Peace On Earth — But Only Sort Of

The new year is upon us. The Christmas decorations are being put away, and the regular routines of life are resuming. The phrase “peace on Earth,” however, still echoes through our recent memories. It has been sung, read, and recited. In a society brimming with political angst and cultural discord, aren’t we all desperately longing for a bit of peace? Additionally, there is the alarming frequency of natural disasters, illnesses, and tragedies to remind us of humanity’s state of utter chaos. Let’s be honest, though. If we zoom in on our experience as homeschooling families, don’t we crave peace in our own homes too?

Popping over to my place for tea on any given afternoon, you would find a wide assortment of animals announcing your arrival while completely disregarding your personal space. You would likely have to move a pile of books in order to sit down. You would be greeted by three small humans, eager to share with you every exciting thing in their life since their last birthday. Ten minutes later the sounds of sibling squabbles, mishaps, and, yes, even complaining would waft through the house. Then, if we actually got a moment to chat, I might share with you my concerns about Lucy’s upcoming state testing, or Robby’s attitude towards reading. Not exactly peaceful, right?

Being Jesus’ parents was not always peaceful either. In Luke 4:41-51, we find the story of a young boy who disappeared for three days. Can you imagine not knowing where your child is for THREE DAYS? But, wait! If we back up just a few verses in the very same chapter, don’t the angels herald at the top of their lungs, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (vs.14)? Back to verse 48, Jesus’ mother says to him, “Son why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” He responds most matter-of-factly, almost unconcerned with his parents’ ordeal: “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (vs.49).

Mary and Joseph certainly weren’t experiencing peace during those three days of searching for their missing child. But, is that really the kind of peace that God promises?

Take a look at Matthew, chapter 10. Jesus’ very words declare, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword….Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (vss.34,37,38). At first glance there seems to be a mighty juxtaposition between the message of peace at the birth of Jesus, and His words verily declaring war!

I wonder if the answer lies in our definition of peace. Is peace merely the absence of discomfort and disagreement, or is peace something bigger and deeper? Philippians 4:4-9 promises peace that transcends our human understanding if we zoom out, surrendering our narrow perspectives and worries to the sovereign God of the universe. Yes, there will be challenges, anxiety, even pain. But I believe that through the lens of God’s big story of love and salvation for humanity, there is peace. Not necessarily peace in the form of a clean and quiet household, or children who always get along and diligently finish their lessons with a happy heart, but peace in knowing we belong to a God who adores us, that we have a specific purpose to fulfill in the story of humanity and the war between good and evil. There is peace in knowing how the story ends, and in choosing to fight for the Victor. There is peace on Earth, but only sort of.

Is Nature Necessary?

In her book The Desire Of Ages, Ellen White writes on Jesus’ life as a young boy. As I read through the passages, I noticed two major themes that seem to dominate Jesus’ early education: scripture and nature. As a Christian whose life has been hugely affected by the scriptures, I have absolutely no question about the validity of scripture in a meaningful education. When it comes to nature, however, I’ll admit it has taken me a while to come to an understanding of its importance. Please don’t misunderstand, I love nature! It brings peace and tranquility to my heart to be among God’s beautiful creation. And, it delights my children to splash about in a creek, or hunt bugs in a tree stump. In a world so dominated by technology, however, what could nature possibly have to offer in terms of ingenuity and innovation? Is nature really a necessary component of a relevant education? Science says yes!

According to an article in the British Broadcasting Corporation, researchers at the Sheffield Hallam University are studying the functional properties of Nacre (aka mother of pearl), a material found inside mussels. The article states,
“Along with cat skin and cow udders, it has ‘auxetic’ properties, making it good at absorbing impacts…It could lead to new materials for artificial inter-vertebral discs for the relief of chronic back pain.”
mussels-605917_1920

I found that this is just one of thousands of innovative discoveries credited to the study of nature. These discoveries are not limited to science and technology either. The study of nature elicits fresh perspectives into human nature, relationships, and the character of God.

Ellen White says this about Jesus’ study of nature, “…new ideas of ways and means flashed into His mind as He studied plant life and animal life,” p. 70. That sounds to me like the definition of innovation.

Nature served as a valuable tutor to the Savior of Humanity. What a blessing that we still have access to this incredible, and yes, necessary, resource.

Learning Like Jesus

BarMitzvah

During the time Jesus was growing up, good Jewish boys were educated entirely from the Torah, or the first five books of what we call the Old Testament. They began at age five, and were schooled in religion, history, language, and ethics from these five textbooks, until their education was completed around age 13. At that point a boy’s education would become more specialized for his chosen trade through further study or apprenticeship. Can you imagine nine whole years studying nothing but the Old Testament? I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to read through the Bible from cover to cover and given up somewhere in the midst of Leviticus. However, this past year I had a breakthrough.

A friend of mine was doing a study of Deuteronomy, and I reluctantly decided to join her. Although I was sure it would be as fascinating as watching paint dry, I committed to the process. Do you know, there was not one chapter in Deuteronomy that didn’t speak to me! Every day I would get up and ask the Holy Spirit to guide my study of His Word, thinking in the back of my head that yesterday’s poignant message was a fluke, and that today’s study would likely be less exciting. Yet, God was faithful, and even though my expectations were less than lofty, I came to a really exciting realization. After studying Deuteronomy for the first time in my life at the age of 33, I suddenly saw the gospel in an entirely new light! Now please understand that by itself, the gospel is an epic story of salvation. However I found that the gospel is a part of a much larger story too — a love saga, really, of a God who patiently and meticulously pulls out all the stops to win the heart of His bride, His people.

young-teenage-boy-reading-the-bibleSo, as we begin a new school year of educating our children, may we consider taking a lesson from the Savior Himself, and learn as He did, that we and our children may come to know more of the story in which we are the beloved of God Almighty.

Lessons From Ethiopia

ethiopia

My husband, three children, and I just returned from a two-week mission trip to the village of Shashemane in Ethiopia.

It was my hope that this would be a rich educational experience for my children. I had visions of us having great discussions about culture and geography, and experiencing “aha!” moments of gratitude. The thing is, I’m pretty sure I learned more from them than they did from me on this trip.

  • As I watch my son seamlessly fold into a group of non-English-speaking Ethiopian children for a game of soccer, I learn that the language barrier is not nearly as big as I thought.
  • As 3-year-old Fortu holds tightly to my daughter’s hand and follows her everywhere, I realize that a warm smile and loving touch are needed by children from every continent.
  • As our driver tries to make my youngest son laugh through the bus window, I notice that funny faces and laughter are the same in Ethiopia as they are in the United States.

It was I who experienced an “aha!” moment by witnessing how much we have in common, and how much love can be shared regardless of generational gaps, contrasts in skin tone, language barriers, and cultural idiosyncrasies. It is my hope that these lessons will be remembered deeply. And, even if we forget the capital of Ethiopia, if we will remember that love and friendship are possible wherever we are, it will have been the richest of educational experiences.

Saying “Yes!”

Royalty-free 3d computer generated business clipart picture of a white person holding his arms out with a green check mark and a red x in his hands, symbolizing approval and denial.

While it is a common challenge for courageous homeschooling mamas everywhere to bravely utter that illusive two-lettered word, “NO,” I must confess that it is its counterpart, “YES,” that has been my nemesis. Oh, I can get just as busy and overwhelmed as the next mama, with laundry, and swimming lessons, and making dinner. But, when it comes to saying yes to things that take me out of my comfort zone, you can count me out — things like learning how to lead; or that require commitment, like signing up to teach at church or co-op; or investing in relationships with people like that new mama at church from the Congo who doesn’t speak any English; or taking a risk like putting my thoughts into writing for the whole world to read and, dare I say, judge.

You see, I’m a dreamer. I’m always coming up with big ideas, and then promptly backing out because I don’t want to overdo, or disturb my inner peace and tranquility. But, to be honest, I think I’ve just been scared. Of what? Could be a multitude of things, I suppose. The reason behind my fear isn’t really the important thing here. What I believe is of utmost importance is that when I choose to wholeheartedly say “yes” to God when He offers me a chance to step out in faith, I get to bear witness to miracles!

In Matthew 14:29-31 we read, “‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

At first glance, it seems the miracle is that Peter walked on the water. But, Jesus’ response seems to indicate that was not the ultimate goal. Yes, Peter did walk on water, if only for a few yards, but Jesus isn’t high-fiving him for the awesome stunt they just pulled off. Verses 32-33 go on to say this: “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

Because Peter was willing to step out in faith to obey Jesus’ call, a group of weary fishermen bore witness to the glory and power of God in their midst. That’s what I call a miracle!

So when I face opportunities to say “yes,” I have no reason to fear. God is faithful. He can reach out and catch me if I mess up and start sinking. In fact, none of it, really, is about me anyway. It’s about God’s glory being made known to all heaven and earth, and I definitely want to say “yes” to that. Don’t you?