Inheritance

by Elizabeth

vetch_crown

I don’t often remember my paternal grandmother, and when I do, I don’t remember her as a particularly warm person. But recently I chanced to remember her. She was mostly house bound, often even chair bound, accompanied as she was by her oxygen tank and her life sentence of emphysema. A registered nurse later told me that pulmonary patients were the crankiest; it’s hard to be polite when you can’t perform the most basic of bodily functions without pain. I didn’t understand that at the time.

I remember her retirement apartment and the sidewalks surrounding it. I remember how she rarely moved from her seat at the kitchen table, and I remember how the grassy terrace right outside her kitchen window sloped steeply upward. I remember the taste of her beef-noodle casserole and the sound of her television shows (most prominently Wheel of Fortune) playing always in the background. I remember the hospital bed in her bedroom and the shower stool in her bathroom and the closet in the back bedroom that was good for playing in.

I was named after her, you know, though at the time it was coincidental. My parents gave me her middle name. Mom tells me Grandma always seemed so pleased with it, though she didn’t know why until much later. The original reason I was named “consecrated to God” – a meaning I’ve always cherished – was that Mom herself was supposed to have had it for a middle name. But when she was born on a holy day for the Virgin Mary, she was given the name Mary Joan (instead of Joan Elizabeth). When Mom was grown, she passed the name on to me, and I in turn passed it on to my daughter: a legacy from both sides of the family.

When my grandmother died, the priest droned on and on about how much she loved the crown vetch outside her sitting window, and how we each needed to take some crown vetch with us when we left that day. He even had little baggies of crown vetch ready for us to take away. It was during this funeral memory that all of a sudden the light went on for me and I realized why Grandma Hunzinger was so obsessed with the crown vetch: she was catching hold of the only beauty she could find, imprisoned as she was in her kitchen chair and imprisoned as she was in her failing body. She was reaching out for the little magnificence available to her isolated existence. I remember that window, and I remember that hill. It was green and shady and reinforced with rough-hewn logs. As a child I didn’t know about the crown vetch. I only remember the green.

In that moment, in that memory, I felt a kinship with my paternal grandmother that I’ve rarely felt. There is something of her in me, though I’ve never thought much about it before. I am always hunting for beauty. Hemmed in by the filth of this Asian city, I seek it out, sometimes almost desperately. I can look at the same plant, the same leaf, over and over again and still be amazed. I can marvel at its ability to create nourishment from electromagnetic radiation. I can wonder at the arrangement of its leaves that enables it to catch the most light possible. And I can look in awe at the pure beauty of its shape. Every leaf, lovely. Every plant, perfect. Every look, every time.

At the funeral, the name “crown vetch” sounded so ugly that I couldn’t imagine the plant itself being anything but ugly. And I didn’t take any home with me. I just thought the man talked too long. I dismissed the words and I dismissed the thoughts. But now I know that crown vetch is beautiful. Now I know that crown vetch is tenacious – and sometimes hated for its tenacity, for its complex root system that crowds out any other plant, including weeds. Now I know that crown vetch is resilient and grows in a variety of soil and climate conditions. Now I know that the hardy crown vetch plant can help with erosion control, which is probably why it was planted on that hill in the first place. And now I know that after it takes hold – a process that can take several years – it needs little tending.

I want to be like that crown vetch. Persistent and resilient and adaptable. Able to grow and thrive in unpredictable conditions. Both rooted and blooming, if also at times a tangled mess of a creation. And I want to be like my grandmother, stubbornly seeking beauty, no matter my impairments. Clinging to my amazement, no matter my location. Refusing to be dulled to the presence of beauty in this world and fighting to keep it in my life. This is my inheritance: an unexpected gift from a cranky, ill grandmother.

 

I wrote about an inheritance from my mother’s side of the family here.

A Few of My Favorite Things {August/September 2017}

Good things from the past month and a half, in spite of all the terrible nature-made and human-made disasters in the news lately, and in spite of some persistent dental issues and grief over missing the eclipse. Yes, in spite of all these things, there is joy to be found. ~Elizabeth

som2

Cars 3. We watched it in the theater as a family. I’ll be honest: I did not expect much out of this movie. (After Cars 2, who would??) But this is no silly spy cartoon. This is a movie that dives deeply into generational issues. After a somewhat depressing beginning, I didn’t know what to expect. But let me assure you, this movie is Redemptive. The ending had me in tears. Teachers, coaches, and mentors everywhere, take heart from this movie.

An evening in a pine forest and some pipe dreams. We drove out of town and up into the hills in search of the Perseids meteor shower, the meteor shower my husband watched every year with his family as a child. It was too cloudy that night to see anything, but we played football and Frisbee, climbed on an actual, sturdy playground, and my littles went on a kids’ rope course. We slept in pipes. No, seriously. We slept in concrete pipes that had only enough room for a queen bed. This was my kids’ first camping experience with a separate, communal toilet and shower. (Spoiler: everyone survived the primitiveness.) We got to see some nature we never get to see, including things we’d studied in our botany lessons. It was perfect. I literally sat on the porch after breakfast, sipping my tea and watching my family play, and thinking, “This is a practically perfect moment. I don’t think life gets any better than this.”

Dinner with our returning teammates. A couple families were gone for the summer and recently returned. We all got together to eat and catch up. It was fun and really needed.

ICA Ladies Conference. This was a fantastic two days. We danced the electric slide to Mercy Me’s Happy Dance (did you know it has the right beat for that?). I wrote about the first session here, about the painting that spoke so clearly to me. The last session of the weekend was a sensory session. “Soaking stations” were set up around the room to lead us to encounter God through our 5 senses – music, water, visual art, taste, essential oils. The water station didn’t do anything for me that day, as I already experience God so strongly through water. The art station didn’t do anything either; I’d already had my encounter with art the night before. I dropped by the taste station, and it just didn’t draw me. Then I went to the scent station. I read about different Biblical oils and smelled them. They weren’t doing anything much for me. The oils were too floral, too light. They weren’t speaking to me.

But then I saw Myrrh, and something drew me in. In Hebrew mohr means distilled and comes from the root marar which means bitterness. Many of us know this already from the book of Ruth when Naomi returns to her homeland and asks to be called Mara. And I knew that my mom’s name, Mary, means both bitter and fragrant offering (with the fragrance primarily coming from that which is crushed). I did not know, however, that myrrh has traditionally been associated with Christ’s suffering in the Garden, when the weight of the world’s sin crushed Him like a wine press, causing Him to sweat blood. Neither did I know that myrrh is a tree sap that can only be obtained by wounding the tree repeatedly. When extracted, it hardens quickly into drops called “tears” that may be yellow or red (there is so much symbolism here). I smelled that myrrh, and it was unlike anything I’d ever smelled, and unlike any of the other oils. It was heavier, richer, somehow sweet and somehow savory. It is a mystery to me how nothing can speak to me and nothing can speak to me and then BAM, something speaks to me. I put a drop of myrrh on my wrist. One of these days I’d like to get my hands on more of that oil.

The last station I visited was a table where we were supposed to write a current struggle of ours on a card. Then we were to pick a color card “randomly” out of a box and use that color of paint to cover over the struggle. Then we leave it. We don’t take it with us. I had been struggling a lot with fear, so obviously I wrote FEAR. I was curious if my color would have any meaning for me (I mean, come on, it’s random, right?). My color was black. Stunned, I started walked away with it. (The lady handing out the colors had to come after me to retrieve it.) Black is exactly the way life feels when I’m ruled by fear. I was happy to blot out my fear with black paint. I let it dry and sat down to pray some more, inhaling the myrrh again. As I prayed, I realized that when I’m ruled by fear, I lose my joy. I wondered where my joy had gone and saw an image in my mind of me as a little girl, dancing. I realized that when I live in fear, I stop dancing.

Then I walked over to lay the card down at the “Key Tree.” Enough keys had been purchased for each lady to have one, tied to a note from God to us. I was one of the last ones to pick a key, but I knew my key when I saw it: “Little girl, do you know who Miriam is in the Bible? When you dance, you remind me of her. Love, Father God.” I picked up that key through tears. Since that day I have very slowly been shedding some of my fear and moving back into joy.

BOOKS

Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers. Sayers was a contemporary of Lewis and Tolkien. I have her short stories, but this was my first Sayers novel. Wimsey and Bunter are a lot of fun, especially when you read them out loud (you must read them out loud).

The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park. This was a read aloud from our school curriculum. Set in 1200’s Korea and so good. Also easy to read aloud.

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham. Recommended by Angelina Stanford, the reason I’m reading any golden age mystery novels at all. Apparently Allingham is J.K. Rowling’s favorite Golden Age Mystery novelist. I grabbed this when it was on sale.

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Ward Rollins (it finally came to Kindle!). This is our Schole Sisters book for the semester. I promised myself I would read it slowly this time, savoring every word, but I couldn’t help myself. It’s so compelling I just keep turning the pages. This time I could mark it up; it’s my own copy. I plan to reread it a third time before we meet to discuss it at Schole Sisters.

The Light Princess by George Macdonald. Delightful yet full of meaning. I want someone else to read it so I can talk about it with them. I plan to make a further study of Macdonald, starting with Phantastes. P.S. Has anyone ever read his The Maiden’s Bequest? I read it years ago. It’s so good but unfortunately one of his only books that isn’t on Kindle.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I’m borrowing this from a friend (well, her daughter actually), and what do you know, but that my own daughter managed to finish it before me! I’m still reading the story that inspired the movie (of course the book is better and more fully fleshed out). One of the chapters includes a mourning song about loved ones who have died. I’ll quote it in the poetry section.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle. I finally finished L’Engle’s church year book (having begun it last Advent). Madeleine’s ramblings are always very good, but if you are looking for a book that more truly follows and explains the church calendar, I recommend Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s The Circle of Seasons.

I have begun to read Kathleen Norris’s Amazing Grace (her essays on religious vocabulary) again. Her first entry in The Cloister Walk (another memoir) speaks to me especially. I’ll quote it in the poetry section below. I relate to Norris’s rather Third Culture Kid upbringing, and in fact she reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle, another Third Culture Kid of sorts. We all had feelings of being out of place as children, we all highly value the Scriptures, and we’ve all gone through dark seasons of doubt. All these things make their words a comfort to read.

BLOG POSTS

The Failings of Eden by Helena Sorensen. I, like most of us, tend to think of Eden as paradise, as perfect. But it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. Eden still leaves us still wanting. It is good to live in a post-Eden world where we know what we’re capable of (sin) and what we’re redeemed from.

Rising From the Ashes of Racism: A Lament and a Hope by Olive Chan. This was published a couple weeks before Charlottesville and is full of wisdom, humility, and love. (Here’s my personal response to the racial tensions in America.)

Measuring Tiny Victories by Cindy Ward Rollins.

For all the Sad Americans Who Missed the Total Eclipse by Emily P. Freeman. Did Emily write this just for me? I think she did. I wrote about missing the eclipse here. (P.S. I also quoted C.S. Lewis.)

Turning Away From Glory by Marilyn Gardner. More on the eclipse, and glory. I never had time to comment on this one, but there’s much food for thought here.

Some Fairy Tales May Be 6000 Years Old. Interesting, yes?

FOR GLOBAL CITIZENS

Furlough for the Uninitiated by Anisha Hopkinson.

Should TCKs Take Their Parents to College? By Lauren Wells. Wise and freeing.

When Hard Things Happen Back Home by Jerry Jones. Hits pretty close to home.

Don’t Eat the Spinach . . . But Do Receive the Invitation by Renee Aupperlee. Renee’s work has consistent depth.

Can mold really be an adventure? By Kathleen Shumate. Deep and important, with a generous sprinkling of G.K. Chesterton.

SO FUNNY I COULDN’T BREATHE

Ryan Hamilton’s Funny Face special on Netflix. Watch the trailer here. Our family loves to laugh, and we are always on the watch for clean comedians for our kids. This guy is hilarious. And completely clean. I highly recommend him.

MATH AND SCIENCE FUN

Things to See and Hear in the 4th Dimension with Matt Parker. Came across this while reading about the eclipse. Too much fun (no seriously, even for non-mathematicians). Got me excited for teaching my own math classes this fall at co-op. And speaking of co-op, our first day of classes went really well.

Brinicles. I first came across the existence of brinicles in a National Geographic in the book store but didn’t have time to read about them. So we looked it up at home instead. Fascinating!

Evidence of design in leaves. I thoroughly enjoyed this info as we were studying plants at the time. Truly, I stand amazed.

How a lizard in the Australian outback manages to get enough water. Reminded me of the beetles in the Namib in Africa that catch their drinking water from sea fog. Creation is astounding.

How the bumblebee flies.

25 Years Ago, Pat Robertson and Al Gore Discussed the Spiritual Problem of Climate Change. Before the concept became so polarized and politicized in the U.S., conservatives and liberals alike wanted to halt climate change. A telling conversation.

This insightful drawing from Michael Leunig:

20819175_716297938556428_1801311326548665917_o.jpg

This social commentary (found through fellow writing friend Lisa McKay):

20663818_1131707686929310_8144263595275132959_n

And finally, NASA Johnson Style. My son showed me this. So much better than the original.

POETRY

Cleansing the Temple by Malcolm Guite (from his book of sonnets Sounding the Seasons).

Trinity Sunday, also by Malcolm Guite’s Sounding the Seasons.

The lyrics to this George Matheson hymn, especially the 3rd verse. We sang this hymn in college to an updated melody (I don’t like the original music).

Oh Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

The story of the prodigal son in the Scottish Psalter, sung to the tune “Amazing Grace.”

From L’Engle’s Irrational Season, written after spending time with a friend:

Sitting around your table
as we did, able
to laugh, argue, share
bread and wine and companionship, care
about what someone else was saying, even
if we disagreed passionately: Heaven,
we’re told, is not unlike this, the banquet celestial,
eternal convivium. So the praegestum terrestrium
partakes – for me, at least –of sacrament.
Whereas the devil, ever intent
On competition, invented the cocktail party where
one becomes un-named, un-manned, de-personned.) Dare
we come together, then, vulnerable, open, free?
Yes! Around you table we
knew the Holy Spirit, come to bless
the food, the host, the hour, the willing guest.

The mourning song from Ella Enchanted. Wow.

Hard farewell,
With no greeting to come.
Sad farewell,
When love is torn away.
Long farewell,
Till Death dies.

But the lost one is with you.
Her tenderness strengthens you,
Her gaiety uplifts you,
Her honor purifies you.
More than memory,
The lost one is found.

The first entry from The Cloister Walk, which still makes me pause every time:

“In the Orthodox tradition, the icon of Wisdom depicts a woman sitting on a throne. Her skin and her clothing are red, to symbolize the dawn emerging against the deep, starry blue of night.

For years, early morning was a time I dreaded. In the process of waking up, my mind would run with panic. All the worries of the previous day would still be with me, spinning around with old regrets as well as fears for the future. I don’t know how or when the change came, but now when I emerge from the night, it is with more hope than fear. I try to get outside as early as possible so that I can look for signs of first light, the faint, muddy red of dawn.”

MUSIC

Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship. This line caught me: “All of my gains now fade away, every crown, no longer on display.”

Leave Me Astounded by Planetshakers. We sang this song the same Sunday we sang Here in Your Presence. This line also caught me: “All my hands have made, I’m laying down. All that I hold dear, my many crowns.”

Isaiah 42 and Worthy of It All came up on my iPod Shuffle this month. Love those songs.

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong. I’ve shared it before, but it’s worth a reshare.

Victor’s Crown by Hillsong. Also worth a reshare.

The Majesty and Glory. Jonathan and I were talking one day and remembering the albums of hymns we loved as teenagers. In many ways we fell in love over music. Anyway we were talking about this one and got curious and found it online and decided to buy it. Again. We had both had copies of it in the 90’s. And now we have it again.

Libera is a British boys choir that my husband discovered through a friend. It is otherworldly. We now have the Angel Voices album. I had not danced in a long time and decided to do some ballet to the Libera songs. May sound juvenile, but it was good for my soul.

Finding Christ in Leviticus

by Elizabeth

hires_leviticus_14.jpg

This image. It captured my attention last weekend, and I couldn’t look away. I was supposed to be listening to Sherry Lile speak on Leviticus 14, but by the time she got to this part of the story, I heard no more words. I saw only this picture.

Leviticus 14 might seem like a strange place to begin a ladies conference entitled “My Heart, Christ’s Home.” The event theme sounds warm and cuddly, but the Levitical chapter is anything but. It begins with the proper way to diagnose and treat skin diseases (yuck) and ends with the instructions for identifying and treating houses with mold (also yuck).

First we talked about how sin is like leprosy — how it can start small and then spread to a much larger area of our lives. And if it’s like the traditionally understood form of leprosy (Hansen’s disease), it causes us not to feel pain.

The problem then, is that we can get hurt even worse. I know for myself, most of the time when I sin, it’s a feeble attempt to protect my heart from further pain. But I only harden it harder and sin ever greater and pull farther and farther away from the Great Physician — even if I can’t, temporarily, feel the pain.

In Leviticus the sufferer of the skin disease must go to the Priest for healing. He can’t do it on his own. He needs help. There’s a parallel here, of course.

Then we moved into the second half of the chapter, the part about the houses. Again the priest must be called in. He is given very specific instructions about removing the contents of the house and checking for spreading mold. Contaminated stones must be removed, too, and taken to a designated place outside town. Sometimes the entire house must be torn down.

Other times the house may be saved from destruction, but it must still be purified. This is where the picture comes in. The priest takes two birds, some cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and some hyssop. One of the birds he kills over fresh water in a clay pot (strange, I know).

He takes the cedar wood, the hyssop, the yarn, and the live bird, dips them in the blood/water mixture, and sprinkles the house seven times. Almost like he’s sweeping away the impurities with a broom.

And then — oh then — he releases the live bird in the fields outside the town, and the house is finally cleansed from its defilement. That’s when this picture popped up on the screen and when I couldn’t take my eyes off it. You know when that happens, right? When words are no longer the best language, when art communicates truth more clearly?

So I went home and told my husband all about it, but without the context of the entire lesson, it’s hard to explain to someone why you’re so excited about a picture of a bloody bird. You just sound like a crazy person.

But here’s the reason I love this picture: these two birds represent the work of Christ for us. Both the sacrificed bird AND the free bird find their fulfillment in Him — in the Cross and in the Resurrection. Because of Christ, we get to go free. Like the bird in the picture, we’re released from the grip of death and given the gift of life.

But that gift did not come without a sacrifice.

hires_leviticus_14

Originally shared on Facebook.

Image used with permission.

What George Orwell and C.S. Lewis can teach us about chaos, creation, and a world living in fear

by Elizabeth

21121793_10159142924775621_990278575_n

“The atomic bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.”

I burst into tears over this George Orwell quote in the bookstore the other day. Let me explain why.

If you know me at all, you know I was crushed over the lack of eclipse viewing on this side of the planet. Crushed. I first started reading about the eclipse in science magazines about a year and a half ago, when I realized with sadness that I would not be able to see it, even though totality was passing very close by my hometown.

As we edged ever closer to the eclipse date, and people became more and more excited, I became sadder and sadder. I would wake up every morning thinking about what I was missing and imagining in my mind’s eye what it would be like to experience that kind of natural reversal. I hear you receive spiritual and philosophical insights during a total eclipse that you rarely get in life apart from extreme grief and loss. I hear that you feel at one with humanity and at one with the solar system. Whether you believe in God or not.

But here’s the thing: I already feel at one with the solar system on a regular basis. Every time I look up at the moon, no matter where it is in its waxing or waning, I imagine where I am in relation to it and to the sun and to the rest of the planets, and I get this enormous sense of awe and wonder. I experience more awe and wonder when I catch a glimpse of a planet with the naked eye. I even get a thrill from ordinary everyday sunsets and ordinary everyday cloud-dotted skies. Understanding the science behind each of these sights does not in the least diminish their wonder for me.

So to miss out on an event that causes people who don’t normally care all that much about the sky to shudder with shock and awe, felt like a devastating loss. I collect those moments of wonder and awe in my life and, like Mary, ponder them in my heart. I store them in the long-term memory of my soul. I am a glory-chaser, and this month I felt I was missing out on something glorious that all my countrymen were going to witness (though I know the descriptor “all” is not entirely accurate here). I have really had to grieve this loss as one of many losses on both sides of the Pacific over the last 6 years.

Then today I found myself at the local bookstore with my kids, perusing the magazine rack. It’s a sort of Saturday morning tradition for us. Magazines are too expensive to buy here, so we just stand around reading articles about space and geography. I was reading an article about that infamous eclipse when I came across these words by George Orwell. They brought to mind parallel (and prescient) thoughts from C.S. Lewis, in his 1948 essay entitled “On Living in an Atomic Age”:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors – anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

I had read Lewis’s words earlier this month and been sobered, my mind plumbed back into alignment. Orwell’s words were likewise so true that they brought tears to my eyes. Our world is in chaos. We all know this. Globally and locally, everyone you and I meet can see the chaos in both their own country and the countries of others. There’s so much fear, fear from all sides and of far too many things.

But. There is awe and wonder that can outweigh the fear. There is truth that can outweigh the lies. And there are things we can be sure of, the chief of which is that we do not control the heavens. We do not direct their footsteps. We can predict them, and we can describe them — though they lose none of their awe-inspiring power when we do — but we cannot direct them. That is a task only God can manage. We can merely watch — or not.

So let us rest in God, in His creative power and in His unfathomable goodness. Let us take comfort in His nearness and in His grandeur, in His wisdom and in His foolishness. Let us walk with Him, through our tears and through our joys, through our fears and through our distracted and distractible daily lives. And let us remember that, regardless of how we live and regardless of how we die, God is God and we are not, and neither is any world leader who appears to be wresting power from Him — for no one can rob Him of His glory.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I originally published this on Facebook. On one of the FB shares a friend of a friend (someone I don’t know) commented: “When asked what he would like to be found doing by Jesus on Jesus’s return, Luther said, ‘Planting a tree.’ I think the reason is the same as your quote.” That story was just too good not to pass on to you here.

A Missionary’s Call to the Psalms and a Deeper Emotional Intelligence

by Jonathan

I personally think we missionaries are a smart bunch. Our textbook education is typically high. We’ve been to college, perhaps seminary, and we know some stuff. We’ve figured out how to use our cognition for the King, our intellect for the Incarnated. But while western education is first and foremost intellectual (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), life is lived and people are loved on the street level, not the lecture hall.

The classic quip about people caring how much you know only after they know how much you care is classic for a reason: it’s true. When we approach a hurting, lost world with brains first, we risk showing a skewed image of Christ. We need our hearts too.

hannah-morgan-37675

Sometimes I Wonder Where We Put Our Hearts
Hearts can seem to get in the way of missiology, and emotions are inefficient. Emotionally detached workaholics may be great at “getting the job done.” They might not make wonderful spouses or parents, but disconnected, task-oriented, stoic workers can be low-maintenance, efficient missionaries.

Conversely, we must remember that emotions are Christ-like. A missions force with low emotional intelligence is bad for missions, not to mention families, teams, and planted churches. When the DNA of new believers and new churches excludes the sometimes messy reality of the heart, it’s not healthy DNA. Furthermore, a disconnected, task-oriented, stoic missions force isn’t much like Jesus.

Have you ever met a man or woman who seems bottled up emotionally, but the minute they start talking about the lost or missions, they start crying? I’ve met many folks like this, and I’m always baffled. When it comes to their families or other interpersonal relationships, they seem distant and cold, but the minute you mention unreached peoples, cue the waterworks. Something is not right about this picture.

It’s awesome they care about the lost, but how is it that all of their emotional capital got put there? Religion should not be the only place in their life where they really feel emotion.

Building Emotional Intelligence
So, how do we add some heart back in? How do we build emotional intelligence in ourselves and our teams? I believe both the Psalms and the life of Jesus can help us find our hearts. John Calvin in describing the Psalms said this: “What various and resplendent riches are contained in this treasury, it were difficult to describe…for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.”

To grow in emotional intelligence and awareness, we must practice. Read a Psalm and the Gospels and try to identify as many emotions as you can. Both involve people, and people feel. Ask yourself, “How do the hands of Jesus reveal the heart of the Father?” If Paul helps us to know the mind of Christ (a good thing), the Psalms show us Christ’s heart. It is the Psalms that Jesus turned to and quoted more often than any other book in the Hebrew Scriptures.

But even more telling, the context in which Jesus referenced the Psalms was almost always when he was in a difficult situation.  Jesus was hated without cause, which the Psalms foretold (Ps. 35:1969:4John 15:25). He quoted Psalm 22 while dying on the cross (Ps. 22:1Matt. 27:46Mark 15:34) and when talking about his betrayal (Ps. 41:9John 13:18). These are just a few of many examples. In stressful situations, when he was under duress or attack, Jesus referred to the Psalms. Maybe that’s when we need to remember the Psalms too.

In our own lives, and in the lives of the people we live among, “bad stuff” is common. Corruption, danger, and loss are the daily realities. And so we need the Psalms. As we watch global instability and fear spread, we need workers with hearts that understand grief and loss. We need workers who know Christ as Healer. We need workers who bring their full hearts to the mission field. Not just their work ethic or their seminarian-intellect, but also their vulnerable, wounded, and healing hearts.

If we connected heart and mind, we’d get kinder, gentler, more sensitive cross-cultural workers. And kinder, gentler, more sensitive disciples.

Making Room for Warrior Poets
The foreign field appeals to warriors, and we amplify this fighting spirit with our dramatic quotes and motivational epigrams. But the unreached peoples of the world also need poets and artists, those who see and speak in different tones, with different cadence and quality.

Too often we think of the “soft” qualities as counterproductive in church-planting work, especially among the least-reached. We recruit hard people for hard fields, and we can’t even imagine the artist or highly emotive worker surviving, let alone thriving. We need warriors, go-getters.

But this approach is wrong, and for the sake of the gospel, we must change it. Tenderness, creativity, gentleness, and whimsy are not soft, esoteric qualities. These are qualities flowing straight from the heart of Christ.

Yes, we should study the mind of Christ, but there is so much more. Christ’s death was not by guillotine, disconnecting head and body. His head was bloodied, his heart was pierced, and all of him was raised.

Let’s make sure that all of him is preached. Let’s make sure that all of him is shown:

  • Jesus the advocate and disrupter, the wild one who defied Rome from underneath.
  • The brilliant intellect who befuddled the learned men.

Let’s make sure we preach his heart too:

  • A heart that felt the sting of death and the tip of the spear.
  • A heart that felt abandonment and despair and cared about a widow’s son.
  • A heart that laughed and wept and wrote in the dirt.

Let’s remember a Christ who loved the Psalms, and let’s imitate him. Let’s connect with the heart of God, and let’s show the world a richer, fuller, more complete image of Christ.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Suggested Resources
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement
The simple tool I use with 90% of my pastoral counseling clients

 

Originally published at www.imb.org. Used with permission.

Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

That Time Paul Talked About Breastfeeding {Velvet Ashes}

Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes . . . .

1-Thes-2-7-1170x780

My husband and I worked in local church ministry for over ten years before moving abroad to serve for the last five and a half. There’s something I want you to know about this life: you’re going to need a lot of fortitude for the journey. Working with people, in any time and any place, is hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s in your home country or a host country. Working with people is heart-wrenching and soul-filling, and you need endurance.

This is something else I want you to know: in the years ahead, never hesitate to serve out of your feminine strength. A lot of teaching models are filled with masculine metaphors. There’s battle this, and army that. There’s fighting here and soldiering on there. The Bible itself is filled with battle-speak. We are to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. But the same Paul who told us in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood and that we were to arm ourselves and stay alert and be persistent and stand firm, that very same Paul was not ashamed in his first letter to the Thessalonians to compare himself to a woman.

In I Thessalonians 2:7, Paul, Silas and Timothy jointly describe their conduct among the believers there: “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (ESV). I was in a training session this summer when I first truly took hold of this verse. We had studied the great faith and love of the Thessalonian church in chapter 1, and now we were in chapter 2 studying the attributes of the men who’d told them the Good News. When we got to the verse about these three men acting like a mother, some of the men seemed to want to brush it off and focus instead on verse 11, where the letter writers compare themselves to good fathers.

But I couldn’t brush Paul’s words off.

Finish reading here.

You Don’t Have to Home School Preschool

Over the years many moms have asked me how to get started in homeschooling.  This post is basically a (prettier) copy of the saved email I send out to people asking about homeschooling preschool. ~Elizabeth

crayon-2009816_960_720

The first thing I always tell parents is that you don’t have to homeschool preschool. I’m not the only one who thinks this. In fact, I don’t know any homeschool moms of more than one child who do homeschool preschool. After you “do preschool” with a four-year-old child and then the next year “do kindergarten” with that same child and realize that kindergarten was just a repeat of preschool, most moms decide to ditch official preschool lessons altogether. That goes especially if you have other children in the home, either older children who actually need lessons, or babies and younger children who need a lot of hands-on care.

Here is what you actually need for the preschool years: a home full of life and love. And books. Lots and lots of books. Kids learn so naturally at this stage, and they’re interested in so many things, that there’s no need to do anything formal. Today I will share my favorite resources for educational theory and practice. I’ll share my favorite books to read aloud with young children. I’ll also include a list of sturdy educational toys that are a good foundation for a home schooling family to own, along with the very first curriculum you might want to buy.

 

EDUCATIONAL THEORY AND GUIDES

Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. This book guides you through teaching and learning styles. It’s like a self-paced workshop to get you started on your journey.

Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie. This book is small but worth several re-reads. I also highly recommend her  Read-Aloud Revival Podcast which is one of my favorite home school podcasts.

Here are 7 educational principles from my education mentor in the States.

As your children, I have many more recommended books and podcasts. But these are the ones to start with.

 

TOYS AND GAMES TO INVEST IN

A soft globe that can’t be pierced by toddler teeth. Only has the most basic details but helpful in the early years. We actually still use ours.

Peg boards. Kids can’t get enough of these things, and even as an adult I love playing with peg boards.

Wedgits starter kit. Wedgits never get old.

Pattern Blocks. Kids love these.

Wooden Blocks. Lots of open-ended play opportunities here.

Catch the Match game.

Cuisenaire Rods. I’m big on manipulatives, can you tell?!

My kids still play with all these toys (except for the peg board, which we did recently retire). They are great for imaginative, open-ended play, either alone or while being read to.

It’s also important to have lots of paper, crayons, colored pencils, and paints lying around, along with glue, tape, and scissors.

 

BOOKS TO READ ALOUD

In the beginning you just want to play with your kids and read aloud to them. If you have access to a library — great! If you live overseas without good library access, you may have to purchase some of these titles and transport them back in a suitcase. Get used to it — you’ll be doing that a lot once you start homeschooling the elementary years.

Beatrix Potter’s stories — all of them. A wonderful way to introduce your children to advanced language while they enjoy the lush illustrations. As an adult I adore Potter’s stories. It’s better to get them as individual books, but if you can’t, a treasury will work (I usually don’t recommend treasuries because of their bulk).

Mike Mulligan and More by Virginia Burton — we all love these stories, and though it’s a treasury, it’s not bulky.

Make Way for McCloskey. Another non-bulky treasury with the funny stories and beautiful pictures of Robert McCloskey.

Reading Mother Goose rhymes to your young kids is also great for them — it introduces them to poetry, is enjoyable, and gives them some cultural literacy. This is the one we have, but there are other good ones out there.

Reading your kids Fairy Tales is also part of their cultural upbringing. A First Book of Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales are good to begin with.

Anything by Arnold Lobel, especially the Frog and Toad books, Owl at Home, and Mouse Tales. These transition nicely from read alouds to early readers.

I’m not a huge Dr. Seuss fan, but we really like Horton Hatches the EggHorton Hears a Who, and Sneetches on Beaches.

A read aloud book from Usborne that’s a lot of fun is Farmyard Tales. It’s a treasury that’s not too bulky, and the stories are fun for reading aloud and then later reading alone.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran. A beautiful story about imagination and community.

Corduroy and Dandelion, both by Don Freeman and both about home and belonging.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. A deceptively small story about nature, introversion, and kind mothers.

The Little Brute Family by Russell Hoban. More grown-up wisdom for the little kids (or is it little kid wisdom for the grown ups?).

Really little kids love Eric Carle books. We don’t have very many of them anymore, but they’re pretty much all good.

For preschool Bible times, I love The New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth Taylor. Much more comprehensive than most children’s Bibles while including a picture for each story.

When your kids are a little bit older, they will enjoy these non-picture books:

Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson– fun stories that aren’t too moralizing. Better than Laura Ingalls Wilder and better than Caddie Woodlawn.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Fun and easy. There are two more by that author: The Dragons of Blueland and Elmer and the Dragon.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. A classic.

Also popular are Stuart Little by E.B. White and The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater is lots of fun.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary is also lots of fun. There are two others in the series: Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse.

Kids love Gertrude Chandler Warner’s Box Car books. They make great read alouds and then middle grade readers.

Another popular one with older readers is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

Of course we can’t neglect C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. You want them as separate books.

All these stories are just as enjoyable by parents and kids, which is what you want in a home library. To buy these books all at once would be a lot of money; but I didn’t buy them all at once. I bought them slowly over time. The idea here is to give your children a taste for good literature so that they aren’t satisfied with lesser quality stuff.

But you do want to make sure the books you buy are books your family will love — all families are different. If you have access to a public library, you’ll be able to more easily and more cheaply get a feel for which books fit your family. You can get a ton of great book ideas from Gladys Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart (or access the FREE book list at Read Aloud Revival).

When you invest money in good books and games and toys, you’ll want a special place for them, and you’ll want to teach your kids how to take good care of these items so they don’t get lost (or in the case of books, damaged). I like to keep books off the floor, mostly because of the constant risk of flooding in Cambodia.

That’s about it. In the beginning all you need are some of those building block sets, Play-doh (homemade or store-bought; good for open-ended play), the basic art supplies I mentioned earlier, and some good books to read. Take them to the park (if you have public parks — we don’t) and let them play outside. Give them basic chores to do like setting the table and putting their laundry in the bin and picking up their toys. It really doesn’t have to be complicated in the early years. They’re just learning what it means to live in a family.

 

BEGINNING CURRICULUM (FOR LATER)

As they begin reading and writing around age 5, you’ll want a good math program, a good reading program, and a good writing program. Focus on that for a year or two, then slowly add more “curriculum.” When your kids get older, Usborne and DK Eyewitness do have a lot of good science and history spines (spines are resource books that aren’t too “textbook-y”).

I use Singapore Math in the early years, but Math U See is getting consistently good reviews for being kid- and parent-friendly.

For teaching reading, I like The Reading Lesson because it’s got big print, and you can write and color in it. I’ve also heard very good things about All About Reading.

I also like the Bob Books Set 1 & Set 2 and the Sonlight Kindergarten and Grade 1 readers. Young children get a lot of satisfaction from reading an entire book, and each individual book is not too much work at once — you do not want to overtax the child’s mind.

Pretty much everybody I know uses Handwriting without Tears for handwriting. I think you can also buy the books on Amazon.

A good regular atlas and a good Bible atlas are important resources to have. The Student Bible Atlas is excellent. Nearly any atlas by National Geographic is a good one. I’ve got the World Atlas for Young Explorers. But there’s probably a newer, more updated one now.

 

Well, that’s the end of my “You don’t have to homeschool preschool” lecture. I hope this has been helpful to you. Feel free to contact me privately if you want more information or to talk about this more in depth.