Meditating on the Commands of Christ (80): Go In Peace

Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:50). To me, this is the most comforting “command” that Jesus ever utters. I don’t think of Jesus as really commanding us to do anything, but he admonished us in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” That’s what this study is all about—understanding what Jesus taught and what we can apply to our own lives today. What are his commandments? Well, this is the 80th time Jesus gives someone an imperative, and it’s wonderful!

Banquet in the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese, 1573.
Now in the Accademia, Venice, Italy

Jesus had been invited to dinner at Simon’s home. Simon was a Pharisee—one of the elite religious “right” you might say, who were known for rigorously keeping every detail of the Law of Moses but had somehow become unbalanced. The Pharisees were focused on justice but had become blind to the other half of God’s mandates, including mercy, humility, and kindness.

Mary Magdalene at the door of Simon the Pharisee,
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1853.
Now at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England

Common courtesy in those days included washing the feet of guests, but Simon did not honor Jesus in this way. However, there was a disreputable woman who came to the dinner, not as a guest, but with the desire to worship Jesus.

Mary and Christ at Simon the Pharisee’s Home by Peter Paul Rubens, 1620.
Now at the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

She washed his feet with her tears and wiped his feet with her hair, then anointed his feet with ointment from a precious alabaster box she had brought. Simon was displeased. (In truth, I might also have been uncomfortable with such a public display of affection had I been there.)

Woman pouring water into a jar by Gerrit Dou in 1640.
Now in the Louvre in Paris, France

Thankfully, Jesus saw past the awkward externals and into her heart. He understood her sorrow over her sins and her desire to be good! So, instead of condemning her inappropriate behavior, he defended her repentance and faith as genuine, rebuked Simon for his lack of graciousness and love, and sent the woman on her way with this benediction: “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

If you—like me— have a tendency to be like Simon, may we hear and heed the rebuke. May we learn to be hospitable and kind to everyone, not just those we admire and find fascinating company, but also those who have repented and have hearts full of love for our Savior! If you identify more with the woman (traditionally thought to be Mary Magdalene), pursue Christ whole-heartedly. Don’t worry if you don’t meet all the mores for socially appropriate behavior. Your love for Jesus is fresh, passionate, and beautiful. Don’t worry about what anybody else is thinking. Worship the Lord and sit at his feet!

For all women, here is a very sweet two-minute video encouraging us to be like some of the virtuous women in the Bible:

Text for this meditation: “And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).

Mary Magdalene 1899. Viktor M. Vasnetsov

COVID Cake

But now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna . . . and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil” (Numbers 11:6,8 NASB). This is just like the coronavirus pandemic! We have nothing to do but stay at home. Yet, isn’t that what people normally long for? Who doesn’t like cake? Who doesn’t long to go home after work and rest? Just like the children of Israel spending 40 years in the wilderness with nothing to do but be together and follow the Lord, we’ve been handed an extended “shelter-at-home” mandate by our government, for our own protection, and for many that even includes some financial support from the government.

The Israelites had been slaving away in Egypt, but God delivered them and moved them back to Israel, even supernaturally providing food for them on their journey. I admit to chaffing a little like the Israelites, who remembered the fish, the cucumbers and melons, the onions and garlic. Manna tasted like the best of the best—the perfect food, yet the children of Israel got bored with the best! I remember the restaurants we used to attend, and the places we used to visit, and I miss the freedom to go here and there at will. Yes, sometimes I’m tempted to get a little bored with the best too.

However, what a blessed time this has been for Alan and me! True enough, we miss our children and grandchildren severely. We miss visiting with our friends and worshiping corporately with our church community . . . all provisions the Israelites were allowed during their wilderness wanderings. Still, we have had more time to work on our home and yard than we’ve had in (literally) years. We’ve been enjoying leisurely devotional times together and morning walks before breakfast. Instead of spending two weeks in Belgium visiting some of our kids, we’ve been spending hours and hours cleaning, sorting, organizing, and redeeming our basement after 27 years of neglect. We’ve been chopping down weedy trees and rooting out the poison ivy that’s been over running the flowers along our fence line. We’ve been working until we’re so sore we can hardly move or think anymore and then enjoying movies together in the evenings. What’s not to love about that? Shouldn’t we be delighted to be able to be at home with our family and relishing the “manna” of more free time to cherish one another?

Dear Father, I know that many, many people are suffering from COVID. Over 100,000 have died here in America, and most all of us are experiencing economic and social losses. However, there are still over 330,000,000 of us who have not gotten COVID. Thank you! For those of us who have not contracted COVID and are alive and well, help us to use this time to concentrate on learning more about loving You and loving one another. Help us appreciate the “manna” of time . . . the “sabbath rest” of being home. There are so many silver linings in this storm. Help us to look up and see them!

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.’ Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it” (Numbers 11:4-9, NASB).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (74): Go Believing and Receive

Here’s one amazing promise Jesus made to someone that I wish we could all claim today during this COVID pandemic: “And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matthew 8:13).

Of course, the mighty military leader didn’t demand that Jesus heal his beloved servant, he humbly “beseeched” (earnestly begged) Jesus. In fact, it doesn’t actually say that the centurion even asked Jesus to heal his servant! He only got so far as to explain his predicament—that his servant was suffering terribly, and Jesus intervened, offering to come and heal him. The centurion, however, was so respectful of Jesus’s time that he quickly asked simply for Jesus to “speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

This seems like the perfect example for us as we pray for our loved ones. I think our natural tendency is to ask for a miraculous healing on the spot, or an end to COVID world-wide (which I definitely find myself doing), but perhaps the better way is simply to bring the situation to Jesus. What do we want? Relief for our loved ones (and frankly, for those who are suffering everywhere). Like all our burdens, Jesus wants us to bring them to him and let him deal with them as He sees fit. Do we have enough faith in Jesus and in his wisdom to simply bring our troubles to him without demanding a particular solution?

Of course, Jesus went above and beyond what the centurion was hoping for in providing relief, but Jesus did give the centurion this imperative: “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee” (Matthew 8:13). If we are to follow the centurion’s example, this puts significant pressure on us! Our job is to “carry on and keep believing.”

What does this look like? I think it incorporates a lot of the “Carry On and Keep . . .” ideas—keep calm for sure, but perhaps even more. As we are carrying on, I think Jesus also wants us to be strong in our faith and never give up hope!

To be patient and prayerful.

To be happy because we believe that God is good and will work everthing out in the end for good—not only in our lives, but also in the lives of all who love him.

Finally, Jesus came so that we could live an abundant life even in the midst of suffering . . . casting all our cares on him, knowing that he will take care of us (1 Peter 5:7). This may be relatively hard or easy for each of us, depending on the depth of our sufferings and the strength of our faith, but this is what God wants for each of us, and He is worthy of our trust!

Text for this meditation: “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matthew 8:5-13).

And, for those who are ill . . .

Contagious Contagions

They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In Chile, where one of my sister-in-laws was born and reared, they’ve started issuing certificates to those who have survived COVID on the assumption that these people are now healthy and should be free from vulnerability to COVID contagion as well as no longer being contagious themselves. This is—as you might suspect—somewhat controversial, since the disease is so new that there aren’t any peer-reviewed studies proving this theory, although it’s pretty widely accepted as mostly true concerning many viral illnesses.

The whole issue of contagions and being contagious made me consider what I would like to be able to pass along to others. Actually, we are all “carriers” of certain contagions, right? I saw a YouTube of a Belgian man who (as an advertising gimmick for Coca-cola) started laughing on a train. It was like magic! After some initial facials expressing questioning curiosity, soon everybody was laughing or smiling. I couldn’t watch it without laughing myself! Laughter really is contagious, isn’t it?! (If you’ve got an extra 1:28 seconds, here it is: )

And so, as an exercise in aspiration, I made a list of some of the things I would love to be a infected with and pass along to others:

Keukenhof Flower Gardens in the Netherlands

*Peace like a river
*Joy like a fountain
*Love like an ocean
*Faith like a child
*Hope like a mountain
*Patience like a golden ring
*Radiance like an angel
*Cheerfulness like a song bird
*Wisdom like a sage . . . like Solomon
*Meekness like Moses
*Righteousness like Daniel
*Zeal like Paul
*Goodness and Holiness like Jesus, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). In Jesus, all the virtues of God were displayed in human form! I want to be like Jesus!

(I did not take the amazing photo of Keukenhof Flower Gardens and do not know who did, as I received it as a forward, but isn’t it fabulous? If you are the photographer, please let me know your name so I can credit you, or let me know if you don’t want to give me permission and I’ll take it down. Thank you! Same for the photos of the dogs, which were from FB.)

Understanding Stress and Stress-Relieving Strategies

This world-wide COVID pandemic has increased humanity’s stress load beyond anything most of us have personally experienced. First, I want to point out that stress is a fact of life and actually improves performance up to a point (see chart above), but it must be managed or we’ll be overwhelmed. So, let’s take on the challenge, identify the pressures, prepare as best we can, and repair what’s already broken.

The first step is assessing the situation. A sense of having no control fuels stress in crises, so we need to control what we can to maintain as much good health as possible. As a wise pastor explained to me: “You may not be able to control your circumstances, and you shouldn’t try to control others, but you can and should control your attitudes and actions.” Not dealing with stress now can result in PTSD or other long-term psychological and physical problems, so it’s important to recognize and respond well to stress with appropriate self care. Assess these areas of your life:

  1. Sleep: Are you getting adequate rest? Are you sleeping enough but not too much? If you’re having trouble sleeping, the best way to improve sleep habits is to set an alarm to get up at a reasonable hour and train yourself to wake up and get up at the same time each morning.
  2. Exercise: Regular, daily exercise is critical to good health. If you can, get outside and walk! Use this time to relax. Intentionally use your five senses to increase your pleasure! Listen to the birds, feel the warmth of the sun (or rain!) on your face, smell the freshness of spring. Breathe deeply (but not as your neighbors pass by 🙂 ) and appreciate the break from being inside in quarantine for most of your time.
  3. Diet: Not going on a diet, but eating well. This is not the time to try to lose weight (which increases stress), but it’s important to eat healthy, nourishing, regular meals. If you can’t enjoy your normal supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, consider using a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Alan and I have never been fans of supplements, but a supplement is better than becoming malnourished. On the other hand, this is a critical time for disciplining yourself against binge eating, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, or eating foods that are bad for you due to medical conditions. I’ve been making one dessert per week as a special treat, but this would not be a good way to improve “self care” for those who have diabetes (for example). Find ways of relieving stress that are within the parameters of your health needs!
  4. Medical/Emotional Needs: Continue to care for your medical conditions, including emotional and spiritual needs. Don’t ignore them just because you’re afraid to go to a clinic or hospital! Contact your physician, therapist, or minister as needed for advice and counsel.
  5. Spiritual Needs: As a Christian, I find my daily “quiet time” critical for my sense of peace and well being. Studies show that people of all faiths (or no faith) profit from 20 minutes (or so) of quiet meditation each day. I meditate on the Bible and pray, and I recommend this 100%. In my personal appraisal of stress, my devotional time comes second only to my sleep in effecting my overall sense of well being. (I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never suffered food or shelter deprivation, but I’m sure that would severely effect my sense of well being too!) Don’t underestimate the importance of getting in touch with your spiritual side—and the God who created you!
  6. Social Needs: The sense of isolation that results from being quarantined tends to amplify tension and stress, so find ways to spend time with loved ones, even if it means communicating through Skype, WhatsApp, Signal, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. There are many ways to keep up with family and friends besides being physically present together (which is everybody’s favorite way). Be creative. I had to learn how to use WhatsApp and Signal, but I now have more active communication with some of my nieces and nephews than I did before COVID hit! My monthly prayer time with my two prayer partners has moved to a Zoom Room. I’d way rather have my kids and grand kids visit than all this virtual stuff, but—praise God for virtual connections! Let’s be glad for what we have during times when we can’t have everything we want and think we need!

The second step is to try to prepare going forward by building some stress-relieving activities into your schedule. During times of crisis, it’s more important than ever to be intentional about self-care and care for others. Get together with those in your sheltering-at-home unit and open up with one another about your needs. Solve problems as a family. Plan “alone” time for each of you into your day to replenish your energy for being together. Parents and elders need to lead well by slowing down, being intentional about earning trust and respect by making wise decisions, asking for forgiveness when they fail, and being “servant leaders” without being overly self-critical or perfectionistic in their expectations either for themselves or those in their care. Be honest, transparent, and timely in communicating the changing circumstances. Don’t try to hide the facts to protect your spouse or kids. They’ll know something is amiss and become uneasy, feeling “betrayed” when the truth comes out later. Keep communication open and flowing. When communication stops, people tend to imagine the worst! Be a good role model. People are eager for good leadership during crises, and your family will be very likely to follow your leadership if they trust and respect your judgment.

How to relieve stress? Here are some ideas:

  1. Plan breaks for relaxation: This may mean some down time for reading a book, playing music or watching a video. For children, it might be some free time to play games; for adults, it might include time for a leisurely hot shower or a soak in the tub. I realize with small children, these might seem close to impossible luxuries, but maybe you can take turns giving your spouse a little time off for a quiet breather!
  2. Be grateful and thankful: Look for the good and focus on that. Be appreciative. Try to compliment others and become an encourager. I remember during one particularly difficult time in our marriage, we were both advised to try to find at least one thing each day to appreciate and thank our spouse for doing or being. I’ve heard that a really good relationship will have about seven times as many compliments and expressions of appreciation as bits of correction or critique.
  3. Look for the silver linings and humor: Laughter is good medicine and a great stress reliever (as long as you’re laughing with and not at someone). Think positive! I remember reading about someone incarcerated (unjustly) who found delight in an ant racing across the floor of the prison. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, read the biography of Joni Eareckson Tada, who became a quadriplegic as a teenager after a diving accident. I recently listened through her incredible story, The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus. After reading this book, I feel like I’ll never have anything to complain about again!
  4. Take time to learn something new: In a way, I feel like the COVID pandemic has enforced a bit of “sabbath rest” on everyone (at least those of us who are older), because we can’t go anywhere and are so limited in our options. This is the “perfect” time to pick up that hobby you’ve always wanted to try. If you have internet access, there are tutorials on just about every subject under the sun, so now’s your golden opportunity to become proficient on the guitar, painting, star gazing, needlework, language, and on and on! If you have kids, possibly you can involve them too! I think most of us totally underestimate how much our children can understand and enjoy things that interest adults too.
Ken and Joni (Eareckson) Tadi—
and she’s still glowing after more than 50 years as a quadriplegic!

So, if we’ve assessed our situations and taken some positive measures to prepare for less stress going forward, the last thing on our “to do” list is to get rid of the things that impact our family negatively. Here are some important stressors to avoid:

  1. Too much media, including T.V. radio, phones, social media: Use only sources you trust and limit your exposure so that you’re only learning what you need to know in order to protect yourself and live a healthy life. More news than you need will only promote anxiety: “While anger can lower one’s perception of risk, fear ratchets it up” (Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 15, No. 6, 2006). Reduce stress by reducing fear.
  2. Faulty coping techniques: Humans tend to have three responses to fear: flight, fight, or freeze. Faulty “flights” (escapes to avoid dealing with reality) are theoretically “stress relievers” but actually add to stress. These include such things as giving in to addictions like alcohol, drugs, porn, playing video games, binge eating or over sleeping, etc. Faulty “fights” include taking your stress out on others instead of taking responsibility for yourself in your situation and learning how to handle the problems appropriately. Becoming verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive solves nothing and does great damage to those around you. Take a break. Count to ten (or 10,000 if need be). Get down on your knees and pray, asking God for help to control your anger. Go for a walk, but don’t hurt the ones who love you the most! Finally, faulty “freeze” responses include things like isolating or withdrawing socially even beyond what is necessary, becoming vegatative or dysfunctional, hiding in your room or refusing to talk to anybody. Short term you may think this is easier than meeting the challenges head on, but like the rafter heading into the white water, if you don’t lean into the waves, you’ll get washed overboard out the back.

Hope this helps a little! We can’t control COVID, but we really need to control ourselves, and by learning to control ourselves, we will lessen our own stress and help alleviate the stress in those around us. I realize that controlling our own fear sometimes seems completely beyond us. If you are feeling overwhelmed and like you’ve already been washed out the back end of your rescue raft, then I pray you will meditate on these verses and ask the LORD to help you find peace in your soul:

Let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4).

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die” (Judges 6:23).

In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (Psalm 56:4).

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

If you don’t find any of these verse consoling, then perhaps you don’t know the Lord Jesus as your savior. In that case, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7)! If you want help in knowing God and being able to “depart from evil,” then please click on the “Coming to Christ” tab at the top of this post and read about how you can find peace with God.

(Credit for the first chart and much of the inspiration for this post was found on the website for Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, where my husband serves as the Chief Medical Officer. This site has a host of valuable resources related to mental health issues. I’ve added the link below just in case you have other questions on your heart too.)

Domestic Violence During COVID

This is a tough subject, but one that needs addressing! I was out walking our lane last week and a young woman was trespassing, although when I stopped to talk to her, I discovered that she was either mentally ill or being abused, or most likely some of both. In the process of trying to help her, I’ve been digging into research and discovered that domestic abuse and violence is becoming distressingly higher during the world’s COVID lock down. Hospitals that are not overflowing with COVID patients are actually significantly down in their censuses. Our psychiatric hospital’s census has been down, and I naively imagined it was because families were home together and better able to attend the needs of their mentally ill family members. I don’t know the “true” truth, but it appears that people are avoiding hospitals for fear of contracting COVID, but this does not mean that the mentally ill are being graciously and patiently cared for by loving family members. In fact, alcoholism, drug use, and abuse are sky rocketing, and in the areas where reporting of abuse has gone down, the fear is that this is only because it’s become harder to get the privacy to make calls for help without being detected.

If you or anyone you know or love is being abused, there is a Hotline for National Domestic Violence in America: 1-800-799-7233. I haven’t actually tested this number, but if you call and find it unhelpful, there probably is a number in your city or country where you can call for help. In America, you can always call “911” and they can direct you. For most people, the danger of coronavirus, though real, may not be as potentially lethal as a violent spouse. For instance, an article in the New York Times on April 17, 2020 reported that “according to various unofficial Covid-19 trackers that calculate the death rate by dividing total deaths by the number of known cases, about 6.4 percent of people infected with the virus have now died worldwide.” This same article went on to say that the death rate “in the United States, [is] around 4.3 percent, according to the latest figures on known cases and deaths.” According to other sources, at this point 80% of those dying are over 65 or have an underlying medical condition. So, if you are under 65 and otherwise in good health, your chance of sustaining a serious or life-threatening injury from a violent partner is greater than your risk of death from COVID, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

Last night Alan and I watched the 2019 adaptation of John Bunyan’s immortal tale, Pilgrim’s Progress (animated version). We both loved it, and I want to recommend it. But beyond thinking it was a well done retelling of one of the world’s greatest classics, one the most significant points of the movie is that if we call out to God for HELP, He will help us. This is not just fairy-tale romance, this is true! God will reveal himself to those who seek him sincerely: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God is alive and well, and He is able to help you. I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do if you’re in distress, but I can promise you that if you sincerely repent and surrender your heart to God, He will save you and show you the right path to take. He can do for each of us what no human being can do, and He will if we ask.

My (new) young friend at first could not believe that God loved her, as her father had never claimed her and her mother had died in January. She said she wanted to kill herself because God—if he did exist—did not love her and wouldn’t want her or help her. Thankfully, she did listen to God’s Word and did believe! “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If you will reach out and ask God for help, he will help you too! Please reach out!

(Please don’t think I’m taking this problem lightly in any way by using graphics from the animated version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but (of course) I can not use real photographs of real people for this terribly difficult subject. God knows what you need. He can help you!)

Ten Reasons Why I Loved Home Schooling

I know many of you are ready to pull out your hair with your kids confined to home 24/7, and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be to have an emergency start in the middle of the year with kids in various grades, without any teaching manuals, and likely many parents trying to work remotely from home to boot. I totally and sincerely empathize! However, I also want to mention that home schooling, when planned for (and I spent my entire summers preparing for the school years), can be an amazing experience both for the parents and the kids.

Why am I on a soap box today shouting out praises for home schooling? Because some people are suggesting that home schools should be banned, probably based on personal frustrations over homeschooling, which is especially testing the patience and stability of homes during this COVID crisis.

If you’re among those who think homeschooling should be banned, please read this helpful article by a Harvard alum (PhD) who home schools her four children:

https://fee.org/articles/harvard-magazine-calls-for-a-presumptive-ban-on-homeschooling-here-are-5-things-it-got-wrong/?fbclid=IwAR3PCAm51mqVZ5PghJGFFs7Ywg2fgWYauoaP1xQrWIK-CR7uaWfSkCduJGU

Kerry McDonald isn’t unique in being a brilliant woman who values her children’s education above her own career ambitions. My closest friend during our early homeschooling years had a PhD in statistics from Princton and gave up a glowing career to home school. Today I have friends who are both physicians, although the wife gave up her career to home school their beautiful family and told me not long ago that their oldest was just accepted into her alma mater for university training, so she felt relieved to know she hadn’t “failed” her kids.

I started homeschooling not because I thought it was a brilliant idea, but as a result of economic duress (which meant we couldn’t afford tuition for the Christian school where we were sending our two oldest). I was lamenting about our financial situation to my best friend, and she responded, “Kathi, the Lord is just backing you into a blessing! Try home schooling.” I didn’t think it would be possible. My oldest was eight and almost uncontrollable, not to mention the other three were two, four, and six.

We started timidly, thinking we’d just home school for one year, but by the end of the year no one was interested in returning to a regular class room setting. Why? Well, here were some of the unexpected pluses:

  1. More freedom and time to grow and explore creatively. I think the biggest plus for my kids was the fact that as soon as they were done with their school work, they were free to pursue their own interests. They didn’t have to sit and wait for everybody else in the class to finish, which really cut down on boredom. The eager beavers also put positive pressure on their sibs to get done so they could play.
  2. More input by parents as to what the children are learning. I don’t know if this meant much to our children, but it meant a lot to me. I loved being able to tailor our curriculum so that I was teaching the children spiritual and moral values as well as academic lessons.
  3. Better able to tailor curriculum to fit your child’s individual needs. Not all kids are born academically equal, so to speak. I am deeply grateful for public education being available for all children in America, but of necessity it has to be geared for the average child, so children on either end of the spectrum do not have their needs met as ably. The closer to the ends of the bell-shaped curve, the less public schools are geared to meet the true needs of the child. So, home schooling is especially helpful both for children who have learning challenges and for those are particularly gifted.
  4. Requires (and therefore develops) more independence on the part of the students. A dedicated teacher who only has to teach one grade or subject can focus all their attention on that subject or class during the day, and schools have a complete support staff to oversee all the other aspects of the children’s care. A mother in a home has to provide for every aspect of the school. She’s not only the teacher, she may be replacing several teachers (one per grade level or subject). She is also the principal, the maintenance man, the recess supervisor, the cafeteria personnel, and the child care worker (for any preschoolers). I remember being consoled by learning that butterflies need to fight for themselves to emerge from their cocoons in order for their wings to become strong enough to fly. My kids would get so frustrated waiting for me to finish helping someone else that they’d often figure out the problem before I could get back to them. It forced them to THINK!
  5. Less “seat” time and more “hands on” time for learning. Learning didn’t end when classes ended. In many ways, I felt like the kids learned more in their free time than during their academic studies. They probably learned more “facts” studying math, science, history, English, spelling etc., but they learned more about how to live by living and doing.
  6. More flexibility as a family. This was a huge advantage! Whenever Alan was available for a vacation week, the rest of us could go anywhere with him. We didn’t have to juggle nine schedules! My personal theory was that I didn’t want any kid to miss any really cool opportunity, and that was pretty consistently true over the years. If a special occasion came up, we could make time for it. (Just one small for instance, but Jon loved trains as a child, and one day he [and I] got to take a train ride with a real, live engineer (who was a patient of Alan’s). We could always take time to enjoy special community or church events, etc. Life was rich with unexpected prospects for adventures and learning experiences.
  7. Bonds the family together. There is nothing quite so bonding as working side by side on positive projects, and spending your life working and playing together makes for some pretty tight, lifelong friendships. All of my kids are still very interactive with each other. Not all with all, but all with some. We were always active in a church community wherever we lived, and the kids also played with neighbor children (when there were any) and cousins, but to this day the kids still text and share and think and dream and joke together.
  8. More variety and opportunity to teach and learn life skills. Before we started home schooling, we asked the kids if they’d rather go to the local elementary school or try home schooling, with the understanding that if we home schooled, they’d have to help me with family chores. They all signed on to the experiment of homeschooling, and they all learned how to do pretty much everything I knew how to do. We had rotating assignments for almost all aspects of home and yard care. We cooked, cleaned, babysat, shopped, gardened, and canned together. In the evenings after Alan came home from work, we played sports together—hockey, softball, tag football, volleyball . . . swimming, hiking, biking . . . whatever was going wherever we lived. They all had to learn how to play the piano, read music, and sing; they all learned how to sew on buttons and iron shirts. They learned how to handle money. They got comfortable with people of all ages. We got involved in a family music ministry and sang in rescue missions, camps, churches, nursing homes and college campuses. They learned to care about other people. They were eager to talk to adults and children . . . people of all ages. Shaking your hand and looking you straight in the eye came naturally.
  9. Better use of family financial resources. When we realized we wouldn’t be able to afford tuition for our kids, the school offered me a job teaching high school English. However, I had two preschoolers whom I was unwilling to put into child care (which had nothing to do with the excellent school but everything to do with my passionate desire to care for my own little ones). Over the years, Alan would notice articles detailing the additional expenses incurred by a second family member working outside the home, and by most accounts, unless the second job is really high paying, it’s a “wash” as far as expenses and additional income. According to the 2015 documentary on The Happiest People on Earth, once a family has about $50 thousand (not sure exactly what the amount would be today), there is no perceptible increase in “happiness” no matter how much more the family earns (according to self-reporting research). In fact, the happiest people on the earth are not the richest monetarily, they are the richest in the love of family and community. Not only did we save thousands of dollars by home schooling, I believe it greatly enriched our family life . . . a trade I’d make any day!!
  10. More control over influences in your children’s lives. We all love positive influences in our lives, but the more we can control negative influences, the better. Homeschooling doesn’t eliminate negative influences by any means, but hopefully it will lessen them. I also believe that the older a child is before being exposed to evil, the better able that youngster will be to recognize and handle problems. That being said, I failed to understand that evil lurks in the hearts of children (as well as adults, although I already knew that). If you home school, don’t assume your little cherubs are perfect and would be beyond lying, cheating, or any other problem that all people find tempting. We’re all just humans and need watchful supervision at all times! (One small case in point: One of my kids years later admitted to cheating on math during fifth grade. He kept wondering when I would catch him but finally realized I never would! [It didn’t cross my mind to suspect him.] Thankfully, when he realized that, he became honest because he knew that’s what he needed to do.)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).

If you have time, I’d love to hear your comments. If you home school or home schooled, any advice or tips? If you’re struggling with home schooling right now, any questions? If you’re considering home schooling next fall, anything else you’d like to hear about? Blessings~

The Importance of Stress Relief: Meditation and Looking Unto the Hills

I wrote a few years ago about attending a lecture at Harvard’s Annual Intensive Review of Internal Medicine on the importance of daily meditation as one of the medically verifiable “best practices” for Mind-Body health. In our world of frenetic activity, meditation has almost become a lost art, but I want to stress (??) the importance of this ancient practice and encourage all of us to pursue meditation, particularly during our time of world crisis.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” ( Psalm 121:1-2).

According to the gurus from Harvard, even twenty minutes per day makes a statistically significant difference in a person’s emotional/physical health. A healthy immune system is our first line of defense against COVID-19 (and myriad other infections), and long-term stress and fatigue clearly reduce the human body’s ability to fight off infections. SO, we not only need to practice “sheltering in place,” but we also need to eat right, sleep enough, exercise, and as much as possible reduce stress and learn how to relax.

The Harvard research group studied the health benefits of meditation on people from various religious persuasions, but because I am a Christian, I am going to explain meditation from a Christian perspective, which has been my personal approach for the past 55 years. Meditation, by definition, is contemplation on a subject. Unlike some Eastern religions, which teach that people are to clear their minds and “think about NOTHING,” Christian meditation has as its goal to focus our attention on God and find our rest and peace in Him.

Yesterday I got a note from a dear friend who returned from visiting India (her homeland) recently with double vision. Mayo Clinic was able to determine that her problem is caused by a palsy of her sixth cranial nerve with no “pill” to ameliorate the symptoms. She has to wait six months to see if her nerve will heal spontaneously, but if it does not, she will need surgery by a neuro-ophthamologist. Meanwhile, one of her friends recommended that she practice an ancient Indian Ayurveda exercise called “Trataka,” where the person sits quietly, intently focusing her gaze on the tip of a candle flame. After doing this exercise for a few days, my friend feels like this is actually helping!

This is a perfect example of spiritual mediation on God and His Word. As we focus intently on God, our blurry, double spiritual vision becomes clearer. God instructs us to meditate daily on the Bible: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Want a promise to cling to in this troubled time? I’ve been clinging to this one since I first learned it!!

How does one meditate? I usually try to memorize a verse or passage on which to focus, and as part of that process, I pray and ask God to teach me what it means for me at this time in my life. As a girl, I was taught that meditation is like cogitating on a thought the way a cow ruminates on its cud. The cow chews its food, then swallows it, where it is fermented by microbial activity in a specialized stomach before being regurgitated as a “cud.” The cow continues to chew on the cud for a while before eventually swallowing it again (and so on) until it is finally digested.

This is what God wants us to do daily! Jesus taught us in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The Bible is our daily spiritual bread, and God wants us to munch on it . . . chew on it . . . think and rethink on it . . . focus on it . . . feed on it, until it is absorbed into our very being to strengthen us! Meditating on the truths in the Bible feeds our spirits! (It also helps reduce stress and relax us as we’re able to trust God to help us with our burdens.) My girlfriend who’s been struggling with double vision has a lifetime mantra that she also passed on to me: “Feed your faith and your fears will starve.”

Feeling fearful and stressed under all the pressure? I am! Let’s lift up our eyes and focus our hearts and minds on the flame of God’s love. Let’s meditate on our heavenly Father, who is our creator, our sustainer, and our help!

Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Adjusting our Attitudes: A Testimony by Charles Spurgeon

Although this Covid crisis is the greatest global challenge of my lifetime, I think it helps to remember that our world has suffered more deeply—and recovered. It’s just that we weren’t around during the Spanish Flu of 1917-18. We didn’t personally survive World War 1—or the Great Depression at the end of the 30’s, nor did we live through the horrors of World War 2. Now we are facing the possibility of our world—as we’ve known it for our lifetime—coming to an end.

Not long ago, I memorized Psalm 91, and in the process, I came across this reassuring story by Charles Spurgeon (known as “The Prince of Preachers” among western European Protestants):

“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words: ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.’ The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passages as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.” (The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 91:9-10.)

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10.)

More Ideas for Boring Days

Here is a list of ideas that you may have already thought of, but I hope maybe one or two will be novel and helpful for you if you or your family have some extra time on your hands. Many of them would work just as well for adults as for children:

Write stories or poems, keep a journal about this “special” time at home

Coloring, drawing, painting

Origami; all sorts of YouTubes on how to paint, draw, etc.

Free printable coloring pages can be found by googling a subject such as “large format, free printable images of cats” (or whatever else)

YouTubes on animals and plants

Skype with friends and/or cousins

Free online course on typing for children

Organize your very own “homeschool!”

Make a star chart for your kids: make bed, brush teeth, pick up room, memory verse

Subjects each day? Devotions, prayer, and memory work

Memory work: Bible verses, poetry, songs

Games: treasure hunts, variety shows, share memories from years gone by; look at photo albums and tell stories about what you remember from past holidays or family vacations

Read books aloud or to one another (let kids draw while listening)

Check out these sources for reading materials: Revival.com

Hoopla library app

Cooking together; pass along recipes to one another

Nature hunts around yard. Google what you find

Color a picture and then cut it into about 20-30 pieces to make a puzzle

Bird stories (I have written a bunch on Summer Setting under “A Few of My Favorite Birds”)

Make cards or write e-cards to elderly friends and family

Picnic in unusual place around house

Build fort with blankets or sheets

Math practice: use playing cards, dominoes, cooking

 Let kids use exercise machine while watching videos

Air Force Exercises: look online and help kids exercise together as a family

Music class: what have you got? Learn instruments, make up and share songs

Tell stories: Have one person start and go around the room taking turns adding

“Art for Kids Hub”: lots of resources for artwork

Kids’ programs that can be found online:

Adam’s Answers (You Tubes made by a friend from Grand Rapids)

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Sesame Street

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).