Advent, first ’21

First weekend of Advent, 2021. Two family birthdays and Thanksgiving Day AND a family tradition of tree hunting & homemade donuts… it was all packed into a handful of days this year. It makes for a good kind of chaos and girding up of the loins for all the celebration. Of course, it was bookended with illness in my home, which just added to both the crazy and the exhaustion… but God’s grace was poured on like the best gravy. This life is a gift, and celebrating the start of a new Church Year is absolutely something to treasure. So we pursue this. We cultivate it. We dig in. And it is very good.

Saturday, 11.27
Family Advent Feast

Menu:
Started with Lindt chocolate truffles and a toast with merlot to King Jesus when we lit the Hope candle
Red Wine Tri Tip Steaks (used this for inspiration, but tweaked it like I always do…)
Mushroom risotto (my daughter loves to make this… but we don’t use a recipe… we just go by method, look, and taste)
Roasted veg (olive oil, s&p, garlic powder, Italian herbs; brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, beets, and red onion)
Garlic pull-apart bread (used this for inspiration, then made it monkey-bread-style using a butter-olive-oil-s&p-crushed-garlic-Italian-herbs mixture for dipping each piece of dough)
Salted Caramel Cheesecake (used this recipe for the most part, but used Nilla wafers for the crust. And added a fat pinch of sea salt to each layer of this, because DUH. Extra pink salt in the caramel as well.)

Readings:
Every Moment Holy, liturgy for the start of the Christmas season
Isaiah 9:2-7
Poem, Advent Calendar by Rowan Williams

Carols:
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Savior of the Nations, Come
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Kids’ Gift:
Stratego, 1986 version

Sunday, 11.28
First Sunday of Advent

Menu:
Creamy tomato soup (in my instant pot)
Grilled cheese sandwiches (36 of them, sliced into halves)
Green salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Sliced honeycrisp apples
Double chocolate brownies with toffee & sprinkles on top

Rested with:
Fellowship with friends
Honoring my husband’s birthday
Sharing a meal
Disposable dishes
Playing Fishbowl with all ages
Handel’s Messiah on CD
Singing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel in harmony

Little Artists, Imaging

Theme: God is the Artist. We are little artists, imaging Him, reflecting Him, looking at our Father and wanting to do what He does. What are we called to do as we imitate the Artist, and how do we love His art?

Verse: Genesis 1:31 “And God saw everything that He had made,
and behold, it was very good.”

Catechism: New City Q4-5
Q: How and why did God create us?
A: God created us male and female in His own image to know Him, love Him, live with Him, and glorify Him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to His glory.
Q: What else did God create?
A: God created all things by His powerful Word, and all His creation was very good; everything flourished under His loving rule.

Where does Scripture talk about God being the Creator?
From Genesis 1:1 clear up through Revelation 10:6 Scripture is absolutely packed full with reminders that God is the Creator, the Artist, the One through whom all things exist and have their being. Just a few snippets to glance through are John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 33:6, Jeremiah 10:12, Hebrews 11:3, Isaiah 45:18, Jeremiah 32:17, Isaiah 40:28, Proverbs 16:4, Revelation 4:11… but look for yourself and you’ll find that there are many more.

I don’t think it is unusual for God to be acknowledged as Creator, at least in Christian circles – but I have heard people hiccup at the nuance of God being an artist. They would argue He is more of a scientist or an engineer or a composer or an author than an artist. Yet, I think we are severely limiting the glory and scope of God if we try to put Him in a single box anyway. (That should go without saying, but there: I said it anyway.) One isolated facet of our incomprehensible, unfathomable Creator is that He is the King of art, Master of artistry, ultimate Painter and Sculptor and Framer and Architect. There should be absolutely zero argument from His people that He produces good and true and beautiful work, and we ought to take exceptional delight in observing His work and seeking to imitate it.

Not infrequently, when driving home after my daughter has ballet lessons, there is a stunning sunset out her window. She once commented that it looked like a painting from a great artist. I told her she wasn’t wrong. And yet, the nuance really is reversed: it is the great human artists who are the imitators. They only paint representations of what God has already painted, created, sculpted, and gifted to us.

When thinking through the creation account in the beginning chapters of Genesis, if you think of it as God taking the chaos and mayhem of everything being void and without shape, it does not conjure up an image of beauty or goodness. But then He takes it into His hands and uses His words as paints and brushes, to separate and delineate. He put in a horizon line and vanishing points when He put firmament and waters into their own specific places. He added depth, dimension, shadow, and vibrancy when He placed lights in the sky to rule day and night. He added color and texture and movement when He placed plants and creatures all around. And He painted Himself into the portrait when He placed mankind in the garden.

In Ephesians 2:10, we are called “His workmanship.” I have always envisioned God as a carpenter in that way. Wearing a toolbelt or something. Ha! But it is so much more rich and fat and beautiful and powerful than that. As we have been studying the works of artists like Leonardo daVinci in recent weeks, and I absolutely marvel over the things that have been produced by the work of mens’ hands, I find that I am somehow underwhelmed by the work produced by the work of God’s words.

I want to grow in wonder and awe of His artistry. The sculpted detail of tree bark. The blended colors washing the sky that are ever changing in sunrise, sunset, rainbow, and aurora borealis. The straightest of all horizon lines when I stand at the edge of the seashore and look out past the waves. The self portraits, countless in multitude, which take their turns walking the dust of the earth for their apportioned days – they were molded from dust, walking on dust, they will return to dust…

Yet one of the most fascinating aspects of His creation and artistry to me is that it is both finite and infinite, temporal and eternal. What returns to dust from my body when it decays in the depths of soil will someday be raised and glorified. I don’t understand the artistry techniques He uses, but I love the Artist and trust His skill. As I marvel at the beautiful and complex works of art in His created order, and then also find the creations of mankind fascinating, may I be drawn to look up to Him in praise and gratitude and awe. May I glean inspiration for my own creativity because of His lavish grace as my Father.

Pursuit of Wisdom

The Value of Wisdom—Proverbs 2:1-13

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.
When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness…

Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding—Proverbs. What do these things mean, what is their progression, and where do they come from? How do we pursue them?

In the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were perfect, not yet tainted by sin, were they wise? Did they have wisdom? I can’t pretend to answer that for you, but I can tell you that they were tantalized by the idea of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Even when walking in the garden with God, the font of all wisdom and the most beautiful embodied Wisdom of all, could they identify wisdom? After hearing the deceptive words from the wicked serpent, Eve saw the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not only beautiful but would make one wise. What did Eve understand of wisdom? I think it’s probably clear that she did not know enough about it.

I bet you that she understood a good deal about folly shortly thereafter though.

I think Eve shows us what Paul David Tripp writes about in New Morning Mercies when he says, “Sin reduces all of us to fools… we think we can step over God’s boundaries without consequences. We think we deserve what we do not deserve and are able to do what we cannot do. Shockingly, there are more times than most of us recognize or would be willing to admit when we think we are smarter than God.”

This brings us back to Eve. Rather than seeing the deceit of the serpent, she now wonders (in burgeoning folly) if God was deceiving her. Wisdom is not natural to sinners. The pursuit of wisdom is one of humanity’s most profoundly important quests. But it is hard for us to gain wisdom, to measure wisdom, to properly see and acknowledge wisdom because we see through eyes which filter and interpret through our own foolish hearts.

So where does wisdom come from? You can’t buy it. You can’t even get it by hard work and experience. Not actually, not officially, not true wisdom. And that is because, in order to be wise, we first need to be rescued by the Savior. In the counterintuitive, paradoxical way of the Gospel, we must become needy, humble, seeking, and acknowledge that we are completely depraved and foolish on our own… it is only through the gift of faith and the enabling work of the Holy Spirit that we even can gain true godly wisdom.

Colossians 2:3 says of Jesus, “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” All the treasures! It is the free grace of God that bridges us with wisdom and causes wisdom to live in us. Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Psalm 111 says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.

Eve disobeyed His commandments. And ever since she and her husband, our first parents, grasped for knowledge and wisdom outside of the boundaries and commands of God, humanity has been brought forth in sin and folly. It is by the grace of God alone that He gives us directions in Scripture on how to once again pursue Him, pursue wisdom, pursue understanding.

He tells us that fearing Him is where we begin. And understanding the fear of Him is the end game. THAT is where we find the knowledge of God.

All the Greek Words

You know the old saying, “it’s all Greek to me”? I feel like as I have waded slowly into the Classical education model in our Christian homeschooling, I have to say that much more tongue in cheek. Honestly, I could say, “it’s all Latin to me” quite often, as my three oldest children love their Latin studies… but they do it without me, because I can only grasp so much of it (I love the vocabulary! but please let me hide in a hole when it’s time for grammar and conjugations!) and they honestly take great delight in learning something Mama doesn’t know. They also have extremely high hopes of having a secret language for communicating right over their parents’ heads. This is a challenge I encourage them to pursue. I wish I could take them gallivanting around the Mediterranean sea to explore the remaining vestiges of the Roman Empire as their reward should they succeed.

At any rate. I had long thought that, were we to pursue an officially Classical educational model in our homeschool, we would choose to study Greek over Latin. In fact, when my oldest son was our only genuinely school-aged child, we purchased Songschool Greek in the hopes of doing just that. My husband knew Greek, after all! But I was too tired to figure out how to use the simple textbook properly, and my husband was too busy to consistently help Gabriel with anything more involved than the Greek alphabet. So it went by the wayside.

Fast forward a few years, and I throw around just a couple Greek words very regularly though. I also do still love the occasional rabbit trail of word study when studying Scripture. But I do not have any endeavor too come fluent in any language at this point outside of English. Keeping up with the ebbs and flows of the ever-iterating English language is enough of a task for me.

But if you have been around here with me for more than a hot second, you have surely seen me throw around words like scholé and paideia. Very clearly, I am pulling out some grand misspells or dipping into a separate language. I know I have explained paideia recently in more than one post, but it has been a little while since I have mentioned scholé. My friend Mystie Winckler explains this fairly succinctly here. She says, “Scholé means seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty first and foremost, laying aside personal agendas, prideful goals, and desires to control so that we can be open and able to embrace Truth, Goodness, and Beauty when we see it. And we should be seeing it all over the place. God is True, Good, and Beautiful, and we are reflections of Him, called to increase our reflection of Him more and more as we mature and grow all our lives.”

There are many times when I just get so excited about the ways my very favorite Greek words (not including tzatziki or dolma or baklava…) overlap and intersect. My friends at Scholé Sisters have this phrase “scholé every day” as a reminder that this is a daily, continual pursuit. Not one and done. But a habit was continue to cultivate throughout life. Just like pursuing a godly paideia! One of the ways I pursue paideia is through scholé!

A habit I began when I was just a teen was that of playing through hymnals on the piano. Beginning to end. And while I do not always have this practice on repeat, it is nonetheless something that I have repeated often in the last 25 years! It began as a challenge to myself when I was trying to learn the skills of an accompanist. I wanted to be able to serve in churches and other sacred settings, but did not want piano performance to be a stumbling block. So I set out to work my through hymns and psalms in such a way that I would eventually be able to play anything on any page in any hymnal. And even as a 12 or 14 year old, I wanted to do that not to attain a specific self-promoting skill, but to equip myself for sacrificial service. God gave the desire, the will, the stamina, the joy, and the fruit.

I have served as accompanist at every church my family has attended ever since, at least in some capacity (full time, part time, or substitute). I have accompanied at countless hymn sings and psalm sings and family worship opportunities in multiple homes. Eventually, I even learned to accompany more modern settings which required different skills… chord charts and lead sheets are still not something I love, but I can work with them cheerfully when I am serving the body of Christ.

I love to play through hymnals and psalters. Often singing along, but not always. Sometimes focusing on just the music beneath my fingertips. Sometimes quietly meditating on the words my eyes see while my hands are on autopilot. Interestingly, I do not know how many hymnals/psalters I have played straight through in the last couple decades, but I know it has been at least six – plus other compilations of worship music like the Cantica Sanctorum and the RUF songbook. Last night I reached the end of yet another.

Often, after tucking my children into their beds at night, I will be asked to go play the piano. The baby grand in the large family room with the wood floor and high peaked ceiling projects valiantly and echoes throughout the entire house. The children genuinely love hearing their mama play even the most simple of things… and there have been countless times where I will suddenly hear little voices wafting down the stairwell as they join me in some of their favorite psalms or hymns. I fully expect this to be one of the things they remember about their childhood, just as I fondly remember the bedtime routine of my father singing to me while he played guitar and my mother stroking my hair while she quietly sang me a personalized lullaby.

My practice of musicianship for the glory of God and the serving of His people, as well the simple blessing of beauty & rest that it serves to my own soul, is one example of my own #scholeeveryday pursuit of godly scholé. But in the practice of it, I am simultaneously cultivating a godly paideia to nurture the souls of my family.

So perhaps the next obvious question is this: which hymnal or psalter is next on the docket?? It just so happens that I have a short one already queued up.

Or maybe the next question ought to be, what other Greek words should be in my daily arsenal for living in a Christ-focused home, taking my children with me to the feet of the Savior??

Podcast Conversations

Back in April, I had the pleasure of sitting in my family room to chat over Zoom with a long-distance friend across the country. Amy, who writes at Humility and Doxology, had asked if she could interview me for her Homeschool Conversations podcast. I remember feeling a bit stumped about what in the world I could have to offer to anyone, and why would somebody want my voice speaking into their earbuds… but I jumped at the opportunity to visit with Amy anyway because I knew she was sweet and friendly… and we happened to have a lot in common. Fast forward six months, the interview was published on the Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology podcast, and you can find the transcript on her blog as well.

During the interim months, however, I have continued to enjoy chatting with Amy in little snippets thanks to modern technology: we chat on the Voxer voicemail app and share things on Instagram. She also had me participate in her Homeschool Generations blog series over at The Curriculum Choice, and guest post on her blog regarding Singing Psalms with Little Saints. It has been a delight to connect with Amy on things that are near and dear to both our hearts.

Another way that Amy has blessed me recently is in a bit of tip-giving in almost a mentorship type way. While I have been coming alongside my friend Heather Tully for nearly a year now, to be a sounding board as well as act as a bit of a mentor, regarding the beginning of a sister community for my Paideia Northwest, we have come up with some ways to pursue community together between our Paideia Communities even across the distance. Pursuing a small, casual podcast is one of those ways. But I had no idea where to begin! Just like Heather said to me all those months ago, having a vision and a desire and excitement is a great place to start… but sometimes we really need someone to take us under their wing and show us how they have gone about things. Not because there is only one right way to accomplish a particular undertaking, but because it is such a blessing not to recreate the wheel every time you want to try out a new project! I am happy to iterate multiple times, but even to simply have a foundational starting stone is such a gift. It is like being a given a seed that was harvested from a friend’s garden, and now I have something to start with as I begin to build my garden. (It feels like a very pioneer thing to do, in fact.)

So thanks to Amy at Homeschool Conversations, I have been able to start dabbling with Paideia Conversations. While it is not officially launched in any sort of grand way, this is sort of a “soft opening,” so to speak.

Although I have been largely doing the first few podcast episodes on my own to learn the ropes (and thankfully my teenage son is tech savvy and computer literate, so he can run the ropes that are beyond my non-Millennial brain), the Paideia Southeast team will be participating and creating content right along with me before long. This podcast is simply intended to continue the conversation about raising kids for Christ and cultivating homes that center their atmosphere around Him. The recording of these “paideia conversations” in a casual podcast is a natural extension of what we have spent recent months discussing on Voxer together.

So here we go: one more new endeavor to tip toes and fingertips into. Another way to be sharpened and encouraged and challenged and fortified on this journey of raising little saints for the Kingdom of God.

Blessedness vs. Wickedness

Trees have roots and fruits, and we see this in Psalm 1 applied to a godly man. How do we apply this to our walk with the Lord? What can we learn about blessing, delighting, meditating, prosperity, and fruitfulness? Where do we go for nourishment?

Verse: Psalm 1
“Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The book of Psalms opens with two psalms which really end up setting the stage for the entire rest of the book to come. It generally makes sense to begin in the beginning of a book before reading on through it, but not everyone has had that experience with Psalms. A lot of people are introduced to Psalms through super common ones like Psalm 23 – the Lord is my Shepherd – or Psalm 100 – about entering His courts thanksgiving and His gates with praise. But one of my absolute favorite ways to read wisdom literature in Scripture is from beginning to end. My kids and I read both Psalms and Proverbs this way: straight through, on repeat, all the time. I can not count how many times we have read those two books together already, and can’t imagine how many times we will have done it throughout our lifetimes. This is a good heritage to pass on, and a worthy foundation to set.

So if we were to approach the book of Psalms by starting at the beginning, we would see that Psalm 1 presents two ways of living—actually, very similarly to what Proverbs does with the way of wisdom and the way of folly—but here in Psalm 1, it is the way of the blessed man and the way of the wicked man. Some theologians actually say that Psalm 2 is not a separate song but a continuation of the first—the King mentioned there is not David, but a foreshadowing of Christ, the Son of David that God’s people were anticipating. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. But back to Psalm 1!

This is a wisdom psalm (again—that connection to Proverbs), it is intended for the training and instruction of God’s people. The book of psalms was the hymnal of the Hebrews, the Jews, God’s people. And right here in the beginning of that book is a teaching method commonly found throughout the Bible: two ways in contrast; a positive example beside a negative example; one meant for imitation and the other for warning. We’ve already established that the two options in Psalm 1 are that of blessedness and that of wickedness. What does blessed mean? This is actually the Hebrew word that my son Asher’s name comes from: asherey, ashrei, esher (it’s phonetic so you can find it transliterated different ways). It is a word that means happy, blessed, fulfilled. It is a contented state of joy that is an internal happiness which brings blessing from the inside out—not the outside in. It is not a happiness based on situation or blessedness based on materialism. This kind of true blessing, true happiness, comes from walking with the Lord.

The first half of this psalm gives beautifully poetic description about what the blessed man is like. We see the blessed man described as a tree planted by rivers of water, yielding good fruit, not withering but prospering! And from where did this tree stem? Where are its roots? Delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on the law of God day and night—that is where these tree roots are nurtured and nourished. And then back to the beginning, we see that this man steers well away from sinners and scoffers and wickedness.

We must see that the very first thing mentioned is the distinction between godly and ungodly influences. We must resist the influence of the ungodly, carefully protecting ourselves from ungodly influences. Therefore, we must rather put ourselves in the way of godliness, righteousness, and meditation on God’s holiness. This is where blessedness and happiness lie. This is the path of good fruit and prosperity. Psalm 119 is a long treatise on exactly this! Here is a brief example:

Psalm 119:97-106

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
    for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
    in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
    for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
    therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to keep your righteous rules.

Throughout the psalter, but notably right here in the very first chapter, we see that devotion to God and His Word is not a slavish duty nor hedge against superstition. Rather than a burden, it is a delight and pleasure and joy. He meditates on it! This meditation is considering, pondering, wrestling with, and being occupied with—meditating on God’s Word means focusing on it and seeking to understand it, memorize it, and—dare I suggest—even sing it.

But how does the psalmist go on to describe the wicked? In an abrupt shift, he declares simply: “the wicked are not so.” He describes them as chaff that has been shaken off the grain. Therefore, because of their very nature as inconsequential and useless, they will not stand in judgment but will blow away like the dry hulls of chaff when a farmer winnows wheat. Chaff is worthless, meaningless. Ultimately, we are told that the end of the wicked is far from prosperity: the wicked will simply perish.

So we see that there are two ways we can live—the Lord presents us here with the two paths: that of wickedness and that of blessedness. This is the ultimate distinction in life. And here is one simple yet profound note: although we would all like to think of ourselves as the blessed one, the tree planted by rivers of water… we are only that one thanks to the irresistible grace of God. But for that undeserved mercy, we would lie squarely in the path of the wicked one. Praise the Lord for His sovereign plan and gift of Jesus Christ! Because of Him, we can be blessed. We can be happy. We can be fruitful and prosperous. Like that tree representing the happy and blessed man, we do not have to fear dry seasons because of the constant water supply nourishing our roots. Because of the Living Water of Jesus Christ our Savior, we can endure adversity, persecution, drought, affliction. It is the law of God, His very Word—which we have the modern gift of carrying around in our very pockets, not to mention in a dozen different copies on our shelves at home—which is our sustenance. May we thus brim over with love for God’s Word. May we raise children whose roots are planted by the riverside. May our homes be orchards with fruit ripe for plucking and harvesting and sharing. This is how we can share in the prosperity and blessing of the man in Psalm 1. Rely on Jesus and trust in Him, letting Him be your righteousness and hope, your joy and delight. Do not walk in the ways of the wicked—but rather, choose to delight in the law of God and meditate on His living Word.

Trinitarian Blessing

We can not escape the grace of God. Father, Son, and Spirit—this God we serve is with us as our foundation, our protection, our all. Do not fear.

Weekly Verse: 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Weekly Catechism:
Q:How many persons are there in God?
A: There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Our memory verse this week is a benediction—in fact, a specifically Trinitarian blessing—that emphasizes God’s love, the grace we enjoy because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the fellowship or communion we experience because of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. (And our catechism focus is also on the Trinity.) There is unity here, yet diversity. Paul’s blessing ascribes specific blessings to the operation of each person in the Trinitarian Godhead. The finite human mind can wrestle with the doctrine of the Trinity for more than a lifetime: it is a mind-blowing truth, which remains a mathematical mystery for us. Jonathan Edwards noted, “I think [the doctrine of the Trinity] to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries.” But it is comforting and practical to the core. We can basically sum up Christianity this way: we come to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. And in this verse we remember the fullness of God in how He redeems and blesses His people with grace, love, and fellowship.

There are many ways to apply this, but one way that I find comforting is the reminder that we can not escape the grace of our God. Perhaps this is a terrifying reality for some—but for those of us who find our safety, security, comfort, and refuge in the Trinitarian God, it gives us every reason not to fear. His grace reaches us no matter where we run! The grace of God is before us, behind us, above us, beneath us, with us, and for us. It is this gracious God who is our foundation, our refuge, our protection. We His children do not need to fear. We have His grace, His love, and His fellowship. He gives us Himself in grace and love while enfolding us into communion with His family.

If anyone has experience with this inescapable grace of God, it was Paul. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 is Paul’s testimony of this:
“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

You remember Paul, right? Paul was a blasphemer. A persecutor. An insolent opponent. He was ignorant and unbelieving. He proclaims his dire sinfulness! But here’s the thing. Even Paul—who was Saul at that time—could not escape the love, grace, and communion of our Triune God. And Paul invites us to give honor and glory to the only God, the King of the ages, because of His mercy and patience and faithfulness.

Why did the chief of sinners receive love, grace, and communion from God? Because the grace of our Lord overflowed for Paul with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. And this ought likewise to be our comfort and our hope, it ought to drive away fear and doubt. Our Lord Jesus Christ has grace for you and for me. Our God loves you and me. And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit reaches and embraces you and me. This is indeed a blessing. This is our firm foundation. This is encouraging. And it ought to give us hope to face trials and strength to climb mountains.

Sweet Paideia

One week ago, my sweet little girl decided to make a surprise for her new friends at ballet. She has been trying to find ways to connect with the girls in her new class this year, which is difficult when they are not allowed to talk or giggle during class (they are very focused on their poise and form and classroom respect), and with all the weird restrictions our state has over gatherings… honestly, it’s almost surprising that we are allowed to have classes at all. Praise the Lord, we can! But how to overcome the obstacles of our current culture’s mania when my little girl just wants to hug and talk and smile and be close and interact and pursue fellowship… let’s just say, it has been a bit of a fickle pickle to iron out.

She started with writing letters to a couple of her fellow ballerinas, and then at the next class after that, one of the moms pursued a conversation with me to tell me how incredibly timely and kind the letter-writing gesture had been. Our daughters came out of class then, and spent the next fifteen minutes giggling and talking and dancing on the studio patio.

So her next creative idea was to bake cookies for her classmates as a special surprise. She had all the ingredients set out, found a recipe she wanted to use, and waited all day for me to have the time to help her. It went beautifully until she was adding eggs… and unfortunately dropped an entire egg — including the shell — into the mixer — while it was beating. Immediately, I turned off the preheating oven and broke the news that that was my last pound of butter and cup of brown sugar, so we would have to wait a week to make cookies for her class. Cue the tears! I may have briefly considered the possibility of using tweezers to scrutinize the bowl of dough and try to pull out three hundred shards of eggshell like so many splinters…

She sadly got into jammies and brushed her teeth, all the while blinking back tears that desperately wanted to wash her freckled cheeks. I climbed into bed with her to scratch her back and have a conversation. What makes this the hardest tonight? She replied, my friends won’t get to have cookies tomorrow! I smiled at her and said, but maybe there is a reason why God wants you to bring cookies NEXT week. Maybe one of your classmates is really going to need the encouragement of a kind gesture and friendly gift at that point. God knows all the details of the things we can’t even imagine.

She looked at me, fairly satisfied. And so for the last few days, she had mentioned now and then how she wonders what her new friends are doing, going through, enjoying, struggling with — and she is hoping that bringing cookies to them will be a timely blessing.

We bought more butter. And brown sugar. And this time, we will crack the eggs into a cup before pouring them carefully into the mixer set in its off position.

~~~

When we were discussing the idea of making cookies as a gesture of kindness and friendship, Evangeline said that it seemed like a Christian thing to do: to make something lovely or delicious without someone expecting anything, and to just bless them out of nowhere. And I think she’s exactly right. This is the kind of gesture a godly paideia longs to produce. An 8 year old little girl who can articulate on her own that making cookies for her ballet classmates can be an embodiment of “virtues like the fruits of the Spirit.” When I asked her which fruits she thought cookie-baking and cookie-gifting might embody, she smiled and said, “love and joy definitely; peace like fellowship between new friends; I had to have patience because of the whole eggshell problem last week; kindness and goodness are like giving a special surprise to someone; but I’m not sure I can find faithfulness and self control…” I reminded her at that point that she has a very faithful pursuit of trying to be friendly and to generate actual friendship with these girls. And while we laughed at self control because we can’t mention that virtue relating to cookies without Frog and Toad immediately coming to mind… (tell me you know that kid lit reference!), it is also true that Evangeline has had to pursue self control in class not to giggle and chitchat with these new friends, which honestly is what urged her to try finding more creative, out of the box ways to connect with classmates.

I think this is the kind of moment where I really want to be purposed in pointing out that glimpse of paideia. Recognizing that something as simple as homemade cookies… and as complicated as ruining the first batch of dough, thus needing to wait an entire week before trying again… can bring about a sweet conversation about philosophical paideia intersecting with practical paideia… that is a beautiful step for me. It’s my friends at PaideiaSoutheast.com that help urge me onward and upward in this continued conversation. And I am finding that the more I open my eyes, asking myself how can I glimpse paideia here?, the more easily I see it. Godly paideia fleshed out and lived to the fullest.

So this is the sweetness of a little Christian girl, giving of herself for the enjoyment of others. And I praise His holy name.

Glimpsing Paideia

I have always loved the word paideia. It’s a word I kind of grew up on. Having been raised in the Reformed Christian tradition, Greek and Hebrew and Latin words are not unfamiliar to me, although I have never even considered the option of studying one of those languages to the point where I were fluent or able to translate anything. But when it comes to original languages, especially used in Scripture, I have a longing to know the translation and the etymology and the various definitions and applications of a word. Paideia was one of those words introduced to me from childhood, thanks to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I think it is fairly safe to say that all children raised in a Christian household have been taught Ephesians 6:1 from a very early age: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” and many of us probably even went so far as to have memorized verses 2 & 3 on its heels: “Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” But I think it is less commonplace for verse 4 to be memorized and catechized in our families: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

As a parent, it can be tempting to bark Ephesians 6:1 without first washing ourselves in the gentle command here to parents (fathers specifically). DO NOT provoke your children to anger. Rather, DO bring them up in the paideia of the Lord.

That’s where we see the Greek work paideia.
Biblical translators have a variety of different English words they use in our English Bibles, but they are just insufficient for the height and breadth and depth of what the Greek word would encompass.

Britannica says:
Paideia, (Greek: “education,” or “learning”), system of education and training in classical Greek and Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) cultures that included such subjects as gymnastics, grammar, rhetoric, music, mathematics, geography, natural history, and philosophy.

Merriam-Webster shares this definition:
1: training of the physical and mental faculties in such a way as to produce a broad enlightened mature outlook harmoniously combined with maximum cultural development
2: the ideal development envisioned or attained by paideia

And John Piper shares the Greek here:
Fathers . . .
bring them up (ektrephete auta)
in the discipline (paideia)
and instruction (nouthesia)
of the Lord (kuriou).

John Piper continues by saying, “This word [paideia] signifies the actions a father takes to give his children the abilities and skills and character to live life to the glory of God. It is not synonymous with teaching. It is more full and more active.” (emphasis mine)

I have previously written here about paideia as well: how it is the complete enculturation of a person (or society), which is not limited to religion or education, but includes all aspects of training, education, nourishment, nurture, instruction, discipline, and enculturation! The Greeks were endeavoring to raise fantastic little Greek citizens, for which they used the term paideia: but our endeavor as Christian parents is of raising faithful Christian citizens of heaven, using that same all-encompassing term paideia.

But talking about the philosophy surrounding and supporting godly paideia isn’t the whole story. It needs fleshed out! It isn’t enough to simply say, “raise your kids in a decidedly Christian way, and voila, there you have it!” A friend of mine from Paideia Southeast was telling me recently how it feels like raising her kids in the paideia of the Lord is like driving a train down the track… but she is currently laying the track upon which they are driving! And it is exhausting to lay the track while driving the train. And sometimes we don’t even know what other well-used train tracks look like, so we are planning the path of the track while laying it while driving down it. Whew! How much more of a blessing it is to be driving down an already-laid track, or at least to have another track nearby for reference and recommendations.

How do we actively pursue the paideia of the Lord as we raise our children? What are some simple ways for starting out on laying that track? Where are visuals to remind me that it looks different in different families? I am looking now for glimpses of paideia around me. Specific instances where I see godly culture being cultivated both in my home and in the homes of others around us. In pictures, in books, in conversations, in posts online. I want to recognize it myself, point it out to my children, and share it with my friends. The paideia of the Lord.

Oh, may the Lord give me eyes to glimpse His paideia in palpable, practical application so that I can walk in faithfulness for the furthering of His kingdom. Amen.

Paideia Studies Books

As I continue reading about Classical education, specifically capitalizing on the Christian nuances of it, and prepare to direct a cooperative of families in this endeavor, I want to say a few things about books & curriculum. If you have been around me, my home, my conferences, or my writing for any length of time you will know at least one thing about me: I love books. Bibliophile ought to have been my middle name. But Joy also works, because I get more joy out of books than you can probably imagine. Buying them, holding them, smelling them, flipping through them, reading them to myself, reading them to my children, reading them alongside others, discussing them, writing in them, book darting them, assessing them, organizing them, gifting them, lending them, borrowing them, recommending them… the list goes on and on… but it’s all about books. Seriously. I have an addiction. (There are way worse things to which I could be addicted, so I’m unabashed and unashamed.)

But one thing about homeschooling is that it feeds this book addiction. I suppose you can homeschool without being a bibliophile, but why?! Through my years of home education (being a second generation in this realm, I have thirty-two years of this going for me at this point… or maybe thirty-seven…), my love of books has grown exponentially. So has my need for more bookshelves. And as I have grown in my pursuit of Classical education specifically, my needs (not just my desires) for more books has become more pronounced.

If you can imagine this being even more emphasized, just imagine now that I have been put in the position of starting and directing a Classical Christian homeschool co op. Yep! Loads of more books. In fact, the kids probably have begun to equate the mailman with a librarian… because more often than not, at least one book arrives on the doorstep a day.

I mean, hey: I already admitted that I have an addiction.
Addictions can be healthy. (Right?)

Back to books.

I love to jog along the line of Charlotte Mason meets Classical education. When I first read “Consider This” by Karen Glass, I think I actually cried, legitimately dimpling the pages of that library book with more happy tears than book darts (and trust me, there were plenty of book darts). I was not raised to check off boxes or fit into boxes. I was honestly raised to move mountains, ask questions, push the envelope, rest deeply, and create culture rather than fit into one. We never liked labels. I still don’t like labels. (Don’t believe me? Ask my husband. Or my pediatrician.)

So when it comes to curriculum, I have never really loved answering the question that most often peppers me as a homeschooling mama: “so, what curriculum do you use?” It makes me stutter and stumble almost as obviously as when someone would ask me as a homeschooled kid, “so, what grade are you in?”

I don’t exactly use a curriculum. I mean, I do. But I pick and choose. I like to think of our educational feast as a buffet, and we eat what is needed and loved at the time. We have always done Saxon math… but honestly, only because that’s what my parents used for my brother & me, and it worked for us… and thus far, it has worked for each of our kids as well (we are only up to Algebra 1). We have enjoyed Rod & Staff for grammar, Our Mother Tongue, and even Dragon Grammar. We have enjoyed IEW as well as Writing & Rhetoric. I love weaving together Story of the World with A Child’s History of the World and Mystery of History. Mapping the World with Art is my absolute favorite geography curriculum at this point. And we have used a few different Latin resources from Classical Academic Press. We buy things from Veritas Press, Memoria Press, and Logos at Canon Press as well. (But let’s be honest: I buy as much as I can from used vendors on Amazon, Thriftbooks, Abebooks, or Exodus Books.)

I constantly have over one hundred books checked out from the library (four family members have cards, and each has a 50-book allowance at a time), most along themes of what we are currently studying or pursuing as a family or in our homeschool co op. And the living books emphases from the Charlotte Mason world? Oh yes please. All of those are speaking my love language! I love to pull things from Ambleside Online. I also use Redeemed Reader to help us wade through a lot of things that are newer (I used to use a lot of Read Aloud Revival as well, but my kids & I have sort of grown past that and find Redeemed Reader and Scholé Sisters to be a better niche for us at this point).

But when it comes to a homeschool co op, we do need to have things chosen ahead of time, and a trajectory to share with the group so that all the families are quite literally on the same page.I have had some people asking about the curriculum that Paideia Studies will be using, so I thought I would just share a bit of that here. Not all of this is set in stone yet, but this is the current plan and trajectory of ’21-’22. Seeing it all written out and hyperlinked helps orient you to the vision as well as the specific curriculum, I think. I’m encouraging all co op moms/parents to read the first essay in a previously mentioned book called The Paideia of God, which you can read online right here.I am also encouraging all co op moms/parents to pick up this short book, Classical Education and the Homeschool… it is a great resource for getting a little jumpstart on this whole idea. Paideia for the parents is important too! Parents need to model continuing education and love of learning, in order to best teach and encourage our kids toward knowledge, instruction, and wisdom.

So without further ado, this is in the plan for ’21-’22:

SCIENCE- Apologia General Science (textbook for older kids, but just following the modules in the table of contents each week for the younger kids, in more of a Charlotte Mason living books method)

LATIN- Songschool Latin (younger kids) or Latin for Children Primer A (older kids) as well as Root Words (Greek and Latin – curriculum not yet published)

HISTORY- Story of the World, Volume 2 – Middle Ages History (all ages)A Child’s History of the World (optional, but recommended)Mystery of History, Vol. 2 and 3 (optional, but recommended)

COLLECTIVE- We will also be doing singing, poetry, Bible/devotional, catechism (probably New City Catechism), and rotating through composer/poet/scientist/saint study in an all-together Collective each week for the first hour of co op.

ELECTIVE- And for the final hour of each co op day, we hope to have a rotating class that is more extra-curricular, possibly in eight week sections. We will figure that part out once we know for sure which families are joining us, how many kids will be in each class, and what the skills/interests are of all the attending parents. We will likely begin with art history & imitation.

I am eager to share more details of these class plans and book lists as time goes on. It is good for me to document these things, to have a self-motivated accountability on co op planning, and to share with other similarly-minded mamas so we can sharpen iron together.

Also, if you need to borrow a book… just let me know. I’ve recently turned my jokes from, “there’s an app for that,” to a more personally applicable, “I’ve got a book for that.”

See? Bibliophile. Unashamedly.