Friday, May 26, 2017

Living in Light of Eternity

Written to share with a group of Forever-minded homeschooling parents.  Shared with all.

~

Forever

I used to be scared of the idea of eternity. I would think about it and imagine “when we've been there ten thousand years” that we would have “no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun” and it SCARED me! As a little girl sitting in church, singing hymns that were far-too-slow for my tastes, I didn't really like the idea of FOREVER. I pictured myself Singing “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” and casting my crown at Jesus's feet... Then picking it up so I could do it all over again? It just didn't make sense to me. I knew “Forever” was going to happen and I knew it was supposed to be this great thing; I just didn't really understand what it meant.

~

Did you hear about the man who arrives at the pearly gates? The gate-keeper asks, "What's your Denomination?"
The man says, "Methodist."
The gate-keeper looks down his list and says, "Go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8."
Another man arrives at the pearly gates. "Denomination?"
"Lutheran."
"Go to Room 18, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8."
A third man arrives at the gates. "Denomination?"
"Presbyterian."
"Go to Room 11, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8."
The man says, "I can understand there being different rooms for different denominations, but why must I be quiet when I pass Room 8?"
The gate-keeper tells him, "Well, the Baptists are in Room 8, and they think they're the only ones here."

~

We all have this idea of what eternity will be like... Some of of us embrace it; Some of us deny it; Some of us just don't really understand it.

~

My hubby and I just came back from Greece. Near Athens, we saw many temples to different gods who were presumed, by Ancient Greeks, to have different benefits and characteristics - Zeus, Athena, Nike, Poseidon, Hephaistos, Aphaia, Apollo. And there were many other temples that we didn't go to see. The Ancient Greeks understood that there was something more... They didn't really understand it, but they tried.
Mars Hill (left), The Acropolis with the Temples to various Greek Gods (right)

While I was standing on Mars Hill (also known as the Areopagus) staring up at the Acropolis (home to several of these pagan structures), I was reminded that we all have this innate desire to worship. We know that there is something greater than ourselves. Even the Ancient Greeks and Romans knew this. Paul says to the Romans about these pagans:

Romans 1:19-23 ...what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

In Greece, these temples were the only way the ancient people knew to express this innate desire to worship. They knew there was a God and were trying to understand what that looked like for them. Their hearts understood that there was something more, but they didn't quite get it. We read the words Paul spoke while at the Areopagus in Acts 17:22-29

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

Again, in 2 Cor 6:16 he tells the Saved from among the group in Corinth that, WE are the temple of the living God.”

Once people understood who the One True God was, some of them became devout followers. But they still didn't fully understand what it meant. Some didn't believe in Forever – Resurrection, Life after death, Eternity.
Paul puts it to them this way in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:
...if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If all we're living for is success, comfort, and stature in this life, then our work is meaningless.
This present life is compared to a quick breath (Psalm 39:5), wispy smoke (Psalm 102:3), a vanishing mist (James 4:14), a blade of withering grass or a fading flower (1 Peter 1:24). It's over before we realize it. We were not simply created for this temporary life, but for Eternal life – For Forever!
So, while we can certainly find Joy in this life, we must choose to live in light of eternity. Our years and days and minutes and breaths need to be purposefully spent on preparing ourselves and those around us for eternity. We need to shine like stars in a depraved world (Philippians 2:15) and to be the aroma of Christ to both the saved and the perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15)

And this discontent that we feel when terrible things happen right now is simply a tug on our hearts for the eternal perfection that awaits us.

FOREVER is not my child-hood imaginings of an eternal life sentence to “Worship before the throne forever.”

FOREVER is a new Eden... It is Joy and Peace and Perfection and a Perfect relationship with God. It is each of us living as the people that God designed us to be. It is Beautiful and Good and Holy. It is imperishable and not subject to the current groanings and imperfections of this cursed world. And it it finally seeing God's face! (Rev 22:4)

And Forever is what we should be working towards and practicing right now.

Philippians 3:12-21 sums up living in light of FOREVER for me:

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
...

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Living a purposeful life, in light of forever, means being Paul to our younger disciples.

He says it in 1 Corinthians 11:1a as well: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

As a homeschooling parent, Deut 6:4-9 is often on my heart:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

If we're living in light of eternity, the choices we make for ourselves and our families will look very different than the world's.

Colossians 3:23 tells us “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters...

My children are not working at their school work so that they can please me or get accolades or a good job or whatever world standard for SUCCESS is set before them. They are working at it because they trust that I am leading them in honouring God with our choices and giving Him glory. As they become more advanced in their schooling, they now marvel at the stunning order that God built into His Creation. It is good and edifying for our children to be taught about God's design for us and this planet where we live.

And it is good for our children to grow up to be productive people who can support themselves... Proverbs 12:11 reminds us that “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

Teaching our children how to be effectively functioning members of society is an important part of being a light in this dark world.

But beyond the curriculum and tests and grades, we need to be eternity-minded. We need to teach our children that this work that we're putting our all into for a moment is not meant to give us success according to the world's definition, but to enable us to better serve God.

Every prayer that I pray with my children includes a request that God would be honoured in our choices. We make choices about so many things without always thinking about honouring God... Choices about nourishment, curriculum, the way we treat each other, the way we help strangers, where - how and when we choose to worship. My prayer continues to be that God be honoured in ALL that we do.

And may our strivings, as homeschooling parents, continually direct our children to their God-given purpose – to bring Him honour and glory, Forever. May they make choices in light of who they are as Citizens of Heaven rather than who they are as Citizens of this World

1 Peter 4:7-11 says:
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

As my children grow into living out this purposeful Christian walk, I'll know that they are living in light of Eternity.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kid laughs

I went through our week's schedule this morning with the kids. This included a brief description of the new wrestling class that the boys plan to take. My daughter did not want to do wrestling because she didn't want to kill people or have people kill her. I explained that wrestling is more about controlled movements where you move your opponent's body so that certain parts of them are on the mat, which will score you a point. She ended the conversation by announcing, "Well, I'm not good at wrestling; I'm just good at slapping people."

~

Another day, another laugh:

One Saturday morning, I was getting the kids moving, making sure they were ready for the day.  I told the youngest to get dressed.

"Why? Where are we going?"

We may indulge in this whole "homeschooling" thing a little much.  ;-)

~

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cool Garden Pasta for a Hot Summer Day

Too hot!!  Today was too hot for warm food. But alas, I had to use the stove.  In the future, I'll make this one up in the morning or even the night before.  This is great cold (for dinner or as leftovers) but we couldn't wait and ate it nearly cold.

And so, to make Cool Garden Pasta for a Hot Summer Day...


Cool Garden Pasta for a Hot Summer Day

Ingredients:
1 lb bow tie pasta
1 lb ground chicken
1 clove garlic
1 medium zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup corn
3 Tbsp olive oil
large handful of fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:
1. Boil 1 lb bow tie noodles until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water when done.  Put back in pot and place in fridge to cool.

Meanwhile:

2. Pan-fry 1 lb ground chicken with one clove garlic until done. Add meat mixture to cooling noodles.

3. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to hot pan and fry 1 medium zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces, until dark and flavourful. Add zucchini to pasta pot.

4. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to hot pan and fry 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes until just releasing flavour. Add tomatoes to pasta pot.

5. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to hot pan and fry 1 cup corn until it has picked up all the juices from the pan. Add corn to pasta pot.

Chop a large handful of fresh basil and add to pasta pot. Season with salt and pepper. Leave in fridge to chill or eat as is.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sleight of Hand

A few years back, my husband and I had tickets to see a magician in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His tricks required a lot of skill:
  • The assistants needed to physically be able to contort their bodies into weird spaces.
  • The magician needed to be physically skilled enough to move his hands quickly and adeptly to hide or reveal something.
But there's another skill that is at the heart of every magician's act - the mental art of Misdirection.

You cannot have a magic act without misdirection. The magician gets the audience to focus attention somewhere else so the magician can further the trick somewhere else. By the end of the trick, he has manipulated the props/people in such a way that we are amazed.

A classic example is the disappearing coin. This trick works because you, the audience, are expecting a certain result. If I hold a coin in the air and appear to grab it with the other hand, you will expect the coin to be in the other hand.

You can see this trick explained/revealed here.


~

As I cleaned up the breakfast table this morning (a delifghtful breakfast of pancakes, berries, maple syrup and Nutella, prepared by my three children) I noticed a label and was briefly delighted to see that Nutella has "No preservatives or artificial colours."


Always slightly suspicious, I noticed that they omitted "artifical flavours" from the list. I wondered why that was and looked at the ingredients. "Sugar, modified palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk powder, whey powder, soy and/or sunflower lecithin, vanillin"

Looks pretty natural, right? I can pronounce them all (although sometimes I mix up the "c" and "th" in lecithin.

Well, for those of us who aren't aware, vanillin is imitation vanilla extract. It is chemically formulated to mimic the taste of vanilla, but it contains no actual real vanilla.

But no one really notices because of their clever marketing. NO ARTIFICIAL COLOURS! NO PRESERVATIVES!

(Honestly, anyone who cares about what they eat would notice the excess sugar and fat as well as the minimal protein. A conscientious consumer might be concerned about the palm oil and the devastation that its harvesting does to forests around the world.  But I digress.)

~

How else are we being redirected? I try to be aware of how marketing influences me, from Saturday morning cartoons to the evening news to free samples at Costco. What partial truths are you being told that redirect you from the greater truth that you need to pursue?

I have no answers for you. I think each of us needs to consider this question more often though before we eat an entire jar of Not-Natural-Nutella...


or vote for legislation that will "compassionately allow a person to die with dignity"...

or pass judgment on a family that has done their very best to care for the family God gave them.

What are we being told to think and what truth are we being redirected away from noticing?

There are no right answers because we all do it, intentionally or not.  Being more aware that it is happening is a giant step towards being autonomous in our consumption of ideas and principles.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hearty Chicken Kale Soup

Yesterday was such a busy day at our house. (Thursdays generally are, through the winter.) I have to get our dinner prepared before 12:30.  Yesterday, I had a vague plan for dinner, but at 12:00 I started panicking (ever-so-briefly). I knew I wanted to make some kind of crock pot dish with chicken and kale, but I didn't yet have a recipe in mind. A quick Google-search for "chicken kale crock pot" turned up nothing that I wanted to eat.

So I decided to wing it.

I wung it. (That can't be right, but it sure is fun to say. But if someone swings a rope around and goes on to tell someone else that they swung the rope, surely I can wing a recipe and tell you that I wung it. English according to Wanda.)

So anyway, I wung it.

I put two frozen chicken breasts in a big pan and turned the pan on. I figured I needed some onions and garlic, so in they went. Hmm, maybe a touch of water to keep the garlic from cooking too much. Ah, maybe some chicken stock? Dump 1L of chicken stock in. Now what?

I knew I wanted kale, so I chopped that up and set it aside. I'd put it in when it was close to done cooking.

I took the chicken out and chopped it up because no one wants two whole chicken breasts in their soup!

How about noodles? That'd be tasty! I rifled through the cupboard, dug out some rotini noodles and decided they were WAY too big, so I spent the next few minutes breaking them in half and throwing them in the pot.

Oooh, some tomatoes would be good. But not too many tomatoes. Half a jar of crushed tomatoes would be perfect. (You can mix onion and garlic powder into the remaining tomatoes to make a lovely last-minute pizza sauce.)

I waited a few minutes for the noodles to cook most of the way, added some salt and pepper, and had a taste... Blech! Too bland. It was missing something. After a bit more salt and pepper I was still not satisfied.

Basil! I keep a paste of basil in my fridge for emergencies such as this. In it went and WOWZA! did it make a difference. I threw the kale in, decided it needed corn, threw a handful of that in, and called it done.

I put the soup in the fridge, went to our afternoon class, and rested assured that dinner was handled.

When we got home, the noodles had plumped up nicely and absorbed more of the liquid, so I added another 4 cups of chicken broth and reheated our soup.

The silence around the table, save for a few slurps and "mmms," told me this one was a keeper.


And so, after slightly more fan-fare than was necessary, here's the recipe.

Hearty Chicken Kale Soup

Serves 6
Time: 30 minutes

Fry or saute in a large pan:

2 large chicken breasts
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced

Add 2 Tbsp water or oil if necessary.
Remove chicken from the pan. Allow it to cool, then chop it into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pan.

Add:
300 mL crushed tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup corn
2 Tbsp fresh basil
3/4 cup small, uncooked pasta

(I used rotini, broken in half.)

Allow mixture to cook another 15 minutes, until pasta is tender.  Season as you wish with salt and pepper.

Add:
2 cups chopped kale

Allow the mixtures to simmer another 5 minutes, then serve.

Listen, as your 10 year-old says, “Mmm! This is one of my favourite meals that you've ever made!






Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Finding a Spouse, Homeschool-Style

I wrote this Feb 7, 2015. I'm not sure why it sat unpublished for over a year, but I want to remember it down the road...

~

It's so fun to sit back and just listen to my children, letting them chatter away.

The youngest needed some “board game” time with Dad the other night, so I took the older two out to the local coffee and doughnut shop. We lingered over coffee and hot chocolate while we chatted about the day, the weekend ahead of us, and life in general. On the walk home, we got into discussions about money, marriage, and making sure you make a good choice in who your spouse is, before you ever say, “I do.”

It was at this point in the conversation (which really wasn't as deep as it may sound) that the younger of the two admitted something. “When we first started talking about homeschooling, I thought that I would never meet other kids and I didn't know how I would ever find someone to marry."

The older one chimed in with, “Me too! I pictured myself standing on the sidewalk somewhere and just asking questions of people as they went by. If they answered just one question wrong, then I'd move on to someone else until I found someone who answered all my questions correctly.”

We all had a good laugh at how absurd that seemed now, busy as we are with our many "school" events. I am so thankful for the amazing, quality friends that my kids have made in the last few years. Any fears we were told to have about “socialization” quickly went out the window when we started homeschooling. I love these kids that we're getting to hang out with every week and I love the sense of culture and community that these families are instilling in their children. Yes, I'll take homeschool-socialized children any day!


Grandma's bag of marshmallows

I have to tell you one of my favourite stories of my Grandma Hazel...

When I was a little girl, I lived in the same city as Grandma Hazel and Grandpa Ralph. They often visited our house, but just as often, we ended up at their house. I have many fond memories of sitting at Grandma's kitchen table, sipping tea and nibbling toast while we played Password. (I just loved that plastic red window through which I could see my word.)

But one of the reasons I loved going to Grandma's house most was that I knew she would have a bag of marshmallows which she kept tucked away just for us girls. So thought little 7 year-old Wanda. They were there  just for us girls! So of course, I asked for a marshmallow every time I visited.

As moms tend to do, my mom saw the need to curb my uncouth behaviour, more specifically, my unabashed begging for marshmallows. One particular day, as we drove to Grandma's house, Mom told us girls, "Now when we get to Grandma's house, I do NOT want you to ask for a marshmallow. If she offers you one, you may say 'Yes, please' but you may NOT ask for one." We understood and were dutifully ready to obey.

My mind started churning and it didn't take long for me to formulate a sneaky plan.

I walked into Grandma's house that day, gave her a big hug, accepted her kiss, and confessed to her that I wasn't allowed to ask for a marshmallow, but that if she offered me one, I was allowed to say "Yes."

Needless to say, I got my marshmallow that day.

Here I am, sitting on Grandma's lap, looking like I've eaten a few marshmallows at this point.

Grandma looks on as I blow out my candles.
She's probably wondering if she should continue to support my marshmallow habit.

It's been a while since I got a marshmallow from Grandma Hazel, but she still greeted me with a twinkle in her eyes over the last few years. She may have forgotten a few things, but she always had that same smile, hug, and kiss for me when I walked in to visit her.


Last year at her 100th birthday party, she looked on with that twinkle again as her grand-daughters helped her blow out 100 candles.

100 years of memories.

100 years of lives being touched with the same sweet, gentle, and oh-so-generous spirit that we celebrated that day.

100 years of serving others, thinking not of herself, but of how she could be Jesus to someone, to everyone, really.



She was radiant, basking in the joy of seeing people whose lives she had touched, people from near and far, coming around to celebrate her.








This week, we celebrate her once more. I'm so looking forward to the stories that we'll tell. I've never looked forward to a visitation and funeral like I am this week.

My Grandma was One of a Kind. She was the person who best exemplified what it meant to be Christ-like. I never heard a word of anger or judgment or hatred or envy from her. Just love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. She was a woman with God's Spirit in her, and now her spirit has returned to God. I look forward to the day we can worship at Jesus' feet together, but until then, I'll do my best to carry on her legacy, in my own meager way.

And just so you know, if you see me with a bag of marshmallows, you're not allowed to ask for one, but if I offer, you're allowed to say "Yes."