Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Told my son to get started on some copywork this morning while I did the dishes.
Returned to find this. ... yes, those are runes. I'm still laughing.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Khalil Gibran on Religion

Have I spoken this day of aught else?
Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,
And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?
Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?
Who can spread his hours before him, saying, "This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?"
All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.
He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.
The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.
And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.
The freest song comes not through bars and wires.
And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.
Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,
The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.
For in revery you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.
And take with you all men:
For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.
You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Atmosphere in a Charlotte Mason homeschool

Sorry about all the helicopter, guest, and toddler interruptions, haha, but that's life and part of my atmosphere. ;)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

9 Neanderthandal Habits of a True Man You Never Thought Would Make You Melt, but Will.

I came across this article today which was being furiously passed from woman to woman on my facebook and touted as the best thing in the world.
As I said there, and will say below, the article annoyed me quite a bit, for many reasons, but mostly being that:
" If you try to help me put my jacket on or take it off, I will cut you. Because hijab and it took me an hour to get it right so don't freaking touch it.
And me no likey chick flicks I don't expect you to either.
I like flowers but I once dumped a guy because he brought me flowers EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.... and spent too much time with my family.

I should write a post called: "9 Neanderthal habits of a true man that you never thought would make you melt... but will." In fact, I'm gonna."
Also, I love and appreciate opening doors but sometimes aintnobodygottimefodat and I just can't stand the wait, I'm just like MOVE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST MOVE. So pick your moments, men.
So now here I am, writing this post. Let me start off by saying that all those ideas I read about are nice, but if you hold out for the guy who embodies that post, you are going to be either (a) marrying a damn liar or (b) missing out on a lot. So without further ado, I give you nine things men actually do that used to drive me nuts but I now find incredibly endearing.

1. Closing doors. 

The writer mentioned that she liked men holding doors open. Well I like men closing doors.
First off, I like when my man closes the figurative door on a situation I didn't have the guts or common sense to close one on myself. They don't mind being rude or direct, and I love that because I do. Close them doors, for me boys!
That's a big one...  for sure. But also, I like men literally closing doors.
Men slam doors every where they go. Doesn't matter if they are little men or big men, they will pretty much slam every single door they encounter, and whats' even funnier is that you can bet on them yelling at any kid within ear shot for slamming doors themselves. Door slams always carry a message: things like "leave me alone" is a common one, yes, but another is "Oh my gosh I'm so excited!!" and there's also "I'm late!" too. While door slamming is a regular occurrence in a household full of boys, they are almost always loudest at naptime and after the children have gone to sleep. I have no idea if this is intentional or just a weird Murphy's law thing, but there you go.
 Whatever the message, whatever the reason, I melt a little bit when my house is full of guys and my door is slamming constantly as they happily go in and out forgetting things and yelling things to each other.

2. Eating everything in the house.

Sure it's nice if they save the last bite, but lately I've been noticing how nice it is to have a house full of hungry men I get to feed. There's something about chasing them out of the kitchen, slapping their hands away while they touch stuff, and watching the look of satisfaction (not to mention the good mood after ) that comes when guys have eaten a hearty meal and are grateful for it. If they are eating you out of house and home, you likely know the joy of finding happy men all around you and there's nothing like it. Like my Mediterranean mothers before me, this year I have really learned to rejoice in my kitchen duties and to find peace and pleasure in stocking and re-stocking.....  and re-stocking the fridge. I used to LOATHE Dinner prep, practically considered suicide when it "+1" started turning into "+ 3" around here on a regular basis, and seriously thought about just walking out one day and leaving everybody hungry. I prayed about it a lot and the Lord gave me a brilliant vision for hospitality and told me to embrace that hot, dirty kitchen.... and now let me tell you, I wouldn't trade my job for all the world. I now love to feed people, but men especially, because nobody is more thankful or happy after a good meal.

3.  Spending time with the guys.

Love a guy who loves to be around family. That's always, always important. But ladies, have you ever really stopped to appreciate the hilarity that ensues when guys get to spend time with each other? It's a glorious sight to behold, and one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon should you have the good fortune of listening in.
Men get together and play jokes on each other, talk smack to one another, give each other a hard time, build things, do projects, figure out ways to dominate the world..... it's amazing. Also, you will NEVER have to worry about things like home invasions or things that go bump in the night with groups of men around. You will learn all kinds of interesting things and come out with such a great appreciation for who men are and what they do. Most importantly should your guy be the kind who works in a "guy-oriented field" (military, first responders, etc.) you will find that even dull moments at work can be made hilarious and gleeful and learn a thing or two about making glory out of ordinary tasks. Most importantly, metal sharpens metal, so if your man has the blessing of having some good guy friends--- let them go, be, do. They come back way better than if they had spent eight hours locked in a house with you. and what happened will keep you entertained for a whole day of folding laundry and rinsing dishes.  I promise. :D

4. Making you watch action/war/ adventure movies.

Like most women, when I married my husband I had fantasies in my head of snuggling on the couch watching The Notebook or something most nights, while he whispered sweet nothings at me about how amazing I was. Yeah right. Instead I have spent literal years of my life listening to deep discussion about weaponry, armor, tactical gear, combat methodology, body building, philosophy, and kingdom building. I have seen Red Dawn (7 billion times to date) and Dune and Braveheart and Rob Roy and the Last of the Mohicans and The Postman.... again, and again, and again. I go to sleep to the sounds of Rambo, or Rocky IV,  not Rapunzel, and you know what? It's been kind of amazing. If you want to know why, you'll have to read my older blog on the topic right here.  Do it.

5. Sending weapons.

Sure, it's nice when guys send you flowers. But you'll know it's love when they send you weapons-  especially weapons THEY want to own. ;) Over the years, I've received endless knives, spears, bows, and battle axes and I'm not going to lie to you, I've often been like.... seriously? All I wanted was a gift certificate to Amazon. But there is nothing quite like the feeling of having a visiting man notice one of your gifted weapons on the table or something and hearing him say: "WOW  This thing is awesome. Where did you get it?" Now that's love. :D

6. Walking in front of you and/or getting in your way.

When I was first married, nothing irritated me more than my husband walking miles ahead of me when we were out and about or him stomping around in front of me when I was trying to get stuff done. Ten years in and now I love both. I love watching him when he is getting in my way because he's also active, doing something important to him, and I love to see him at work and to watch his process. It's adorable, and almost always a good, playful conversation starter.
But it's the walking far ahead of me thing that makes me melt....  I love the looks we get as a family when he walks into a room, with me behind him and our long line of kids trailing behind me. It's like people just want to stare open mouthed, or clap or something. EVERYONE has something to say. It's hilarious. I love it.

7. Trying to have sex with you all the live long day.

Yeah, kissing your forehead is cute. But you know what's adorable? When your husband won't leave you alone. Slapping your butt in public, making big eyes at you over the toilet he's fixing, or sneaking you off during a big holiday meal... whether you're in jammies or gym clothes, if he's a man,  he's constantly at you and it's pretty flipping awesome.

8. Filling up your fridge.... with beer. And random edible animals.

Sure, we all love a guy who fills up your gas tank. But have you ever known the joy of opening your freezer one day and finding a chopped up deer in there? Or a squirrel? Or a Greenland freaking shark? Yeah, living with men is crazy, but you will never, ever again has as much fun as you do once it begins, especially if you let them do their thing.
I've always tried to, which is how I have ended up with enormous frogs and chocolate-and-habanero covered crickets in my fridge at times but the tradeoff is the fun of the unexpected find and.... well, it's love when he wants to share his poo-smelling Durian fruit with you "just to try it." So choose love.

9. Putting his jacket on.... the floor. 

Yes, that's right, I'm actually going to say that there is something endearing about these crazy neanderthals leaving their clothes all over the dang carpet. Because let's face it, when you're a new wife you spend a lot of time crying over this stuff, right? ("I mean, *sniff* he threw his disgusting, sweaty PT shorts here and it's like TWO INCHES AWAY from the laundry basket I bought, restored, and spent six hours painting pink and electric green and now I have to touch them! Why doesn't he respect me??!") But now that you've been married ten years, you do things like giggle when you find one of his socks hiding in the blender or on the ceiling fan("How did he do THAT??!") and sigh when you find an invisible man made out of clothes standing up next to the bed, realizing he was so tired last night he literally just peeled them off and slid in with you. You learn to love this stuff, because it means you're IN, and that he loves you. And in the end, I'd rather have that a million times over than any of the formalities I read in the former article y'all are passing around like it's the best thing you've read all year. ;)

Here's to men--- may you know them, love them, raise them. Polite and totally wild. And here's to savage gentlemen. Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Advent of Hope

The sweetest song of praise just came to my lips as I did our breakfast dishes and reflected on my advent waiting, wandering, and longing. It sprang from my heart and out of my mouth, and filled the house, and my children danced.  This is advent.... the coming of the Lord. We await His presence made manifest among us...learning He has been with us all along.

I've been thinking about single-ness lately. It is a good way to express the longing I think about during Advent.

I know some amazing men who are yearning for a strong, real relationship and who are finding it difficult to meet the right girl. They struggle and they suffer, and I watch it with tears in my eyes and a prayer in my heart, for any woman would surely be so happy to have such good men to call their own and in some ways I can't understand it.
I know so many girls, also, who are waiting, searching, and yearning. They are finding it hard to meet men of character who they feel will make good husbands. They sort and they sift, they wait and they expect. They long.

You'd think the two would meet and voila, but quite honestly, it's much more complex than that.
Personalities have to connect. Chemistry is critical. There are sparks to be looked for, and warnings to heed. Having experienced that longing myself, I not only sympathize but genuinely relate to the struggle.  At the same time, I envy them their single-ness. My husband and I always say that if we could do it again, we wouldn't.  What a beautiful time of freedom and internal reflection single-ness is. What a time of peace and fun, with such few worries! What a time to build character and habits that you will need for what's ahead.
But even then, with all that joy, I know that my own journey towards hope didn't come to an end at marriage.

Marriage is hard. It's a daily struggle. For every ounce of joy you receive, a joy which fills your cup and leaves you breathless, there is an equal part deep struggle and an overwhelming sense of doom you'll have to battle to get there. It is uphill. The road is long. The loads are heavy. Most of us have not trained the way we should have.

When I was single, I used to wait for the right man to come along... unable to do anything but improve my own condition as I could, feeling that I was quite alone at times, but still quite happy and fulfilled at others.
I always thought it would one day change, but if I'm honest with myself, I still do much of that same thing in my marriage.

My husband is incredible-- probably the best man I've ever met. And yet I am still lonely, as is he, despite knowing he has my heart and I have his. Our lives are full, and our relationship incredibly rich, and yet still there are holes-- there is longing, there is waiting, there is indescribable pain that surfaces again and again. Why?

Because this is the stuff of life.

As a teenager, I remember well watching Romeo and Juliet one night, late, in my living room alone.
Moved by the passion in the story (and probably pretty hormonal, ;) )  I started to cry, wishing for that same flame to come alive in my life, wondering why all the guys I had dated had ended up wrong for me.
My parents (who, incidentally were the only couple in my entourage who were still married and loving towards each other)  heard me and called me back to their room, where we talked about it.
"Do you think anybody will ever love me that much?" I cried. "Does real love even exist??"
They tried to calm me with good humor and jokes about their own relationship, but this was serious business to me and I would not be deterred from my longing.
I remember saying: "You're married! You are supposed to have this huge bonfire of passion burning all the time."
My parents looked at each other and laughed.
"Well, we have a match," my dad giggled. "One of those long ones. Maybe a candle."
I sighed. I felt empty. I knew this was a feeling I would know all my life. I didn't want a match, or a candle. When I later read St John of the Cross it left me breathless and helped me to know what God was doing in all this....

 O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! Since now you are not oppressive,now consummate! if it be your will: Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

So as I sang, today, I remembered the quotes I had scribbled in my journals and pored over as a young, single woman. Quotes written in tears and ink, sprawled across pages and pages as long as I could remember.
I remembered the first time I saw Elisabeth Elliot's words on the matter on paper. They shocked me so badly it took my breath away and made me retreat to my room where I remained all day to reflect and lick my wounds. She wrote:

My heart was saying, “Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.’ The Lord was answering, ‘I must teach you to long for something better.'”

Where was that "something better?"
Every year He answers that question more deeply for me.
The answer comes at Christmas. This is the Advent journey. The Lord reminded me that day that I had been converted on Christmas Eve--- nothing is ever an accident.

One night recently, around a lively fire, no less, I stood with my husband and some of his closest friends, a group of guys I lovingly call "The Chieftains," for their ancient ways and manly occupations.
We were talking stories, looking at past memories and having a giggle, when suddenly I found myself deeply amazed as I looked into the eyes of one of the Chieftains who had just said to my husband and myself: "Ten years. You've been married ten years."
I breathed deep.
His eyes expressed the same kind of wonder and awe that I felt in my heart when he said it.
Ten years?! How could this be??!
I went over my inventory of married life-memories. So many wonders. First kisses. Babies, sacraments. Touches. Tears. There was darkness there, too. But just as the flames before me seemed to rise from the ash pile beneath themselves and reach into the darkness around us, leaving us warm and aware, I saw that the flames had touched us the same way. There was darkness at times, but still we were warm and aglow. We just needed breath -- fresh wind-- to be OK again. We needed PRESENCE. We needed presents. Something to sacrifice in the flames.

I remembered reading and copying these lines from Elisabeth Elliot as a young woman:

“I took it for granted that there must be a few men left in the world who had that kind of strength. I assumed that those men would also be looking for women with principle. I did not want to be among the marked-down goods on the bargain table, cheap because they’d been pawed over. Crowds collect there. It is only the few who will pay full price. "You get what you pay for.”

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”
I learned this lesson late in my marriage... that there would always be temptations for him or for me, temptations which called us to promises of fulfillment or satisfaction "elsewhere" and in something other than in ordinary life. More than many women, perhaps, I have never felt that being a mom or a wife suddenly fulfilled or satisfied me. I have other needs and interests that I constantly yearn to express and explore. I often feel unappreciated, and unwanted. Or too wanted and feel like I just need to run away. These are common feelings in marriage and motherhood.

And yet as I have struggled with these, I've learned more deeply that anticipation, waiting, hunger, longing-- these are much more fruitful and satisfying than anything I can dream up.
True to His Word, in which He has promised me that he can turn "what was meant for evil" into something good, when I have remained faithful to my vocation to love without care for what that sacrifice costs me, he has given me glimpses of what true love looks like and feels like and that love has been life-changing. It has, indeed, set me on fire.

For years, I have clung to this passage in scripture:

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord... In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27)

Did you catch that? In the land of the living.
You see, I have learned that we are not only CALLED to wait and long--- but called to wait silently:

“Waiting silently is the hardest thing of all. I was dying to talk to Jim and about Jim. But the things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over thoroughly with God.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

Whether I was single, or now as a married woman, to speak to God and turn to Him in the turmoil of my longing and yearning and waiting.... to accept that THIS is part of the experience.... to accept that
almost every time what He wants from me is to die to myself, to turn my desires and my weaknesses and my wants and my needs into gifts of love for those from whom I want the most......

THIS has been the catalyst for joy and fulfillment again and again, whether in my love life, in the raising of children, in my friendships, in my career. This has been the spark, the embers, the flame at times. It never burns out completely and is only as strong as I let it be.

With the lessons of advent I can serve others and feel satisfied. I can love others who can't or won't love me back and still feel fulfilled. I can love with real love. This is Advent in action.
Only when I commune with God about these opportunities, and allow him to transform my "waiting" and emptiness will He make it into a holy, pregnant time of new growth and new birth.

Then and only then my "Silent Night" turns into an "Oh, Holy Night" and His presence becomes known. Then, and only then do stars and rock, earth and hay, an uncomfortable-- even painful-- journey through the night, doors slamming in our face..... these become a living, breathing miracle that gives life to the whole world.

We will never be competely satisfied in this world. We will never know complete joy while we are here. We will never have complete fullness this side of heaven. We will always hope, always wait, always long, always yearn for something more.

But the King, our friend and savior, walks among us, in the ordinary things of daily life. He is in our coffee pot and in our woodpile. In our dishes and in our song. And in Him is the fullness of life eternal.

So I sing.... Rejoice!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Instruction in women's attire from the early Church

What follows is a selection of quotes from early fathers on veiling and women's attire. I'll let them speak for themselves.

But we admonish you, too, women of the second (degree of) modesty, who have fallen into wedlock, not to outgrow so far the discipline of the veil, not even in a moment of an hour, as, because you cannot refuse it, to take some other means to nullify it, by going neither covered nor bare.
(...) Arabia's heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also, so entirely, that they are content, with one eye free, to enjoy rather half the light than to prostitute the entire face.
It is incumbent, then, at all times and in every place, to walk mindful of the law, prepared and equipped in readiness to meet every mention of God; who, if He be in the heart, will be recognised as well in the head of females. To such as read these (exhortations) with good will, to such as prefer Utility to Custom, may peace and grace from our Lord Jesus Christ redound

- Tertullian, "On the Veiling of Virgins." approx 200 AD

"Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happens to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled." [Clement, The Instructor 3.12]
Clement of Alexandria, Egypt, approx 190 AD

"And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth, not with a veil of thin linen, for this is not a true covering."
-- Hippolytus (200 AD), Apostolic Tradition

“Woman, because she was created by being drawn from man’s side, is constantly trying to return to him. She desires the original unity of one flesh and one bone. The desire for unity between man and woman is a mirror of the relationship between Christ and the soul. As woman longs for union with man in human relationships, she is also drawn to unity with God. He calls her to become one with Him: to come under His side and become flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. This occurs during reception of the Eucharist. The covering of the head with a veil symbolizes the reality of woman sheltered in the side of her Source and becoming one with Him. She becomes covered and hidden in her Divine Spouse.”

~ St. John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

Instruction in Christian prayer from the early Church

Let every faithful man and every faithful woman , when they rise from sleep at dawn, before they undertake any work, wash their hands and pray to God. Then they may go to work. But if there is some instruction in the Word, they shall go there, considering that it is God whom they hear in the one instructing. For having prayed in the assembly, they will be able to avoid all the evils of the day. The pious should consider it a great wrong if they do not go to the place in which they give instruction, especially if they know how to read…

If there is a day when there is no instruction, let each one at home take a holy book and read enough of it to gain an advantage from it.

If you are at home, pray at the third hour and praise God. If you are elsewhere at that time, pray in your heart to God. For in this hour Christ was seen nailed to the wood. And thus in the Old Testament the Law instructed that the shewbread be offered at the third hour as a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ. And the sacrifice of the irrational lamb was a symbol of the perfect Lamb. For Christ is the Shepherd, and he is also the bread which descended from heaven.

Pray also at the sixth hour. Because when Christ was attached to the wood of the cross, the daylight ceased and became darkness. Thus you should pray a powerful prayer at this hour, imitating the cry of him who prayed...

Pray also at the ninth hour a great prayer with great praise, imitating the souls of the righteous who do not lie, who glorify God who remembered his saints and sent his Word to them to enlighten them. For in that hour Christ was pierced in his side, pouring out water and blood, and the rest of the time of the day, he gave light until evening. This way he made the dawn of another day at the beginning of his sleep, fulfilling the type of his resurrection.

Pray also before your body rests on your bed.

Around midnight rise and wash your hands with water and pray. If you are married, pray together. But if your spouse is not yet baptized, go into another room to pray, and then return to bed. Do not hesitate to pray, for one who has been joined in marital relations is not impure. Those who have bathed have no need to wash again, for they are pure. By catching your breath in your hand and signing yourself with the moisture of your breath, your body is purified, even to the feet. For the gift of the Spirit and the outpouring of the baptism, proceeding from the heart of the believer as though from a fountain, purifies the one who has believed. Thus it is necessary to pray at this hour.

For those elders who handed down the tradition to us taught us that in this hour every creature hushes for a brief moment to praise the Lord. Stars and trees and waters stand still for an instant. All the host of angels serving him, together with the souls of the righteous, praise God. This is why it is important that all those who believe make certain to pray at that hour. Testifying to this, the Lord says thus, "Behold, a cry was made at midnight, saying, 'Behold the bridegroom is coming! Arise to meet him!'" And he adds,
saying, "Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the hour is coming."

Likewise, at the hour of the cock-crow, rise and pray... hoping daily in the hope of eternal light in the resurrection of the dead.

With these things, all you faithful, if you do and remember them, instructing one another, and encouraging the catechumens, you will not be able to be tempted or to perish, having Christ always in your thoughts.

--  St. Hippolytus of Rome written around 215 AD.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Monday, August 25, 2014

Hearts and minds

**NOTE-- since I last wrote, this particular young man was reported killed in an airstrike carried out by the Assaad Regime in the eastern city of Deir ez-Sor, Syria on November 4, 2014. His real name was William Hasmo Clinic and he was from London.  May God accept him and have mercy on him.

*NOTE-- since I published this blog, the twitter account here linked has been disabled. There are tweets circulating speculating that this particular ISIS fighter is the suspect responsible for the beheading of journalist James Foley. (No further information on this rabbit trail.)

I spent a good deal of time reading ISIS tweets today from young, British-born jihadis who had joined the fight.

So interesting.
Like, possibly the most interesting thing in the world.

Perhaps it's because once again it is my Catholic sisters and brothers being tortured, raped, and beheaded. It could be me. It could be any of us.
Or perhaps it's because this whole crisis in Iraq is happening concurrently with my return to journalism. I wanted in on this career in the first place because of this very issue-- the middle eastern thing that occupies so much of my heart and thoughts. My co-workers on the college paper I started on used to joke about me ending up reporting from the middle east in a mini skirt and pink knee-high ugg boots, excitedly chatting with battle-worn men. Even as a young, oblivious, partying college student, the middle east and the religious dialogue excited me and called for me. I'm older and wiser now (I hope) but that call is still there.
Whatever the reason, I feel wide awake for the first time in years.

I am still shaken by the intimacy afforded by social networking in our day--reading tweets is a glimpse into the minds of these men who committing unspeakable violence against peoples who have literally done nothing wrong save profess a different belief system.  Reading these is such an intense experience. It is terrifying, because of the proximity... they are sitting here, tweeting, just like me. It is also strangely beautiful. They are sitting here. Tweeting. Just like me.

Recently, my Maronite Patriarch, Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, called ISIS out. ISIS had crossed into Lebanon and he knew he needed to act, and fast. He said to them:

"Humanity is the only thing we share with you. Come let’s talk and reach an understanding on this basis ... you rely on the language of arms, terrorism, violence and influence, but we rely on the language of dialogue, understanding and respect for others.”

When I first heard his words, my reaction was disappointment. I wanted him to say something stronger, something more aggressive and harmful. But having soaked in these tweets, now, I believe his response was perfect.
All we seem to have in common is our humanity-- and yet humanity is everything. In the midst of that idea and despite their horrifying actions,  I find myself struggling to really despise them. Their humanity impresses me, because their courage and bravado seems almost superhuman. Like the Vikings of old which I so admire, they march on, fearless and unrelenting. Superhuman, in some ways.  Something deeper is going on here.... because a human being just like you and I cannot possibly be capable of the kinds of atrocities these men are committing.

But let's get something straight-- these guys bleed like the rest of us. Heartache, frustration, a need for identity, loneliness, unrest... you name your struggle, they have experienced it. Some of them come from a long line of terrorists, but most of them appear to have been radicalized not by their families but by those who were willing to mentor them, those Muslim leaders who poured into the youth and the hurting and the hungry for truth. These are men who strove to make meaning out of their lives, and out of existence, and not only that but had the courage to do something about what they discovered. Something uncomfortable. Something insane. We have to hand it to them, almost... for if there ever was a worthy enemy, here it stands. I am simultaneously disturbed to my core and silent in awe and admiration. There are men not so dissimilar in many ways all around me yearning to find the meaning of life and to give of themselves to get at it. Men who would go in a heartbeat to defend my suffering sisters and brothers in Iraq, if the opportunity came along. Men who ache with incredible sadness that they cannot join in the struggle to defend Christians from these zealous Jihadis. This boggles my mind. Men boggle my mind.

So my Patriarch is right, but dialogue will also get us only half-way there. They speak violence, but they desire sanctity and a purge of evil and sin. My sense is that we must speak violence back to them, for it is the only language they understand, but we must do so with respect for life-- a challenge many Christians are not capable of accepting,  but which contains the hope of glory,  because it is the life-changing Gospel that actually purges evil and sin and brings that sanctity which these men seem so hungry for.

Americans are often dumbfounded at the hatred Islamic extremists have of the West, and yet we have to admit that every single American soldier who served in Iraq or Afghanistan--- or even here at home--  and who came home with something on his conscience has contributed to the problem. Every single Western civilian who has embraced materialism, modernity, and sin and left even one part of his life untouched by the light of truth and goodness is to blame. God allows this because it purifies. We have to acknowledge our own failings if we are going to dare to hope for a different and better future for our children.  I sat transfixed at the idea that each of these ISIS fighters felt they had gone "From the land of the west to the land of the blessed." I've done it too--- moved east in the hope of finding what my soul was craving. I found it there. I get that.
Their twitter feeds told this unspeakably beautiful, heartbreaking, hideous and despicable story with so much detail and intimacy. Each time, the same tale: they hoped to go from pain and sin to submission and salvation... to glory.

Do we need to use violence to combat ISIS? I believe so. Absolutely-- it's the only way to deal with this threat. We need to act with equally lethal force, but we need to do so with IMPECCABLE accuracy, and with a moral high ground. With SPIRIT. And we need to do so in the name of humanity, and with the Gospel and the hope it affords for humanity on our lips and hearts and minds. In other words, this must be a crusade, and not an ordinary military operation.

Many of the ISIS Fighters appear to have left affluent upbringings and "normal" western-style families in cities whose streets I have walked often, to live in the dust of the desert and blow us and themselves away. In their own words, they have come "from the streets of London to the dirt roads of Jihad." They are brave, they are motivated, they believe that they are literally saving their souls, and they are on a mission to give their all for Allah. Their courage is astonishing.

At the same time, they are the first to tell you that their aim in itself is a struggle. As Abu Abdullah Britani, an apparent volunteer with IS,  said on his twitter bio: "Me being here don't mean nothing and don't make me nothing. I don't even know if its accepted." This stands in stark contrast to the message of the evangelical protestants we often hear in America, which cries out--- "It doesn't matter, we're all OK because Jesus died! You can't work your way anywhere. Just say it, believe it, and you're good. Sit back and let God."
No-- this, this is such a different mentality. So sacrificial. So.... Catholic.
There is a lot of talk in the US Army about "winning the hearts and minds of the people."
Even a cursory glance at these militant's feeds show a constant, steady, stream of unwon hearts and minds. These are men on a mission, and nothing but God Himself can deter them.

In the end I am struck completely in awe of the new way I see them-- as if through the eyes of the scripture I have memorized from Matthew 11:12, which reads: "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." (KJV)

For these men of the Islamic State --- who purge themselves through violence against others, Christianity is a great mystery, an offense, for instead of harming others we purge evil in the world through violence against ourselves--- through fasting and alms and prayer and good works, and undeserved kindness, and cheerful acceptance of suffering. Through the cross.

The stark contrast is not lost on me, and in my heart, I mourn the potential goodness these men would be capable of, had someone else poured into them, and radicalized them a different way.
Look to your left and to your right. The people you see there will all know a day when they will be forced to decide, to "choose now whom they will serve." (Joshua 24)
How will you impact them in that decision? What are you doing for those around you to ensure they are radically affected by the Gospel of light?

As I read today, in a status update:
"It's not enough to be of the right opinion, to believe what is right, to say what is right, to think what is right. To do what is right, for your own part, is nothing. You men and women who think that not doing evil is your occupation, you're like a city under siege. You're worthless. You are worse than worthless: You're demoralizing to even look upon. You doers of good deeds who think your 'doing' emancipates you from believing, thinking, and saying what you must you are like a tree whose fruit is eaten by birds before it ripens. It bears fruit but for no good. It is not enough to simply say, or think or do. You must do both, at once. But there is a third thing: You must inspire your brother! YOU must. YOU create the culture of unbreakable fraternity, of zeal and piety. That should be your brotherhood: Zealots of Piety."

As for me, and my house? We will serve the Lord.
And I hope we can harness that same zeal in this family.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Language Arts Tips

In addition to doing 15 minutes of Latin 4x weekly  and 15 minutes of English Grammar 1x weekly, these are my  language arts plans for our daily lessons in any subject:

1. Prereading.

Parent does the reading. I highlight any vocabulary words, and define them on a paper if needed (for myself, so I can explain them. With older kids, I let them read the list I write out along with definitions IF THEY NEED TO/ WANT TO.)
I highlight new characters as they appear so I can introduce them. I come up with one discussion question per chapter to help me start a discussion if they don't have questions themselves.

2. Before we read/ before child reads:

Parent points out new characters, outlines the upcoming chapter, and introduces a few words from the vocabulary. Together, examine a map to point out new locations.

3. Child or parent reads the text.

Younger children narrate text piece by piece, Older children narrate orally after entire section has been read. Older than Year 4, Children narrate orally most texts, but will provide 3 assigned written narrations after reading entire text.

4. Parent leads discussion.

If there are any questions the child has, they should be answered at this point. If parent wants to draw out a point from the text, this can be discussed here.

5. Copywork.

The child selects a favorite word, sentence, then passage for copywork according to ability.
At first I copy it for them and they copy me, eventually they copy from the book directly. Yes, let them choose. They will surprise you and always choose the most amazing passages!

6. Dictation

At the end of the week I choose one of their copywork selections to use for prepared dictation.

I have been guilty of overthinking this in the past... of adding other programs, etc. They are making a lot of progress now that I keep it simple and don't add too much in.
During our "off school" months I am planning on switching it up with another element, like using more of Primary Language Lessons... but doing those BOTH in one day was really too much for us and slowed our progress.

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