concerned.  


My nephew Hans is leaving Tuesday for a term of service at Faith Builders, working as the tech guy.  I think it's a good thing, but I'm wistful about him leaving.

On Wednesday Joel and Hilda go to work in Bangladesh till September, when they come back in time for the expected arrival of a baby in November.  They will be doing language study while they're there, or Hilda at least will be doing so.  Ditto the above comment--good thing, wistfulness, etc.

My niece, Joelle, Caleb's daughter, is getting married to Jeff Beck next weekend in the Grantham, PA area.  Some from Kansas are going, but I am regretfully not among them.  Jeff is Asian by birth and grew up in a Caucasian family from the same church the Millers also attend.  He has his own business and works hard at being a good father to his primary-school-aged daughter.  I'm sure Joelle considers this child a good perk going into the marriage.  As Caleb said, she's dreamed of having a child to take care of since she was about 2 years old.  Jeff and Joelle both graduated from college this spring.

I hope to visit Caleb's family next August when I fly to Harrisburg near where they live, and then go on to Harrisonville, where I will be having some workshops at the Women in Ministry seminar at SMBI.

My sister Lois gave me a report about some of what happened this year at Obsess, the camp for girls at the CBS campus in Arkansas.  I marveled again at the creativity and effectiveness of the planned activities.  God bless those who invest so much in this ministry.

One of the former Obsess planners moved later to Pennsylvania and is on the planning committee for the Women in Ministry seminar.  I presume that's how it happens that I got invited to SMBI--because I had spoken on a similar topic at Obsess.

My parents' descendants are planning the Levi D. Miller reunion beginning on July 12.  There were about 200 at the last reunion, so we need to get some serious meal planning done soon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reporting and Opining

Living on the Family Farm involves rainfall reporting to all interested parties.  Knowing this sometimes necessitates a trip to the rain gauge early in the morning, in my nightgown, after first checking for traffic.

Lowell calls to see if the hay got enough moisture to grow again.  He rents all the tillable acreage except the 20 or so acres around the buildings that Shane now owns. Lowell's 60 acre field is planted to alfalfa.

Shane calls to see if his forage crops (sudan, currently) planted in the "patches" around the buildings will have enough moisture to provide grazing for his cattle.

Dad calls because he has always wanted to know such things, and because he still has an interest in his farm.

This morning we had a few drops shy of 2 inches in our rain gauge.  Lowells (about 3 miles NW) had almost 3 inches, Shanes (about 5 miles SW) and Dads (3 miles S) had a little over 2 inches, if I remember correctly.  This reporting thing goes two ways, you see.

Since the wheat harvest is over, we were all, without reservation, praying for rain.  All the crops and landscapes were getting very dry unless they were being irrigated.  It's easy for all of us to smile this morning, and to offer thanks to our Heavenly Father Who provided this blessing.


If you're my neighbor, and you don't have children, you can thank me that the college student selling educational books for children by Southwestern Publishing Company will not be coming to your door.  He was here this morning, and asked if we had school age children.  I told him our children are grown and gone, but we have often purchased their books in the past.  That  must have given him the courage to ask me some questions.  Peering hard at the township directory, he read off names and either crossed them out or circled them, based on whether they had children at home.

Maybe he was Japanese and had the courage to ask because he immediately recognized our last name as being Japanese.  He appeared to have Asian ancestry, and asked if our last name is Japanese.  At the end of the conversation he thanked me for saving him a lot of time and asked for my name and my husband's.  I briefly wondered whether he was going to use our names to try to convince other people to buy because "Hiromi and Miriam Iwashige did."  I decided I didn't care if he did.  We liked their books and admired the willingness of these students to do the hard work that door to door selling can involve.  He said his name is "Homi" if I heard him right.

If he comes to your door, don't buy anything you don't want, but don't shoo him off just because he's a "peddler" you don't know.  Be courteous and thank him for working to earn a living.


Put on your fast ears if you're privileged to hear Joel M--tin's presentation on a Bible translation/church planting project he's promoting.  Packed and powerful, it's definitely worth listening to.  The organization he's part of idealizes a team approach to Bible translation, a chronological approach to establish priorities for the first efforts ("Firm Foundations" is a familiar model.), and emphasis on reaching first the largest populations that have no part of the Bible in their heart language--around 2000 of them.  I was happy to hear of at least one local young person who already has an interest in just such a project.  Studying Hebrew and Greek and getting specialized linguistics training are required for anyone who wants to be directly involved in translation. Many others in the support team can fill a vital role without such training.


A local ministry is being launched that will  make use of the old Broadacres facility for a re-entry program for  offenders who have been incarcerated.  Edward M., an Amish bishop who owned the farm land next to this facility, bought the retirement home campus at auction and has made it available at a reduced price to the newly-minted ministry.  Local board members currently include people from at least three different churches:  Richard G., Abner S., Glenn M., Sr., and Dan Peter--n.  Many different kinds of assistance are being  entertained.  Providing a temporary home in a supportive atmosphere where vocational skills can be acquired and other kinds of instruction can be given is part of the vision.

When my brother was released from prison, he was headed to a halfway house in Wichita, except that the spot he had been promised was already taken because there was a two day delay in his getting there, until a bit of "old business" was resolved in the local courts.  He would have had to go back to incarceration if my father had not volunteered to provide a home and re-entry point for him.  No local program offers a halfway house, to my knowledge.  Yet this county is home to a large state correctional facility, and certainly many, many people are released here who have no support to help them make it outside the prison.  Think about it: upon release, almost no money, likely no job and no home, perhaps far away from family (if there is contact with a family), and minimal  job skills.  What are the chances that these offenders will make it?

My brother has kept a job ever since his release, lives in his own apartment, and cleans my parents' house every week.  Sooooo much better than being confined at state expense.  He is still on parole.


This year's school fund needs a cash infusion to end the fiscal year in the black.  I don't know how much any teacher gets paid (although I could easily find out how much I get paid if I studied my paperwork a little more carefully and could remember it afterward).  I do know, however, that if longevity in the profession, and training are given any financial weight, (I'm sure they are.) our program is costing more because we have quite a few people with professional training and a number of years' experience as teachers.  Perhaps thinking about this will help provide a balanced view of the "problem" we have.

If we ask whether inexperience and lack of training, which would result in lower expenses, would be preferable to what we have now, maybe it will be easier to cough up the necessary funds.  Also, if every homeschooled child were added to the classroom schools, the expenses would escalate markedly. Facility and staffing needs would double immediately, with a budget increase needed to cover the capital and ongoing expenses.  Homeschoolers are presumably paying their share of the total expenses, but are adding their own teaching "labor" to the program, without asking for monetary compensation in return for their labor.  Let's give thanks for the savings these hardworking parents are providing for all of us.

I've often pondered the financial dilemma of homeschoolers.  They pay taxes to fund public education, which they do not benefit from, by choice, of course.  (All families who send their children to private schools are in the same shoes.)  In addition, local homeschoolers contribute to church offerings to pay for classroom schools, which they largely do not receive services from, although I'm happy to say that there is a level of cooperation here between the classroom schools and homeschools that is absent in many other places.
In our church's program, they do receive the benefit of having curriculum paid for out of the church's education fund, and they sometimes attend individual classes away from home and can participate in standardized testing.

Having curriculum paid for saves homeschoolers from the situation that occurred earlier, when they paid for two other programs they did not significantly benefit from, and then paid all their own expenses in a system in which they provided all the labor as well--early on, under a significant cloud of suspicion as well.  To summarize:  By the time they were ready to start any given school year, homeschoolers had paid for three "systems" and then provided all the labor for the system that was actually implemented.  Not fair.   I applaud these pioneers' courage and sacrifice.


Perhaps our school budget would benefit from more emphasis on facilitating homeschooling.  I personally think a stellar place to begin would be to accept only students in classroom schools who already know how to read. (I hear those gasps.)  I didn't suck this idea out of my own thumb.  I first considered it after I heard of a school in Pennsylvania who did just that.

If you have never observed what happens in a kindergarten or first grade classroom, and never gone through a teacher education program that detailed all the reading readiness activities teachers are told are necessary, you may have no idea how much time is spent in the first year of school simply trying to keep students busy until they can read and do more to keep themselves busy.  I believe that teaching children to read, one on one, at the point at which the child is developmentally ready (That way you can skip all those readiness exercises.), is one of the most efficient educational uses of individualized instruction.  The corollary is defensible also--that teaching children to read is one of the least efficient uses of classroom instruction. (More gasps noted.)

Some of us have read about Susanna Wesley's teaching each of her children to read on the day of their fifth birthday.  A few of them needed more than one day.  I won't pretend that what worked for her would work for everyone, but I believe we have convinced ourselves that it is a far more laborious process than it actually is.  Trying to keep a group of unevenly ready children on the same track is part of what makes it take a long time in a classroom.

Until a child is ready to read on their own, they usually will happily listen when someone else reads to them.  If that's what parents do, they can very easily transition into answering questions and pointing things out on the page with no pressure for the child.  With this approach, learning to read can happen in a matter of a few weeks.

Children memorize some of the most familiar stories anyway.  If you develop the habit of simply pointing to the words as you say them, they will soon learn to associate certain words with their printed form.  Leave out a word here and there and point to the omitted word on the page and have the child say it aloud.  No, this is not decoding, but it is a step toward reading.  If you must do the whole phonics thing, you can often do it after a child is reading well--in a fraction of the time it would take if you're trying to use it as a learning-to-read method.

Some who struggle inordinately to learn to read in first grade would not do so if they were more developmentally ready.  True, some children who have a disability will not "recover" during a delay of reading instruction, but for some children, it really is as simple as waiting watchfully.  Pouring language into them in the form of read aloud stories is more help than many parents realize in teaching children proper expression, syntax, and morphology--all those big words Joel Mar--n used last night in talking about Bible translation.  Children who learn to read later rather than sooner are not educationally disadvantaged in any way that I know of, if they are busy interacting with language while they wait.

How would all this save money?  Mainly, you would not need to hire a first grade teacher.  Through mentoring between adults, the child's parent-teacher could get the support they needed to become an effective teacher.  I believe there would be further savings down the line also, because some parents who try teaching a child to read will discover that they have skills they didn't know they possessed and the educational process is pleasurable enough that they aren't interested in delegating it to others and risk missing out on the pleasure.  The key is to validate what parents are able to do and to provide assistance and support to maximize their efforts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Embarrassment in Kansas

If you've ever arched an eyebrow at Kansas politics, I suspect your eyebrows have pushed right up past your hairline this week.  The Kansas legislature needed to redraw four maps this year, based on the results of the 2010 census, to make sure that each state and each US representative and senate district had roughly equal populations.  The short story is that the Kansas legislature dithered and squabbled so long without coming to any agreement about how the maps should be drawn that the whole mess got dumped onto three judges who had to get things figured out in a big hurry.  If they hadn't done so, no one could have filed to run for office in any district because no one would have known which yet-to-be-determined district they lived in.  The election filing deadline was on Monday of this past week.

The judges cited the gerrymandering and political feuding that had characterized the legislature's efforts and made it clear that they wanted no part of it.  With a cold eye toward the numbers, they sliced and diced till they had boundaries for every district that needed definition.  In the process, a lot of things turned out looking pretty topsy-turvy.  According to today's paper, 25 state house districts ended up with no incumbents, 21 districts had two, and two districts had three incumbents. Several incumbents scrambled to move to a different residence, with less than a week's warning, so that they could run again in a district that included part of their old territory, but not their current residence.  Others demurred from entering a race they had intended to enter before they saw the new realities, and still others from the same party who were incumbents and are now in the same district will duke it out in the primaries.

Bruce Buchanan, former editor of the Hutchinson News, and now president of Harris Enterprises Inc.,  publisher of a number of daily newspapers, quoted in today's paper part of the judges' statement:  "The feud primarily pitted GOP moderates against their more conservative GOP colleagues.  Failing consensus, the process degenerated into blatant efforts to gerrymander various districts for ideological political advantage and to serve the political ambitions of various legislators."  (editorial page, A12, 6-13-2012)

Buchanan also berated all the local representatives for their criticism of the judges' decisions, noting pointedly that one of them, who has served as Speaker of the House for a number of years, was more responsible than most for the embarrassments coming out of the legislature.  Buchanan said he should have publicly thanked the judges and then faded quietly into retirement rather than offer vociferous criticism for the "gerrymandering" the judges engaged in.  Buchanan calls it chutzpah.  I'd call it the kettle calling the pot black.

Buchanan noted one hopeful result of the upheaval:  New blood will likely enter the political fray.  Perhaps that change will translate into more principled behavior in the future.  If that happens, all of our eyebrows can settle back into their normal position.


In another editorial in today's paper (by Dan Deming), he gives kudos to two News reporters who  have done an outstanding job of reporting on city/county/school matters:  Ken Stephens and Mary Clarkin.  I don't always notice who writes what I read in the newspaper, but I echo Deming's sentiments on this subject.    Getting the facts right and making it fair are both important, and I appreciate every news person who does this.

Within the past week, one issue of the paper contained four full pages on the re-mapping of the legislative and congressional districts.  Someone did a lot of research to bring together all the information necessary for reporting well on this subject.  I thank them for having done the necessary work to make it happen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Noting the Numbers

After doing some rearranging on the bookcase beside my bed, I counted the books I have on the general subject of plants--food gardening, flower gardening, and landscaping.  I have 71 of them.  I bought many of them through a book club, and some of them came from the used book fundraiser shop located in the public library in Hutchinson.

In the architecture/interior decorating category I counted 28 books.  The bookcase also contains books related to health and wellness and personal growth/spiritual emphasis.  I didn't count them.

The dining room bookcase holds my collection of field guides--on birds, fish, mushrooms, insects, trees,  wildflowers, and grasses. One additional book contains sections for the above categories, but also amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.


On Saturday I turned 60.  Our sons and their wives staged a stellar celebration last night.  Grant and Clarissa were the hosts (They live in our Trail West house.) and every family helped provide the light Sun. eve. meal.  Everything was beautiful and tasty--tortilla chips (blue and regular) with a chili-cheese dip, a salad on a platter, with colors and flavors and textures to delight the eyes as well as the palate, a fresh fruit bouquet made with fruit on skewers, with the vase positioned on a platter with more fruit, a soda-grape juice drink, a flower-spangled cake made by Clarissa, with a huckleberry surprise inside--made with huckleberries harvested in the wild in Washington and brought to Kansas by Clarissa, and ice cream.  My daughter-in-laws' creativity amazes and blesses me.  Before they joined the family, this family got only as creative as making cutout cakes for children, but the one Clarissa made had lovely lavender roses and leafy vines and small blue and yellow flowers.  The purple huckleberries and the grape drink served in a pretty punch bowl were even color coordinated with the most prominent decorations on the cake.  See a picture of the table here.

Best of all was the gift everyone collaborated on.  It was a handmade book with the title 60 Things.  All six of the boys and their wives each contributed 10 items--either memories, inspirational quotes, or affirmations and blessings.  They collected the pages each of them had made into a booklet held together with rings.  The pages themselves were very decorative.  I think Dorcas may have engineered that project.  I knew good things must be in store when the ladies cloistered themselves in the bedroom right after they got there last night, and before long there was lots of giggling, with no explanation offered at the time.  I'm still absorbing all the kind words and the inspiration.

Lots of good conversation, walking around outside where everything used to be ever-so-familiar, and still is, except for the ways time has changed things and Grant and Clarissa have improved the place--playing with Tristan, talking about baby names--so many good things are part of being together.  Joel and Hilda also gave  me a large platter adorned with a perky rooster.  (No one even groaned about an addition to my "pretty chickens" collection.)  Some day they will want to claim the huge turkey platter Joel made in ceramics class in 4H, so they knew I would need a replacement.


Lowell and Judy's family received the sad news Saturday morning that Jonathan Miller (33) died in his sleep  in Nicaragua.  He was  married to Judy's niece Jessica, who is only 26, Pablo and Eunice's daughter.  They have three daughters and another child on the way.  Jonathan was a pastor in the Waslala church.  The burial took place on Sunday.

Just before we prayed for them in church yesterday morning, Lowell read a poignant paragraph from an email from Jessica, which they had received about a week ago.  In it, she conveyed a conversation she had with one of her daughters, who noted how much Jessica was missing Jonathan recently when he had gone to the US briefly.  "We ought to be thankful we have a daddy," was the gist of the child's positive-thinking effort to cheer up her mother.

I understand that the Spanish class from Pilgrim visited in this family's home when they took their class trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua in 2011.  Timo Miller, who has been in the news a lot during the past year, was Jonathan's brother.

I think of this family often and pray for them.


My nephew Hans posted a Facebook picture of the people from our church.  I'm still trying to figure out if a certain white-haired lady on the picture is really me.  I wish I had found Hiromi in time to stand with him, but I think he's way over at the right side of the picture.  Hans took the picture by standing on a step ladder and raising his camera (fastened to a folded up tripod) high over his head.  I think it's the first time anyone tried to take a picture of all of us at once.  See the picture here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Pressure Switch Problems

Three times in the past year or so we have had no water from the well.  One time there was a dead cricket to flip out of the pressure switch.  Another time it was a dead mouse.  Today it is a dead switch, with no suicidal creatures in evidence.  Hiromi is on his way to buy a new switch.

I am not finding anything on my to do list for today that I have not already done and can get done without water.  So I've read the paper, researched the duration of pre-emergent herbicides, and started blogging.  I also briefly contemplated analogies in the pressure switch saga and decided maybe that wasn't a productive endeavor.


Rains late last week brought harvest to a screeching halt for the most part till early this week.  A lot has happened in the past few days to finish cutting wheat that people couldn't get to before the rain.

Lowell's hay field produced a decent first cutting, but after that, the cheat grass matured and speckled the field with many touches of brown.  He decided to cut it all off and hope for good regrowth and a green second cutting.


Something happened to the lush and beautiful Pothos hanging basket we've had at school for several years.  It looks sad and denuded, despite Norma's regular watering since school is out.  I doubt that it was a malicious denuding, but if that's the best way to treat a plant like that, I've missed the memo so far.  I'm really regretting that I didn't bring it home for the summer.  I didn't have a ceiling hook by a window ready for it, and Hiromi has not found time to put one up.  I reasoned that it could just as well continue to add ambiance to the atmosphere there throughout the summer if it were maintained.  "Denuded" is not on my radar as an aid to ambiance.

Harry had put up the ceiling hooks at school in the first years of my teaching there, and I had bought the hanging baskets and plants and planted them--except for the fern that Norma planted in one of them last year.  I think students helped with repotting at least once on school work night. The baskets have the distinct advantage of offering a bottom-watering and wicking-upward option--much easier for students to manage than trying to feel how much water is needed and having to pour in water at the top, not knowing how much is too much till it runs over.  The hanging baskets were pricey, but I bought them on sale at Gardener's Supply Company and still claim ownership of them.  

I used to bring the hanging baskets home during the summer and hang them from the trees in our yard, but the wind and heat were hard on them, and I was delighted the year Jolynn took them home and used them in their new apartment to subtly divide the different areas of their great room, which served as a kitchen, dining room, and living room.  Several times one of Richard Y.'s girls cared for one or more of them over the summer.  During my Sabbatical Norma took over plant care and then watered them over the summer following.  All of the hanging baskets have looked beautiful all school year.  I had made a mental note that some of the lower hanging tips should probably be trimmed off at the start of next school year. lest some student be tempted to use the tips as a handle for twirling the basket.  It's happened.  

The hoya vine went home with Lois, where I presume it is thriving, and the heart-leaf philodendron and the fern at school look as nice as ever.  Here's hoping the Pothos recovers.


Are you used to having cinnamon and nutmeg flavorings in apricot pie filling?  I'm not, but the canning recipe I saw called for them.  I think I'll omit them.

How to Say Thank You

1.  Inquire of an old friend who knows the mailing address of the person you wish to thank.

2.  Buy a beautiful card.  Write a note in the card and then write a letter to go with it.  The card will have a message about how important little acts of caring are in today's busy world, and will say "Thank you for your thoughtfulness."  In the card, you will write "Years ago (nearly 16) you blessed and encouraged me with a letter you wrote me . . . I just want to thank you for that."  Apologize if you must for having waited so long to say thank you.  Listen to your husband when he tells you it's not too late.  In the letter enclosed with the card, say that you carried that long-ago letter in your purse for more than ten years and found encouragement from it, even after it began to fall apart along the folds.  Write also about how the situations that were so troubling sixteen years ago have worked out, and about the blessings you're reaping now.   

3.  Add a lovely family picture (There might be seven more children than when you first wrote.  Identify each child by name and age.) and mail the card and letter.  Perhaps it will arrive on a day when the person you're thanking is deeply discouraged, and nearly ready to give up on a passion that has thrived and brought pleasure over many decades.  Perhaps it will serve as a reminder that God never forgets an act of faithful obedience and will reward in His Own good time--and that difficulties of your own are what prepares you to minister to others with difficulty.  Perhaps it will be possible for the recipient of the thank you to find courage.

Monday, June 04, 2012

"Verbing Weirds Language"

Yesterday in Sunday School class our teacher referred to googling "Good Thursday" for some interesting and compelling information about the actual day of Jesus' crucifixion.   I think everyone in the class likely knew exactly what "googling" meant, but I can think of a number of people in church who would not be likely to know.  I was briefly distracted by reflecting on how language changes over time, especially when nouns or adjectives are turned into verbs.  Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame, nailed this phenomenon when he said, "Verbing weirds language."

I had been thinking about this ever since dinner on Saturday night when Myron made reference to the poet/singer Leonard Cohen, asking if anyone remembered his poem "Suzanne."  I didn't.  Then he reminded me that when I was studying poetry in college, I had to compare the nonsense of Cohen's writing in "Suzanne" with the nonsense of Lewis Caroll's "Jabberwocky."  It came back to me then.  (Don't you hate it when other people remember better what you've learned than you do?)

It was during a spiritual emphasis week on campus.  James Sire, editor and writer for Inter-Varsity Press was one of the featured speakers.  Sire, more than anyone besides perhaps Francis Schaeffer himself, was responsible for getting Schaeffer's writings into print.  Sire was himself an author, obviously no slouch when it came to handling language responsibly and professionally.  During his speech at Sterling, he lamented the meaninglessness that characterized much of modern writing, and he used "Suzanne" as an example.  Here are the lyrics to the poem by Cohen which were first popularized by the singer Judy Collins.  The song begins with "Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river . . ."   The song has both religious and sexual overtones, but Sire was right; not much about it makes sense.

From "Suzanne," Sire launched into an examination of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" which begins:  "'Twas brillig, and the slithey toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe . . . "  After each phrase Sire stopped to ask people what they thought the words meant.  People voiced surprising agreement about the meaning behind these invented words.   Sire's main point was that when a writer, or any other kind of artist, has a rational world view, grounded in the truth of Scripture, the works they produce have meaning.  When coherence and purpose is missing in one's worldview, the works produced reflect meaninglessness also.

Poetic license permits the use of words in surprising ways--even the verbing of nouns and adjectives, which can convey meaning very effectively as long as the syntax--the order of words in a sentence--is solid and understandable.  I'm not sure that there's a good reason otherwise for using words.  Writing is too much work to do it for any reason other than to convey meaning.  Leave the weirding of language to those of Cohen's ilk.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

John Howard Yoder Comes to Dinner

Not really.  It was just our family and a few guests at the Golden Corral.  My brother Myron, however, and my nephew Benji engaged in a lively discussion of John Howard Yoder's writings.  Since I was at the end of the table near them, I listened in part of the time.  At one point Rhoda (Myron's wife) playfully held an imaginary microphone in front of Myron, noting that he had switched into his Rosedale or SMBI teaching mode.  Myron countered her observation by noting that a bit of finger shaking would probably be necessary to fully adopt the teacher role.  (How about it, former SMBI or Rosedale students?  Was finger-shaking part of this teacher's persona?)

Some time within the past few decades I read The Politics of Jesus (POJ) by Yoder.  I actually can't quite remember whether I read the whole book or not.  I do remember that it was heavy reading.  Some of the things Myron was telling Benji that Yoder taught made me wonder whether reading Yoder had shaped my thinking more than I remembered.  Here's one thing I remember from last night's dinner conversation:  Yoder says that throughout history, Christian efforts to accomplish change by political means has almost always resulted in disillusionment (not Myron's exact words, but as close as I can remember).  He said furthermore that this is never because people have identified with the wrong political party.  It is because they have identified with any party at all. Yes!

Benji appreciated what Yoder says about Romans 13.  

Several years ago I looked up the Wikipedia entry on John Howard Yoder and learned some things I would rather not have known.  This most famous Mennonite theologian had feet of clay.  Although not his most serious problem, one writer on the internet describes him as also being anti-social.  Myron met him once, and corroborated the internet writer's impression.

Tonight, in poking around on the internet for some "John Howard Yoder for Dummies" posts (The search actually was for JHY quotes.), I came across this simplified version of the POJ book in PDF form.  (The PDF link follows the second paragraph on the blog page.) It was written by Nathan Hobby, an Australian Anabaptist.   The simplified book was used in a Bible study series and contains discussion questions.  I read the one chapter in Hobby's version that I remember having especially liked in the original POJ book--on the Year of Jubilee--and I wasn't sure that all the ideas I remembered from the original were present in the summary, but it was still worthwhile reading.  The writing is certainly more accessible in Hobby's version than in the original.

I also found about five pages of Yoder quotes on this site.  Some extraneous material is included, but by and large, the quotes are concise and profound.

Theology is not my forte.  I'm glad though that some people are paying attention to this field of study and have the vision and skills to make important concepts understandable to the rest of us.  Golden Corral is as good a place as any to acquire insight, and second hand versions are just fine by me--even from a younger brother and a much younger nephew.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Dreams From My Dining Room

I am loving the freedom I have right now to dream and think and plan.  Hiromi finds it slightly unsettling, as evidenced by the sigh I heard when I was talking today about finding table legs to replace the broken ones on the Duncan Phyfe dining table my parents left behind when they moved out of this house.  I think the antique store in Nickerson might be just the place to find something like that.  New legs can be purchased online, but good used ones would fit in better with the old table.

Our dining room is a decorating horror right now.  It has four tables in it--three too many.  There's the plant-germinating table in front of the double windows, the Ethan Allen trestle-style dining table Hiromi bought before we were married (This is actually the one we eat from right now.), The small Duncan Phyfe table that used to serve as Grant's desk, and the big one I mentioned earlier.  Both of the Duncan Phyfe (D.P.) tables are as small as they can be, with no boards, and the drop-leaf ends folded down.  They huddle behind the couch that faces the living room.

Hiromi got one of the boys to help him move in the plant table--without consulting me.  It's a great table for its purpose, but quite ugly.  I will say it's well-located to insure that the plants won't dry out.  They're right beside my computer desk and right beside the table where we eat.  I see the plants many times a day.
The Ethan Allen (E. A.) table is not big enough for the whole family when everyone is home and it can not be extended, so we moved the small D.P. table out from Grant's bedroom to set up along with the E. A. table for company.  But there' was no place to go with the big D.P. table that was already in the dining room.  Today it dawned on me that what we really need is the big D.P. table to recover from its wobbly leg, poor-balance problems.  Then it can be here all alone and do all that needs doing--except for starting plants.  That can happen in Grant's old bedroom, now that the bed finally has a new home at Harry S.'s.

The big D.P. table has quite a history and bears testimony to my mother's resourcefulness.  Unable to afford a new table, she contrived a way to make an unremarkable used table expandable to seat at least 18 people.  Somewhere she located a source of table slides that allow for significant expansion.  She bought them and they were shipped to the house.  She also had saved the boards from another table we used to have that was the same width as the D.P. table.  She hired someone to install the slides and create some matching holes and pegs in the "imported" boards so they would all fit neatly side by side, and presto!--a nice big dining room table.  With a long white tablecloth she made for it, it looked great and served admirably for many years.    Eventually though  the glue gave way on the tips of two of  the legs that sweep up from lying horizontally on the floor to attach vertically into the "hubs" of the table legs that march in a row of three along the center of the table. Those shortened horizontal leg supports introduced some ominous instability, to say nothing of it's unsightliness. That's why the rehabilitation is needed now.

All these horizontal surfaces attract great quantities of after-school, before-market, plant-growing, and flower-arranging clutter.  I am working at creating order, and feeling a little lighter and better every single day.


Today is my Mom's 84th birthday.  All those in the extended family who could arrange to do so gathered in a Wichita restaurant this evening to celebrate.  Ronald and Brenda had made the plans and invited everyone.   They and Lowells were already in Wichita for the homeschooling conference, and Ronalds headed home to Oswego with three guests afterwards.  The guests had attended Kristen and Andrea's wedding, and wanted to spend the weekend in Oswego, so they followed us (Dad, Mom, Linda, and I) down to Wichita to meet up with them.  I'm not sure they knew what they were in for.  It was quite a family crew--at least 32 DLM family members.

My mother is very modest, and would never have sought such hoopla in a birthday celebration, but it was a wonderful evening all around.  She is less cognizant of what goes on around her than she used to be, but still enjoys times like these.


Some day I'll tell you about some of the other things I've been dreaming about and mulling over.