Sunday, 29 March 2009

Gotta love the 25 hour day!

I woke up this morning when Sam crawled into bed and thought, I have to get up soon. Then I thought, no I don't, it's the end of daylight saving today! and so I have a whole extra hour in my day. What shall I do with it, I wonder?

Well, I did do some nice things with my bonus hour, you will be delighted to know.

When Anna asked me if she could read her Bible to me, I said, "Sure sweetheart, come and lie next to Mummy on the bed and you can read it to me right now". I didn't say, "Not now, honey, I'm too busy getting ready for church." Duh. I think I should have more of these "end of daylight saving" days if it can help me re-prioritise like that. I mean, what's the point of going to church to listen to the Bible being read and expounded upon with other Christians if I won't even commit time to listening to my own darling daughter read from the Bible to me? That was a really good start to my day.

It was also encouraging to me that when Joshua asked if I could help him with his uniform socks and shoes, I had enough time not to do it just to get it over and done, but to ask him to have a try himself. And, of course, with a little extra time, he did manage wonderfully, even though his socks are really quite long and stiff.

Not only that, but because Joshua was upset at the prospect of missing Sunday School at our church, because I was taking the kids to another church for their Brigades' service, I didn't tell him just to get over it (as I probably would usually have done, if I was in a hurry). Rather, I took the time to find out what exactly was bothering him. Then I rang his Sunday School teacher so that she could reassure him over the phone that missing one day of Sunday School in order to attend church with a different congregation would not take him out of the running for the end of year perfect attendance reward, which is what was concerning him about the whole thing. And so the problem was dealt with and resolved, rather than being ignored and left to fester (the biblical term is to become a "bitter root", I think).

And having that extra hour up my sleeve meant that I was able to be very gracious and think of Jeff's needs, rather than my own, and let him know that I would take Sam with the rest of the kids so that he didn't have to come back from church to take Sam with him, and foist him onto another family there, just so I didn't have to deal with getting all four children into and out of the car what seemed like a dozen times. Jeff was preaching this morning and after my somewhat critical critique (?!) last night he went in to church early today so that he could tweak the sermon before the service. (Happily, he thinks it went well, by the way.) And I got all four kids ready, including two into uniforms and two into plaits, without feeling put-upon [favourite Thomas phrase] once. Hooray! Unfortunately I must admit that this wonderful exhibition of emotional self-control was entirely to blame on the clock and not on my own response to the Holy Spirit's counsel.

Much of the extra hour did get eaten up by the extra travel to a different church site (40km round trip), leaving me feeling very blessed by the fact that we now live so close to the place where we gather for public worship. We got there on time, hooray.

Not only that but I was in time to get a seat up the front where I could watch my beautiful little Anna's face when she decided she was brave enough to hold her Captain's hand and walk up to stand with all the other new girls out the front and agree with them to "obey my leader and always try my hardest" (and a few other things), when she said proudly right into the mike, "I do!" Whoo-hoo! There were more than 300 people in that church auditorium. Anna stood straight and tall and didn't wriggle or fidgit one bit up there, didn't even let her eyes wander. She was very very brave for such a little, shy girl. I was so proud of her!

When I got home from church I wasn't as exhausted as I normally am - all this extra time made me feel quite relaxed all day - and instead of sending Abi down cold to her nap, I lay with her and read aloud a few stories from her story Bible (she picked stories of Moses and Joseph from her little kid's message).

Later, when Sam woke up from his nap in a clingy mood, I used a snippet of my extra time to take him for a horsey ride around the play room as I did a bit of a tidy up of the spreading morass of toys in there.

I used another moment of extra time to think before I automatically said "no" to Joshua's request to play out in the front yard, and instead said, "Sure, honey, and ask Anna if she'd like to play out there with you as well. Have a great time."

I took another, slightly larger portion of the extra time to check on the kdis later and gently ask Joshua to ensure that when they were finished with the makeshift cubby of outdoor chairs that they had built on the next-door neighbour's front lawn, that they picked up every single one of the little twigs they were using for "firewood" and didn't leave them strewn all over J and T's immaculately manicured greenery.

When Anna came running in from the front yard itching all over, I didn't get all fussed over the time, and hastily put on some Stingose just to deal with the symptom of the problem but not the root cause. Instead, I used a bit of my extra time to wash her off carefully and then to explain that it seemed that she was allergic to the grass, just like Mummy was as a child, and that she could only play on the swing and climb the tree, not crawl and roll around on the grass under their cubby as she had been doing or she would just get itchy again.

And I took a few minutes to make sure that Joshua had done as I asked and cleaned up all those twigs. (He had, I am happy to report.)

One final thing helped to use up the last bit of my bonus time. Jeff hadn't set the clock on his phone back, so he came home early from church this arvo (having gone in for some peace and quiet while he finalised the lecture he is doing for the Faith and Science cafe-church-thingy tonight), thinking it was later than it was. So even though Jeff was very busy today, preaching/teaching on two different topics, we still were able to eat dinner as a family and chat about our day as a family. We do normally eat dinner as a family. But it is always extra special to be able to do it without rushing, even though Jeff is going to be out for the evening.

Now I come to think of it, it seemed like there was a whole lot more than one extra hour in my day today. But maybe that was because it was my attitude to the time that had changed.

I think I am going to vote for Daylight Saving in the referendum, just so I can have another unrushed day like this again, even if it's only once a year!


My talk is over and I am so glad! I didn't realise when I put my hand up for the job that I would be so nervous about speaking in front of an audience of 50-60 people. It was an emotional roller-coaster and I now have a lot more empathy for what Jeff does preaching to 70+ people (and often twice that at our previous church). It was a lot more daunting than teaching 25 twelth-graders Business Mathematics or Biology!

I think my internal voice goes into overdrive in situations like this, where the back of my mind is saying “oops! stuffed that up”, “how do I fix this?” and “phew, glad that bit went okay” (all within 60 seconds) even as my mouth is calmly and clearly taking me through the planned material. There was one guy in his early 20s or so slouching in an aisle seat and every time I looked up for eye contact I seemed to focus on him and thought, “Is he even interested at all? Why did he choose to come to my talk if he wasn’t?” but fortunately there were other people in the audience nodding and responding positively, so I just kept forging ahead. There were half a dozen people in the audience from my new church, so that made things that bit more scary as well.

When I finished, and headed up the aisle, a fellow student of Jeff's from Theol college told me it had been a very “polished” presentation so I felt chuffed at that as I think he could be quite finicky – and he is now working as a music/youth pastor, so he should actually know a fair bit about the topic as well. I had a few other encouraging comments, so was pleased that I had at least helped some people. And now it’s over so I can relax!

Except that I have agreed to speak at the Women's Breakfast at church the day before Mother's Day. Aargh! No, actually, I'm quite looking forward to that one, once I have a chance to think about what I might say. The topic is mothers, of course, so I have a wee bit of experience to draw upon.

There's also the weekly Women's Gatherings starting after Easter...

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Looking forward to Saturday

The CCOWA Perth Children's Ministry Convention is happening this Saturday afternoon and at the moment there are 51 people registered for the workshop Ann and I are running on Integrating children's music and church music. There are around 120 people registered to attend the conference plus speakers and helpers etc. Awesome! And also nerve racking!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Changing Schools

Today Jeff and I had an interview with the principal of a different Christian school and a tour of the facilities at their primary school. Then this afternoon I took Joshua there when I picked him up from his old school. I dropped off his enrolment form for him to begin there in term 2 (after Easter) and we met the lady who will be his teacher, and were able to have a look around his new classroom.

When we told Joshua that we were going to move him to another school, he was quite upset at the prospect of losing his friends from the old school. But I was able to remind him of how he had felt when leaving our old church, and how God had given him lots of friends at our new church. I told him the same thing would happen at the new school. We prayed about it as well, that God would help him not to be too sad. Meeting his new teacher and seeing the classroom made a huge difference in his attitude! He was very sad and downcast when we arrived at the school, but cheerful and upbeat when we left. I am so thankful that Josh was able to meet the principal and his new teacher, so that his fears were somewhat alleviated.

This school is a lot closer to our home than the school Joshua is in at the moment. Presently, we spend at least 2 hours each day between us dropping Josh off and picking him up. That's a lot of drive time! Although the new school isn't in our home suburb, it is a lot closer and also the route to it is along some less busy roads. We will save at least half an hour, probably three quarters of an hour, on travelling just by changing to this new school. Hooray! (Also, this school starts and finishes a bit earlier, so Josh will have a little more time with us in the afternoon, which is very handy.)

The school is just a primary school, not primary and secondary, and is a lot smaller than his present school. This makes me feel a bit better from my own personal preferences, and especially with a view to Anna fitting in easily and with confidence when she attends next year. So that is another advantage, although not the reason for the decision.

I am really pleased with this change, and getting more pleased the more I think about it. The only sad thing is that Joshua will only keep up his friendship with one of the boys from his present school, not all of them! He will see L each Monday at Boys' Brigade still, which is a great thing as our families have been friends since shortly after we moved here to Perth.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Women's Gathering @ BCC

This morning during the notices section of our gathered worship, Jeff made an announcement about the Women's Gathering for Bible Study and Prayer that I will now, God willing, be starting on Thursday mornings after Easter with some of the ladies of our church and its wider community. I am extremely excited, but also feeling a little in awe when I look ahead to the work God has for me. Part of the enormity of the task comes from my desire to bring together women from four main groups in our church community.

Firstly (and perhaps primarily) there are the women who are mothers of young children and whose main work is within the home and for their family. Women in the same situation as me, in other words!

Secondly, there are the older women, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers, who make up a large number of our congregation. I would love to see these two groups of women sharing more of their lives with each other and for the older women to minister more directly to the lives of the younger women.

Thirdly, there are women who come to our church meetings occasionally, but not regularly although they do not "belong" to another congregation elsewhere either. I am hoping that the closer ties they develop with women who attend more regularly might help them to see that the Christian faith is not something you put on and put off as and when you feel like it, but something that must be lived out all day, every day, in part through one's outward commitment to a local gathering of Christ's body, the church. Also in with this group I would include some women new to our congregation who are regular attenders, but who, because they have only been here in Perth (or even Australia) for a few months, having come from overseas and perhaps a non-English-speaking background, would greatly benefit from this more personal opportunity to get to know other women in the congregation.

Fourthly, I am hoping that this Bible study will be n opportunity of further engagement with God's church and His gospel, for women who attend some of the more practical, social activities of our church, such as the Wednesday mainly music class for toddlers and their parents, the Paper Crafters' monthly get together and the bi-annual Women's Breakfast.

Oh, and I cannot forget that, with Jeffrey's help, we will also be reaching out to a fifth group: any younger children (or even grand children) of these women, as Jeffrey co-ordinates a concurrent children's program for any below compulsory school age.

There are a lot of things to consider when pulling together a Bible study that will, with God's blessing, be seeking to meet needs for teaching from God's Word for women from all of these groups. I need to think about what we will be reading and studying and any resources I may use to help me in preparing and presenting the program, in terms of the situations of women of each of these groups. For example, women who have been Christians for decades will approach the Bible with a very different attitude to women who have never owned one of their own before!

I have been asked if I will use some sort of program or curriculum, and the answer is a definite no. I want to be able to base each Bible study simply on the text itself. Having said that, I will need to be doing extra background reading myself to be able to keep on top of some of the background information. It will help, I am sure, that Jeff and I live together (obviously!) and so I can work through the study with him well before each Thursday's Women's Gathering.

After much discussion with Jeff and a few of the women who will attend, I have chosen for us to read through and study from the Book of Acts. At first, I thought there might be benefit in studying a gospel, either Mark or Luke (but probably Mark since we have been reading through it as a family this term.) Matthew is long and written with the Jews in mind, not so easy to get into for non-Christians or new Christian; while John relates a lot of Jesus' metaphors that can be confusing, especially for women who speak English as their second (or third, or fourth...) language. However, I would like to study more than who Jesus is and what He has done. I want the women to be challenged by the difference this made in the lives of Jesus' followers, the first Christians. Acts shows this beautifully and also has the added benefit of referring back many times to the events of Old Testament times. It can therefore be a helpful short-cut introduction to the Old Testament narrative for women who are not familiar with the Bible. It can also be a great reminder of God's sovereignty over all history and His great long-term plan for the salvation of mankind (the "Big Picture"), which He began to put into place in the Garden of Eden, for those women who are much more familiar with the Biblical narrative. So I am hoping that the Book of Acts will challenge those women who have been Christians for far longer than they were not, as well as providing a spring-board to faith in those women who have not yet placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

One third of the planned time will also be spent in more intimate groupings of three, sharing and praying together as "Prayer Triplets". I owe this idea to a friend from Darwin who now lives in Sydney, who mentioned it many years ago with great enthusiasm. I will be assigning women into groups of three to stay in the same triplet for a whole term. I am planning that women will not be with those they feel most comfortable with, but with those who need and can benefit from their friendship, encouragement and the ministry of prayer for each other. I just hope we don't have anyone refusing to sit together! I would like to see the older women developing Titus 2-type relationships with the younger women, and the women who have a deeper connection with BCC welcoming and drawing in those who are less tightly connected with our community. It is my earnest desire that by sharing their personal situations and praying for each other in intimate groups the women may begin to behave as the sisters in Christ that they truly are.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Ethics of Elfland

Amy and I are reading the spiritual autobiography of GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, together this March. You can find Amy's succinct posts on the book here. My much longer posts are here, or you can find them under the "Chesterton" label somewhere down there in the left-hand column.

The fourth chapter is titled, "The Ethics of Elfland", and in it Chesterton deals with two principle ideas he learnt from his earliest days in the nursery about the way the world works. The only surprising thing is that he didn't learn them from the so-called real world, he learnt them from the wondrous world of faerie, through the stories most commonly known as fairy tales.

Chesterton begins the chapter with a defence of democracy, "the things common to all men are more important than the things peculiar to any men." He states that the first principle of democracy is "that the essential things in men are the things they hold in common, not the things they hold separately." The second principle of democracy is "merely this: that the political instinct or desire is one of these things which they hold in common." Chesterton says that there are some things, like blowing one's nose, which we want each person to do for themselves, even if they do them badly. Chesterton provides a brief list, writing that "the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves - the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state. This is democracy; and in this I have always believed."

Just in case you are wondering (I was), Chesterton's defence of democracy does have a point. He uses is to lead in to his presupposition that the fables developed over generations have an element of truth and reality to them often not possible in the particular tales of a given individual author. But before we get to that (and we will), I'd like to follow up on his short list, which I quoted in the previous paragraph.

There have been quite a number of science fiction novels written to explore the possibilities of what might happen when the responsibility for "mating of the sexes" is taken from the individual parents and given to the state. The most notable, perhaps, is Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, which begins

A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

and ends with one of the main characters committing suicide after an orgy of self flagellation. I must admit, I don't particularly see why that novel is often considered suitable for senior grade English classes to study. But my point is that, even when it is used as a device in a romance novel, such as in Johanna Lindsey's Warrior's Woman, the seemingly pleasant and useful idea of having the messiness and what some would see as inefficiency of conception, pregnancy, labour and birth taken over by some form of scientific machinery never seems to end as well as doing it the natural way, by ourselves. It might be because sex is one of the great tenets of democracy, but Chesterton is definitely right when he says that people would prefer to see people doing this themselves, even if they do it badly (or only moderately well). Foster care and adoption are wonderful solutions to terrible situations, and far better than the orphanages of the past. But what almost anyone who debates this topic would agree is that generalised institutionalised rearing of the infants of our societies would not be a good thing.

Yet I use that "almost anyone" advisedly because this is exactly what many feminists argue for. According to this article, for example, which argues that families, and what have historically been deemed the family's prerogatives of sex and reproduction, should all be subjected completely to the political machinations of the state, states that

...the idea that “the personal is political” is the core idea of most contemporary feminism.

There is an obvious parallel also to the eugenics work of the Nazi era. "Social Darwinism" manifests itself in a wide range of situations, from preferential reproduction of selected people with a "valuable" genetic makeup and its equivalent in selective embryo implantation to selective killing or effective sterilisation of people with genetic traits which are perceived as "negative", even to the extreme of genocide, but also seen most commonly in the high incidence of abortion among certain social and racial groupings, often funded by governments, and heavily promoted by both feminist political groups and outspoken proponents of evolutionary humanism. And so we come back to the situation briefly alluded to in some of my previous posts reading through Orthodoxy where we see that both feminism and evolutionary humanism attack the individual rights of people, rights which, as Chesterton puts it, are core to "the faith of democracy".

I might post a few more detailed comments later, but for now I proffer a summary of what Chesterton had to write in the rest of Chapter 4:

"Tradition is only democracy extended through time." Therefore the voice of tradition, as heard through the fairy tales of the common folk, should be considered a valuable source of information about reality. "I would always trust the old wives' fables against the old maids' facts."

Chesterton learnt two things from fairy tales:

1. Fairy tales taught Chesterton that what the "ordinary scientific man" relates as a "law" is really a miracle. "This world is a wild and startling place, which might have been quite different, but which is quite delightful." Chesterton gives some lovely illustrations in this section, such as where he writes that the scientist is "swept away by mere associations. He has so often seen birds fly and lay eggs that he feels as if there must be some dreamy, tender connection between the two ideas, whereas there is none." And later, he concluded, "this world does not explain itself. ... The thing is magic, true or false."

2. "The wonder has a positive element of praise. ... life was as precious as it was puzzling." Chesterton presents therefore his "Doctrine of Conditional Joy": that, just as Cinderella was offered the joy of attending the ball with the prince, but constrained to leave by the arbitrary time of midnight, we experience joy in our lives only in so far as we do not rebel against the limits of those lives. "It seemed to me that existence was itself so very eccentric a legacy that I could not complain of not understanding the limitations of the vision when I did not understand the vision they limited." Chesterton is quite willing to submit to the limitations of his experience which fairy tales have led him to expect: "before this wildness and delight one may well be modest and submit to the queerest limitations of so queer a kindness." Later, Chesterton wrote "I thought this purpose beautiful in its old design, in spite of its defects, such as dragons."

This feeling that the world was personal, as akin to a work of art, led him to consider the possibility of an artist: "In short, I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician."

When Chesterton compared what he had learnt from fairy tales with the "modern creed" of his worldly peers, he realised two more things:

1. The determinists, or "scientific fatalists", seemed to think that everything had gone on as it always did at present times (the idea of chronological uniformity) and this did not at all agree with Chesterton's idea of the miraculous nature of Nature. I loved how he put this: "So one elephant having a trunk was odd; but all elephants having trunks looked like a plot." Chesterton admitted that his was an emotional response to the sceptic's laws relating to repetition, but concluded "the repetition in Nature seemed sometimes to be an excited repetition... perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possibly that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them." What a precious and wonderful thought! Later, "magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it."

2. Modern emphasis on the expanse of the cosmos also precipitated a sense of tension for Chesterton. He criticised, "It is quite futile to argue that man is small compared to the cosmos; for man is always small compared to the nearest tree. ... these modern expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine." Chesterton, by contrast, describes himself as being "fond" of the universe: "about infinity there was a sort of carelessness which was the reverse of the fierce and pious care which I felt touching the pricelessness and the peril of life. They showed only a dreary waste; but I felt a sort of sacred thrift." The value to Chesterton was not in the enormity of the cosmos, but in the very existence of the cosmos at all. This finally led him to consider that "the proper form of thanks to it [the magician] is some form of humility and restraint... We owed, also, an obedience to whatever made us. ... all good was a remnant to be stored and held sacred out of some primordial ruin."

Chesterton called the above "the soils for the seeds of doctrine". You can see that he is already getting quite close to the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy.

[Image source]


One of the most fascinating things about being a mother is observing how my children differ as well as how they are similar.

This morning I overheard Abigail tell Anna, "You say, 'May I please have a cookie?' Okay?"

Abigail wasn't teaching Anna manners. She was playing a game which involved a few of our vast collection of cooking toys. Abigail was asking Anna to say a particular phrase as part of their acting out having a meal.

The thing that struck me about this simple interaction was that Abigail is not yet four. Joshua, who is just six, still does not use this device (of telling the other person what to say) in his play very often. He will tell the other children what they should be and do: "You be a polar bear and follow me" or "You be Zaccheus and climb the tree and I will be Jesus..." But I cannot think of an instance when he has told anyone what to say although he does willingly follow Anna's instructions when she tells him what to say.

Anna, on the other hand, at times is so full of instructions for what everyone else should say as they play together that I wonder if she might one day become a playwright! "You say, 'I can see a little girl holding a doll.' " or "You say, 'That's a pretty dress.' " or (as she said just a moment ago) "You say, 'Darling!' " ad infinitum. It seems that Anna is always the star of the action, and she is bent upon having her siblings narrate her life at her behest. I always assumed the differences between Anna and Joshua were mostly because of their different genders.

Now, Anna is almost five. A while back she was busy telling stories, but she moved on to this form of demanded conversation in her play a few months ago, perhaps a bit before Christmas I think, when she was about four and a half. The thing that interests me is that Abigail has begun using this "you say" device in her play at a much earlier age than Anna ever did. She is at least six months ahead of Anna in this regard. Has Abigail just learnt the device through imitation of her older sibling? Or is she inherently more advanced in this particular area of development?

One observation I have is that Abigail's "you say" instructions are actually very different to Anna's. While Anna just wants everyone else to describe her actions, Abigail wants to draw Anna (and the others) into a conversation, into an imaginary game that involves more than just one person who is the star of the action. Now this is quite a marked difference and I definitely do see that it is related to their personalities.

Anna has always been demanding, from the moment she was born with an Apgar of 10 (maxing out her first test!) and latched on to feed - for half an hour solid - within moments of being held in my arms. She cried more; she banged her head and had to be taught to squeeze her hands together to calm down; she could call out her own name at an astonishing 4 months. And I see Anna's version of this "you say" play as yet another aspect of her demanding, self-centred way of doing things. (Don't get me wrong, she is growing into a lovely and very loving girl, but she does still have this baseline attitude.)

In contrast, Abigail has always been interested in pleasing others and doing what she thinks will keep them happy. Except for the aberration of turning breech at 35 weeks gestation, thereby almost earning for herself the name "Mary", as in, "Quite Contrary", Abigail has truly always been "her father's joy", just as her name means in Hebrew. She was a quieter baby, and she was much slower to learn to crawl and then walk than the other two, because she was content to just sit. When she was 8 months old we took her on an international holiday to England and Singapore for four weeks and she spent hours bundled up in a carry pack on my chest without complaining nearly as much as her older siblings who spent a lot of time in the pram. When her dummy was unceremoniously taken away soon after we moved to Perth, she had no complaints - not like her older sister who screamed for hours in the next bedroom (they had their dummies taken at the same time or Anna would steal Abigail's). Other skills Abigail has learnt earlier than her siblings, such as getting dressed on her own: Abi was choosing her clothes and getting herself dressed completely while Anna, 13 months older, was still asking for help to get into everything. Abi learnt to climb trees early because she wanted to be up there with the others.

Now, she is again following in Anna's footsteps. But Abigail is putting her own twist to things, because rather than make the game all about herself, as Anna does, she makes the game all about the other person, getting them to play and have fun. What a lovely thing to observe!

Thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to watch my children closely, so that I really know them intimately. Thank you for Abigail's desire for other people to have joy. You know my children much better than I. Please keep watching over them, loving them with your amazingly big love. Please help Abigail keep her love for others and make it grow as she does. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Suicide of Thought

Amy and I are reading the spiritual autobiography of GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, together this March.

Chapter 3 is titled "The Suicide of Thought" and I have to admit I don't think I have completely understood it. But I'll have a go at working it out here. At the very least, I'll attempt to follow his line of argument!

Chesterton begins the chapter describing how our humility has overgrown itself, and attached itself to something which it is not necessary to be humble about. That is, while we do not doubt ourselves (the true purpose of humility, to keep our arrogance in restraint), instead we doubt truth itself. The "new humility" has put us "on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table." (Or, I might add here, the rules of phonics as applied to written English.) The problem has arisen that, while "Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced." Chesterton describes the problem as a kind of "intellectual helplessness".

Chesterton says that this low opinion of our own ability to discern the truth means that, ultimately, "the human intellect is free to destroy itself." How? "One set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought."

At this point, Chesterton writes, "It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all." Brilliant quote!! Of course, if what evolutionists seek to prove is true, then as a randomly generated combination of atoms, any "thoughts", which are merely generated by electrical impulses running between said atoms, are purposeless, or meaningless. Including the "thoughts" about the "theory of evolution". Not a path that many evolutionists would like to go down, I don't think. Of course, some could argue that just because something is the construct of randomness, does not mean that the end result of meaninglessness, so let us continue to see what Chesterton has to say on the matter.

"In so far as religion is gone, reason is going. For they are both of the same primary and authoritative kind. They are both methods of proof which cannot themselves be proved. And in the act of destroying the idea of Divine authority we have largely destroyed the idea of that human authority by which we do a long-division sum." In other words, while we accepted that supernatural forces have no authority, we also admitted that natural forces can have no authority in determining right or wrong, even over matters of "fact", rather than "opinion", because any "fact" (such as the numerical relation which we rely upon when performing the mathematical operation of division) is merely a random event which may not always continue according to it's previously observed pattern (being random).

Chesterton points out that, "Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism. ... it means that there is no such thing as an ape to change, and no such things as a man for him to change into. It means that there is no such thing as a thing. At best, there is only one thing, and that is a flux of everything and anything. This is an attack not upon the faith, but upon the mind; you cannot think if there are no things to think about. ... Thinking means connecting things, and stops if they cannot be connected." [my emphasis] I find this particular line of argument fascinating. It does go some way towards explaining the sad state of affairs in many educational institutions today... and also the rise in popularity of the "unschooling" movement among homeschoolers. If people accept the lie that the history of mankind is merely a statistical anomaly, there is no reason for anyone to bother to learn history. If the rules that connect written patterns and sound patterns in written English are merely a random construct, there is no reason to teach them. If a child is left alone to learn whatever they want, merely according to their natural inclinations, then we are only letting them pursue at an individual level what the species has done for millennia, according to evolutionary theory. When it comes right down to it, evolutionists would have us believe (if we can even be said to "believe") that the only thing worth knowing is myself, because I am the peak of my own particular evolutionary trail. Yurk!

From here, Chesterton moves on to attack "the false theory of progress, which maintains that we alter the test instead of trying to pass the test. We often hear it said, for instance, 'What is right in one age is wrong in another.'" He notes, "If the standard changes, how can there be improvement, which implies a standard? ... It would be like discussing whether Milton was more puritanical than a pig is fat." I love Chesterton's fabulous illustrations! "The main point here ... is that this idea of a fundamental alteration in the standard is one of the things that make thought about the past or future simply impossible. The theory of a complete change of standards in human history does not merely deprive us of the pleasure of honouring our fathers; it deprives us of the more modern and aristocratic pleasure of despising them."

Chesterton goes on, "I agree with the pragmatists that apparent objective truth is not the whole matter, that there is an authoritative need to believe the things that are necessary to the human mind. But I say that one of those necessities precisely is a belief in objective truth." In other words, in order to believe anything, one must first believe that there is some true thing in which to believe, and presumably that other things may not all be true. It is impossible to believe anything if you do not believe in belief!

To summarise, "we may say that the most characteristic current philosophies have not only a touch of mania, but a tough of suicidal mania." Scepticism "has no more questions to ask; it has questioned itself. ... It is time we gave up looking for questions and began looking for answers."

[I think I have understood Chesterton's argument up to this point, and hopefully my quote selections and commentary have made it clearer than mud for you as well. Reading the chapter through another time (well, reading the bits I underlined the first time) has helped me to see where he went. But the last bit of the chapter was the hardest for me to engage with when I read it before. So please forgive me if the final bit I will post on this chapter doesn't completely make sense. If you can't work it out from what I am about to write, go and read the whole chapter for your self and help me out in the comments!]

Chesterton now turns to the idea of Will.

First, Chesterton describes the argument of the proponents of the will: "They see that reason destroys; but Will, they say, creates. The ultimate authority, they say, is in will, not in reason. The supreme point is not why a man demands a thing, but that he does demand it. ... The main defence of these thinkers is that they are not thinkers; they are makers. They say that choice itself is a divine thing."

Second, Chesterton explains why this focus on will is necessary: "For by this doctrine of the divine authority of will, they think they can break out of the doomed fortress of rationalism. They think they can escape."

Thirdly, he rebuts this attempt to escape the endpoint of evolutionary theory's demand for intellectual humility: "Pure praise of volition ends in the same break up and blank as the mere pursuit of logic. Exactly as complete free thought involves the doubting of thought itself, so the acceptation of mere 'willing' really paralyses the will."

Next, Chesterton discusses Bernard Shaw's version whereby he argued for the value of will over happiness. "The real difference between the test of happiness and the test of will is simply that the test of happiness is a test and the other isn't." Here Chesterton gives an example. "You can discuss whether a man's act in jumping over a cliff was directed towards happiness; you cannot discuss whether it was derived from will. Of course it was." And then a generalisation: "You can praise an action by saying that it is calculated to bring pleasure or pain to discover truth or to save the soul. But you cannot praise an action because it shows will; for to say that is merely to say that it is an action. By this praise of will you cannot really choose one course as better than another. And yet choosing one course as better than another is the very definition of the will you are praising."

Fourthly, Chesterton states "You cannot admire will in general, because the essence of will is that it is particular." Continuing this line of thought, he attacks (Scottish poet and playwright, "a brilliant anarchist") John Davidson's attempt to promote will: he "feels an irritation against ordinary mortality, and therefore he invokes will - will to anything. He only wants humanity to want something. But humanity does want something. It wants ordinary morality. He rebels against the law and tells us to will something or anything. But we have willed something. We have willed the law against which he rebels." I am not sure exactly who is the present-day equivalent of this Davidson fellow. Perhaps the Feminists, who demand that women take upon themselves any and every role, so long as it was previously fulfilled by men and is not the single role most befitting their biological prerogative of being a mother who expends time, energy and love to the benefit of her offspring. Any ideas for another modern day equivalent, Amy? Anyone else who has managed to read this far have any ideas?

Fifthly, Chesterton argues that "Every act of will is an act of self-limitation. ... When you choose anything, you reject everything else." Again, Chesterton attacks Davidson's ideaology in saying "have nothing to do with 'Thou shalt not'" because "it is surely obvious that 'Thou shalt not' is only one of the necessary corollaries of 'I will.'" Slightly later on, Chesterton uses an example from the French Revolution. "the Jacobins willed something definite and limited. They desired the freedoms of democracy, but also all the vetoes of democracy. They wished to have votes and not to have titles."

Sixthly, Chesterton brings this discussion of the value of will to a close by stating the importance of dealing with reality, rather than our own frivolous image of it. "The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel."

Seventhly (is that even a word? Perhaps I should say,) In the seventh place, Chesterton says that "the new rebel is a Sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. ... the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind." An illustration or two of the problems this brings up in everyday life follows. "The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages were treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. ... By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything."

Chesterton concludes with "Thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot. Every man who will not have softening of the heart must at last have softening of the brain." And then, "This last attempt to evade intellectualism [that is, through the advocacy of will] ends in intellectualism, and therefore in death. ... The wild worship of lawlessness and the materialist worship of law end in the same void."

[Image source]

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Cuneiform Copywork?

The Mesopotamian people wrote using cuneiform, made of wedge-shaped marks pressed into clay.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a great webpage where you can find out what your initials (or any combination of three letters) looks like in cuneiform. Check it out here:

They also have a page of information about cuneiform, which includes a fascinating sidebar on a Babylonian student's clay tablet. The "Round School Tablet" is from the Babylonian city of Nippur during the Hammurabi Dynasty.

According to the site,

This type of school tablet is called a "lentil" or "bun." The convex shaped back fits naturally into the palm of the hand.

There are 4 rows of signs on the front of the tablet. The teacher in ancient Nippur inscribed the signs in rows 1 and 2. The student then took the soft tablet and copied the text into rows 3 and 4. Our student was learning Sumerian signs that were already 1000 years old.

The signs in row 1 were pronounced gi-gur, which translates as "reed basket." Row 2 reads gi-gur-da and that means a type of large reed basket.

This lesson was both for handwriting and vocabulary.

It is fascinating to think that I am using similar ancient methods of teaching with my children in 2009!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Looking for Lions

A week ago I saw two lions on some fence posts while I was driving the kids home after picking Josh up at school. I pointed them out to distract Josh and Anna from their incipient fight in the back seat of our Tarago. Since then, looking for lions seems to have become something of a hobby for me.

We've also seen quite a few swans:and lots of flamingoes:
This morning I took the kids to the library, the supermarket, and ... for a drive to look for lions. Here's our collection so far:Just a little note here: I stopped to photograph these last two today and the guy who has just bought the house came over for a chat. When he heard how interested the kids were in all the lions we were finding, he said we could have these two if my husband could work out how to get them off the bricks! Any ideas? The kids would love some lions of their very own.In case you didn't stop to count like us, that was 17 lions. The girls were stoked to find the last one in our very own street today!

Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." - Revelation 5:5

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Maps of the Ancient Near East

I have been teaching Anna about Ancient Mesopotamian civilisations and important people in History lately. The following gives a short list of what we have covered or will soon cover:

Sargon: Kish and Akkad - Akkadia

Nimrod: Nineveh, Calah (Nimrud), Akkad and Erech (Uruk)

(See Genesis 10:8-12.)

Terah & Abram: Ur (of the Chaldeans), Haran

(See Genesis 11:26-12:9; also Joshua 24:2-4; Acts 7:2-4 and Hebrews 11:8-10.)

Hammurabi: Babylon - Babylonia

Adadnirari I (Shamshi-Adad): Asshur (Assur/Ashur) - Assyria

In all this study, it has been hard to find maps which have enough detail and cover the important locations without being too cluttered. After wading through an awful lot of google searching, I have found that the following two sites offer the best maps for my homeschooling purposes, and perhaps yours as well:

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Ancient Near East Maps: Printable black, white and grayscale maps made to print at 300dpi to an A4 page.

Bible History Online Map Links: Links to maps showing locations of Biblical events (not all of these maps are black and white, but many are simply black, white and blue for water).

I've also added them to my Quick Links lower down on the left hand side of this blog.

This is the best map I could come up with:Using Photoshop, I have adapted this map from one of the Ancient Near East on the Bible History Online site, which locates and labels all the sites I mentioned above, other than Akkad and Kish. FYI, Akkad was upriver on the Euphrates from Babylon, between the "A" and the "M" in the gray "MESOPOTAMIA" label on the original map. Kish was just a touch north-west of Babylon. Feel free to use the map above in your own homeschooling if you think it will be helpful (the original was freely distributed also). I have uploaded it from my file, so you should be able to click on the image, save the one that opens, then print neatly to an A4 page (similar to a US Letter size). Just don't expect it to be a perfect cartographer's dream!

Have a great day!

Monday, 9 March 2009

I've been awarded...

Thanks to Kellie at Blue House Academy for awarding me this Blogger Oscar. Apparently she thinks I'm a "great mum". Little does she know I didn't even notice when Abigail, who is only three, decided she was going to walk to church on her own yesterday, and promptly left the house, crossed our street, and walked all the way there. How's that for a great mum: one who doesn't even notice when her children walk out of the house?

(By the way, Abi got to church safely - we only live directly across the block from our church premises, and it being Sunday morning, she was noticed by some eagle-eyed members of the congregation once she got to the street the church is on, and they watched her to safety from there. We did notice a few minutes after she left, when Jeff began calling for her to meet him at the door to leave with him, as she was meant to be doing.)

Of course, I am going to pass this award on. Who do I think has the best blog around? I'm probably biased (our blogs share the same birthday) but I'm going to award Amy, of Veritas at Home. Her blog has some fantastic descriptions and images of what and how she is teaching the older three of her four children using Lampstand Press's Tapestry of Grace homeschool currciulum.

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Maniac

Amy and I are reading the spiritual autobiography of GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, together this March.

Chapter 2 is titled “The Maniac” and in it, Chesterton constructs an analogy between the extremely logical but confiningly narrow world-view of the maniac and the also highly logical and constrained world-view of the atheist, in particular the materialist and the determinist.

Chesterton begins by examining the veracity of the adage, “if a person believes in himself, he is bound to succeed”. [As an aside, I note that while this idea may well have been prevalent at Chesterton’s time of writing, 1908, it has well and truly flowered in this age of child rearing philosophies based on the mandate of boosting self-esteem.] Chesterton argues that the complete opposite is the case, as “the men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums… believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter.” Chesterton says, “Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness.”

Chesterton goes on to explain the need for him to address the question of philosophical views of faith from an analogy with madness. “Though moderns deny the existence of sin, I do not think that they have yet denied the existence of a lunatic asylum. … as all thoughts and theories were once judged by whether they tended to make a man lose his soul, so for our present purpose all modern thoughts and theories may be judged by whether they tend to make a man lose his wits.”

With this opening illustration and explanation, Chesterton begins to construct his analogy. Or maybe it is actually a metaphor, I’m not sure. If it is a metaphor, it’s developed in reverse. [Help wanted here Amy! You’ve been studying logical along with Sydney and Hope, haven’t you?]

“Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets. …. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

“Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. … The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. … Nevertheless he is wrong. But if we attempt to trace his error in exact terms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed.”

According to Chesterton, “speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that thestrongest and most unmistakeable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction.”

I experienced this very situation while watching L aw & Or der: SVU recently with Jeff. The episode was about some mother and doctor being charged with manslaughter because they had chosen to not treat the mother’s baby for AIDS caused by an HIV infection, from which it was alleged the baby had subsequently died. The doctor, and the mother, believed that AIDS was a conspiracy malarkey between the research scientists and the pharmaceutical fraternity who earned their wages researching and medicating the “invented” condition. It was fascinating (no, better make that interesting; SVU is never fascinating) to watch the interplay between lawyers, police and the accused as they tried to convince the court of the validity of their stances on the existence/non-existence of AIDS. Logical arguments about what every one else believes made no difference to the viewpoint of the accused (for the sake of Chesterton’s analogy, I will call them the “lunatics”). They had a logical reason to explain why every one else believed something that they did not. And they saw no reason to doubt what they believed just because other people believed differently. Indeed, because every argument was viewed through the lens of their own experience, the “lunatics” had an answer to explain every observation the “sane” people put forward. But their “insane” view of the world limited them from believing that any scientists, pharmacists or doctors might be telling the truth and that although the mother felt sick from the medicine, she still might be healthier than without the medicine - and hence from experiencing the benefits of that medicine.

Interestingly, when it was revealed that the other child might also have HIV, the court ruled that he had the right to his refusal to seek diagnosis treatment, despite this being an “insane” choice. So what argument eventually convinced the “lunatic” son? It was not a logical argument at all. The son was taken to meet a patient with another, unrelated, illness (cancer), and told how medicine had helped this other child, who had once refused medical treatment on his parents’ (religious) advice also. [So as with many L aw & Or der episodes, religious practice is vilified, in this instance to the extent of being equated with lunacy.] In symbols, the argument would be represented something like this:

if A + B –> C once
then ≈A + ≈B –> C always.

Flawed for so many reasons! Unlike the analogy Chesterton is building between insanity and atheism, this argument relies upon two situations which are approximately similar yet not similar enough for the analogy to be valid. Not to mention the whole problem of distinguishing the true cause, etc. I have no idea why the argument worked with the boy, who had remained stalwart in his adherence to his “insane” beliefs in the face of intense questioning in the courtroom. But Chesterton made a similar point when he said that there is no logical way to convince a madman of the error of his madness. Instead Chesterton proposed to “snap” the lunatic out of their lunacy with an exposure to what life would be like if the madman merely gave up his insane idea and ventured to live his life as if it were indeed wrong, purely for the sake of the benefit (freedom, contentment, happiness) to himself that sanity might yield.

Chesterton continues, "Neither modern science nor ancient religion believes in complete free thought. Theology rebukes certain thoughts by calling them blasphemous. Science rebukes certain thoughts by calling them morbid. ... In dealing with those whose morbidity has a touch of mania, modern science cares far less for pure logic than a dancing Dervish. In these cases it is not enough that the unhappy man should desire truth; he must desire health. Nothing can save him but a blind hunger for normality, like that of a beast. ... He can only be saved by will or faith." Certainly that was the case in the TV show the other night.

[What I found personally most interesting was that the accused never were convinced by any logical argument. The mother was convinced of the reality of AIDS only when she had a seizure, supposedly caused by toxoplasmosis “which only people with AIDS get” (then why all the warnings to watch for the symptoms in t*mpon packets, I ask you?), and ended up in hospital dying. Frankly, I found this very unconvincing. The mother said she had been getting migraines since the baby had died (which presumably had been a while since the trial was already happening). From what the t*mpon packets say in their warning about toxoplasmosis, you only have about two or three days before you really should be in hospital or you won’t get there, you’ll be underground, instead. So if she did have toxoplasmosis, it can’t have been what was causing the headaches for so long. And the connection to AIDS was shaky at best. Maybe she just had her period and had to spend too much time in a court room answering questions, and not going to the loo. But I digress…]

"Curing a madman is not arguing with a philosopher, it is casting our a devil. And however quietly doctors and psychologists may go to work in the matter, their attitude is profoundly intolerant - as intolerant as Bloody Mary. Their attitude is really this: that the man must stop thinking, if he is to go on living. Their counsel is one of intellectual amputation. If thy head offend thee, cut it off; for it is better, not merely to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a child, but to enter it as an imbecile, rather than with your whole intellect to be cast into hell - or into Hanwell." (Hanwell was a London institution for the mentally ill, famous for being "enlightened".)

"I have described at length my vision of the maniac for this reason: that just as I am affected by the maniac, so I am affected by most modern thinkers. That unmistakeable mood or note I hear from Hanwell, I hear also from half the chairs of science and seats of learning today; and most of the mad doctors are mad doctors in more senses than one. They all have exactly that combination we have noted: the combination of an expansive and exhaustive reason with a contracted common sense. They are universal only in the sense that they take one thin explanation and carry it very far." As I read these words I was struck by just how well this describes what I have seen of the work of the evolutionary humanist scientist Richard Dawkins, who is often described as a "militant" atheist. Mind you, to play the devil's advocate, it could also possibly fit much of what I have seen of Ken Ham's work promoting a rational, scientific apologetic for creationism.

And that's where I'll have to leave it for today. It's a long chapter!

[Image source]

Thursday, 5 March 2009

In defense of everything else

Amy and I are reading the spiritual autobiography of GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, together this March.

Chapter 1 is titled "In defense of everything else" and it's pretty short. A few quotations will serve to give you a picture of what Chesterton had in mind when he wrote this book.

I have attempted in a vague and personal way, in a set of mental pictures rather than in a series of deductions, to state the philosophy in which I have come to believe.

I wish to set forth my faith as particularly answering this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly named romance.

…the general proposition that we need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure.

One searches for truth, but it may be that one pursues instinctively the more extraordinary truths.

It recounts my elephantine adventures in pursuit of the obvious.

I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.

These essays are concerned only to discuss the actual fact that the central Christian theology (sufficiently summarised in the Apostles’ Creed) is the best root of energy and sound ethics.

This is not an ecclesiastical treatise but a sort of slovenly autobiography.

From this chapter, it is apparent to me that this book will have something in common with CS Lewis’s Surprised by Joy. It is written in a style that does not necessarily fit with my extremely analytical mind, and it contains some lovely big words that will content my mind while they challenge my brain. Just what I need to stretch me!

[Image source]

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Sam is clingier than cling wrap

Since we moved house, and church, Josh went off to school and Jeff went off to work, Samuel has been getting increasingly more clingy. For the last few weeks he has been crying hysterically, wrapping his little arms around my leg or flinging himself on the floor, whenever I have left him at Sunday School or the BSF children's program. This has made my participation in the Sunday church gathering and BSF class difficult, to say the least.

I guess part of it is the age he's at, but part of it is also exacerbated by all the changes that have happened with our family. I am not quite sure how to deal with it, because I know that he needs reassurance, but he also needs to learn cause and effect - if I leave, I will return. And I need to be able to have time away from the children, and that cannot only be when Jeff is available to look after them, especially when that time is the Sunday morning service.

None of this has been made any easier by my decision to have one more go at weaning Samuel from sucking his thumb. We've been largely successful this time, but it took some hard yakka. I taped his thumb to his pointer finger with soft, non-irritating Fixomull, and then taped over that and around his whole hand below the fingers with stronger bonding bandage tape. Then we left that on day and night until it was getting too icky, took it off, gave him a bath, and put the whole shebang back on again. For just over a week, we persisted with this until Sammy was no longer sucking his thumb through the bandages (ick) or even really moving his hand unconsciously towards his face. For the first few days, he kept holding his hand over his face where it would be if he had his thumb in his mouth, then he stopped that and just put it by his head. At that stage, we decided he could just have the Fixomull taped around his thumb only. It's soft and cottony and doesn't make a nice sucking texture, so he kept his thumb out of his mouth. We kept that up for another week. Around this time Jeff and I were going mad with his crying at night so we decided, since he was doing so well with not sucking during the day, we'd let him have access to it at night. Now, even though he has a bare thumb again, it only ever goes into his mouth when he is actually asleep. He doesn't suck it to go to sleep, nor when he is upset or tired, although he still pulls at his other ear at some of these times.

So he has been weaned of his major comforting mechanism, and been put through a series of major upheavals. Is it any wonder this two year old just wants to cuddle his mummy?

Last Sunday I ended up spending most of the time out with Samuel in the Noah's Ark class, only leaving right towards the end when he was very comfortable, so I could join the church for Holy Communion. I had tried leaving earlier during the service, but without success; the helper had come to get me because he was crying on the floor.

This morning at BSF I stayed in with him for a while. I helped him hang up his bag and distracted him from the fact that he was in the room where he knew I would leave him, by looking at the colourful characters decorating the other children's bags, such as Elmo, Pooh & Tigger, Bob, the whole familiar list; somewhere in there was a Br*tz face, but we won't go into what I thought about that! After he was distracted I sat with him on the play rug and helped him to get started playing with some toys. Then I moved a little further away, to sit on the edge of the mat. When he wanted to show me a toy he'd found, I expressed little fascination, but prompted him to show his Children's Leader. Then I moved so my back was to him. Then I moved away to sit on a chair further across the room.

All the while I was using the time to pray for my little boy, that he would settle well and remain calm enough to pay attention during the Bible story, in particular.

When I was confident he had settled in well to playing, I called out good bye, gave him a reassuring pat as he ran towards me bursting into tears, and then left him in the capable hands of the Children's Leaders. I went off to my small group, knowing that they would come and get me if he failed to settle. They didn't need to! After a short period of crying, he was fine.

When I came to pick him up, he was full of joy to see me, but I could also tell by looking at his eyes and face that he hadn't been crying for a fair long while. He had been happy at class today. I was very relieved. Now I am looking forward to trying this method of settling deliberately, praying hard, then leaving gently on Sunday. We'll see if he can improve again!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Orienteering - A Family Sport

Saturday afternoon Jeff and I took the kids to the last of the Summer Metro Series of Orienteering events here in Perth, at Kings Park. My parents took me orienteering as a young child (I may have done my first course around the age of four or so) and orienteering and latterly, rogaining are our "family sports". Unfortunately, orienteering is traditionally a Sunday morning event, so we obviously don't compete much any more! Actually, this was the first time any of us have been orienteering since we moved to Perth three summers ago.

The short course participants had to visit any seven controls. We chose to visit (in this order) 2, 4, 14, 15, 18, 16 and 1. We also had to punch a control at the finish which was just to ensure we kept in order of our return for comparative times (it was a mass start at 5pm).Everyone had their first opportunity to punch a control recorded for posterity!

SamuelJoshuaAnnaAbigail(Actually this last was a posed shot - she had already punched the finish control and we had handed in our control card, but we asked if we could borrow the card back to take a photo.)

The kids took a little while to get into it, but definitely deserved full marks for their enthusiasm at the end of the event:
Even Samuel ran so fast at times that Jeff had to jog to keep up with him!
The award for most enthusiastic orienteer of the day must go to Anna. She kept her thumb on the map at all times, and actually paid attention to my instructions of where we were and how we were going to the next control. And when I asked the children which way we should turn at a track junction, she was almost always the first to respond, and was always right.
The last comment of the day belongs to Abigail. She was very tired at the end of the event, and as we ran together to the finish, determined to end well, she was heard to remark, "Oh! My boiler!"*

*For those who are not fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, the translation of this is something along the lines of, "I am completely exhausted."