Monday, January 21, 2019

The Intentional Thrifter: This, that, and Tom Thomson

(The cover painting's actually by F.H. Varley.)

From the archives: Charlotte Mason's "Illegal Moves"

First posted January 2013; edited slightly 

In one of The Apprentice's last homeschooling years (probably grade eight) she read Algebra Unplugged by Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats.  (The Barnes & Noble website says 'This is one of only four algebra books recommended by Encyclopedia Britannica Online.")  This book pictures algebra as a  game with a series of moves, like chess.  You have to choose the right moves that will move you towards winning, and avoid illegal moves.  There are certain things you're just not allowed to do in the game, such as dividing by zero. 

In Chapter Five of Philosophy of Education, Charlotte Mason outlines a set of "illegal moves" that are perpetrated against children's minds, that trespass on their rights of personality.  Some of them are effective, but not morally right.  Some of them just waste time.  All of them, like too much junk food in the diet, crowd out the right motivation to learn--which, according to Charlotte, and it's the point of these chapters--is "knowledge for its own sake."

If all action comes out of the ideas we hold--in other words, our worldview, our philosophy, the principles that we say ground our lives and our approach to education--then what ideas do we have about personality, personhood, and the value and abilities of children?  And then how do we respond to those ideas?  As John Holt said, what do we do Monday?

For Charlotte Mason, it all seems to be about relationships.  Everybody has rights; everybody has duties.  Our duty includes submission to those over us, because we do need a certain amount of authority to make things run. 
If we are in a position of authority and expect obedience from those under us, while still recognizing that this position is not ours because of our personal superiority, then we'll treat those under us, even children, especially children, with the respect due to them as persons.  And, though this may be optimistic thinking on Charlotte's part, that understanding solves certain issues of discipline right there.  In general, children or students or employees who are treated with respect, who aren't put into a position where they have to get away with stuff, where it isn't them against the boss, will spend less time misbehaving and more time on task.

What are some of the illegal moves against students?  The "incidental list" includes management by fear or, the opposite, by encouraging parasitic love for the one in charge; using "suggestion," meaning that the child learns to depend on promptings from outside but is eventually unable to stand alone; using "influence," meaning one strong personality who dominates the child's thinking.

"More pervasive" ways take good and natural desires, those we discussed earlier such as the desire to excel, the desire for approval, even the desire of knowledge, and corrupt and pervert them by putting them in top position.  And again, what's wrong with the desire for knowledge--isn't that exactly what we're aiming at?  Here's what Charlotte says: 
"The desire of knowledge is commonly deprived of its proper function in our schools by the predominance of other springs of action, especially of emulation, the desire of place, and avarice, the desire of wealth, tangible profit.  This divine curiosity is recognised in ordinary life chiefly as a desire to know trivial things...incoherent, scrappy information which serves no purpose, assuredly not the purpose of knowledge whose function is to nourish the mind as food nourishes the body."  
So her answer seems to be...knowledge, misused, is junk food.

Do we believe that children really want to know?  Then, says Charlotte, we will teach from and with that conviction, and the rest will fall into place.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

From the archives: Narration and Wide Open Spaces

Excerpted from a March 2014 post

Narration begins with silence. Silence, like blank pages, or a tree to climb, can be disconcerting.

One of my children was once handed a cassette recorder and sent off  to record some examination answers. In an attempt to cover up the fact that she couldn't remember anything about one particular story, she recorded a few words and then gave us several minutes of feigned static, via some noisy crinkling paper. The cassette recorder had inexplicably developed technical trouble.  And I believed it, for about twenty seconds.

But often it's the adults who don't welcome large spaces, white pages, silences.  There is some risk involved with these things.  Multiple-choice questions give you a defined start, a fixed stop, and, if they're to be computer-answered, you had better not colour outside the little circles.

It's a bit like imagining ourselves flying through the air, or sailing over the sea, or galloping across an open field, vs. staying on the footpath.  Yes, there are lots of places where habit and duty and reason make life easier.  Some things just have to be roads, rails, and structure, and that's a good thing too.  But here we're talking about giving our students' minds room to stretch, play, run, and fly.

Mr. Quimby set his cup down. 'I have a great idea! Let's draw the longest picture in the world.' He opened a drawer and pulled out a roll of shelf paper....Together she and her father unrolled the paper across the kitchen and knelt with a box of crayons between them.
'What shall we draw?' she asked.
'How about the state of Oregon?' he suggested. "That's big enough.'
Ramona's imagination was excited. 'I'll begin with the Interstate Bridge,' she said.
'And I'll tackle Mount Hood,' said her father....
Ramona glanced at her father's picture, and sure enough he had drawn Mount Hood peaked with a hump on the south side exactly the way it looked in real life on the days when the clouds lifted." ~~ Beverly Cleary, Ramona and her Father

Friday, January 18, 2019

Gotta thank somebody (KonMari tidying)

I probably don't need to repeat this, but I'm old. I've been around through a lot of decluttering and organizing fads. I always wished for a magic clean-up wand, but I never connected success with seriously purging my belongings (weren't they all important?), or with not buying more yarn on sale. I grew up without much sense of "stop, that's enough stuff." If someone gave you a present, you were supposed to keep it. When the dolls on your dresser outgrew the dresser,  you didn't stop collecting, you built them a shelf. I had no idea that anyone could have too many books.

But I did try. I moved out on my own with books by Don Aslett and Sandra Felton (and stayed just as Messie), I survived house moves with It's Here...Somewhere and Deniece Schofield, and I watched Peter Walsh do the Clean Sweep.  I attempted Sidetracked Home Executives, but somehow escaped the FlyLady. The old advice to Keep What You Need is about as obvious as Don't Spend Money So You Don't Go Into Debt, but we got better at that than we did at keeping a handle on Stuff. We didn't buy a lot of new Stuff, but we did find a lot of used Stuff, and had a lot of free Stuff given to us, to the point that we had trouble sorting out the Keeper Stuff from the rest (or what one person called Keeper, the rest of us called the rest).
Pop psychology time: Mr. Fixit and I are both firstborns, and both of us were close to our grandparents. We felt a lot of expectation that we would be keepers of the family story. You can figure out the rest. 
Fast forward through our full-on decluttering and downsizing, which brought in more library books, Tiny House videos, and Apartment Therapy posts, plus Project 333, but not much awareness of Marie Kondo or KonMari. (I did post something about it once.) When I went to the Tiny Wardrobe Tour lecture the summer before last, I got there early and sat beside a woman who introduced herself as a professional KonMari organizer. She didn't know much about Project 333, and I didn't know much about KonMari, but our attempt to compare notes got cut short by a loud argument over priority seating. I seemed to be sitting in the middle of the war zone, and I think the KonMari lady blamed me somehow, so I did not learn any more about it that night.

Then Tidying fell into my lap while I was sorting books at the thrift store. Our move to a smaller space had sparked a new kind of Tiny-House-ish deliberateness about what we were keeping and where it should go, so the book helped us get over some storage bumps.

Now, suddenly,  Marie Kondo is on the Lifestyle page of our local paper, not to mention all over Youtube and everybody's media. Folding your clothes is suddenly cool. And the Big Thing that I am picking up from this came from a brief review where, I think, they got the reason for her popularity absolutely right. Even if you don't literally hug your sweater to see if it sparks joy (I don't), KonMari appeals to our emotions, because it is about valuing and thanking. If you arrange your shoes on a rack from lightest to heaviest, top to bottom, you're not saying "look at all the shoes I have" but "I am taking the time to appreciate how each pair fits into my life and into my space." If you're a bit animistic, you add "And I want the shoes to know that." If you're a Christian, you use that boring term stewardship, which means, essentially, that you're Jeeves cheerfully polishing Wooster's silverware. Stewardship is just taking care. Guardianship, sort of. You get the privilege of living with and caring for the shoes, but you know Who really owns them. When they're dirty, you clean them. When they wear out, you get them fixed.

And here's the rub: you can't do that with as much stuff as North Americans typically live with. Lots, in this sense, is not better than a few. Or one. We are finite beings, with limited time and attention spans. But, as Charlotte Mason says, we can develop habits of attention. We can invest time into knowing where pieces in our collection came from, hearing their stories. We can value loyalty. We can be thankful. We just can't do it so well with an overload of stuff.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Intentional Thrifter: When clouds are green

I like this painting of clouds in Algonquin Park. It was painted by Tom Thomson over a hundred years ago, but it reminds me of the view from our city balcony  (well, not today when it's all foggy and snowing). I guess clouds are clouds!
Thomson used an unusual variety of colours in his clouds and skies, and the land and water below: purples, pinks, even greens. You can see greens as well in this one:
 Northern Lake, Winter 1912–13. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

I recently found a linen shirtjacket in a dusty sage green that reminds me of Thomson's paintings.
I know you don't wear linen so much in the winter, but I'm thinking spring.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

A year of KonMari tidying here

Marie Kondo seems to be getting more popular than ever--she now has a show on Netflix (which I can't watch because we just unsubscribed). The word most often applied to her personally is "cute," but she also has her firm side. In one You-tube video, the owner of a messy pantry shows her a package of spoon-shaped cookies, drawing appreciative coos from Kondo but followed quickly by a pointing out of their months-old expiry date. Cute cookies aren't worth much if you don't eat them.

In 2017, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and described some of my early experiments on the blog. Someone commented (kindly) that it would be interesting to know how long I'd stick with it.

Well, it's been a year-plus since I made my first t-shirt stand up straight, so I guess that's long enough now to call a habit. The food in our storage room has remained organized (and the wrapping paper I used on the bins has held up pretty well). The bathroom has stayed uncluttered. We had already gone through a lot of decluttering, during our downsize to the apartment. I had also done quite a lot of putting things into containers, and containers within containers, before I read Tidying Up. 

What I think KonMari added to our vision for a newer, cleaner space here was a sense of aesthetic pleasure, an extra bit of harmony. One of the odd bits I picked up from Kondo's books was the idea that containers and boxes with clashing labels and random printing may contribute to a sense of info-overload. They can feel like commercials that never get turned off. Solutions to garish containers include peeling off a label, painting or covering the box (as I did with the very miscellaneous pantry bins), or emptying the contents into a jar or something else neutral. If it's a shoebox or something to be repurposed as a drawer organizer, then the outside printing doesn't matter. But if the storage container is going on a shelf, you might want to pretty it up a bit. That doesn't mean crocheted cozies for the toilet paper, but just keeping in mind how what we look at every day can boost moods (or bring them down). If we have to look at words in our homes, let's make them important and beautiful words.

I appreciate Kondo's encouragement to use whatever you have instead of buying new (often plastic) storage goods. One thing she does like are the sets of large plastic drawers for closets, partly because they keep storage behind closed doors. I don't have any, but I've compromised by treating a couple of under-bed baskets as if they were drawers. (We don't get as many dust-bunnies here as we did at our old house, so under-bed storage is workable.)

Another KonMari idea that I found useful was sorting by categories, especially with seemingly miscellaneous stuff. Not that we hadn't already done a lot of that, but I appreciated her emphasis on its usefulness. It helps us know not only where things are in the apartment, but also when we need to re-stock.

Finally, Kondo's knack for turning even an underwear drawer into a sort of Bento box array should lead not to obsession with one's undies, but to appreciation and gratitude for what we have. This is something we can share with and model for children. Look--we have socks! They're nice colours! They're clean! They're (mostly) hole-free! Let's take care of them! Even small things arranged carefully can make our days brighter, and that echoes Edith Schaeffer's thoughts on tabletop flowers, sandwich plates for hobos, and writing little notes to cheer people up.

I still don't talk to my shoes. But I'm glad for the help KonMari has given us.
"Yet it was chiefly her body that was tired now; her mind, which had been so weary and fretted in London, had been wonderfully rested by this house that was now her home....[Nadine] stretched out a hand and laid it upon the paneled wall beside her; it was warm in the sun, as though it were alive....This house was maison-dieu [a house of God], and the stripping away of all that was unworthy and the building up of new beauty was in the nature of a crusade.  And the house had agreed and collaborated."  ~~ Elizabeth Goudge, The Herb of Grace (Pilgrim's Inn)

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Project 333, Winter 2019: A Quieter Space

In a recent article for Simplify Magazine, Myquillyn Smith described a New Year's ritual at her house. She chooses a room to "quieten,"  and removes everything but the basic furniture. (If you've ever read Myquillyn Smith's home books, you know that her decorating style is not bare-minimalist, so this is an undertaking.) For a short period of time, that space is allowed to just "be," giving it a fresh start. Stripped to essentials, does it feel bigger? Lighter? Is it easier to think in a clean space? The accessories and art are re-introduced gradually and carefully, with appreciation but also with deliberateness.

Courtney Carver's Project 333 could be called quieting the wardrobe. When you empty a closet, what goes back in? 
Scarves aren't essential (or quiet), but they're nice!

Do two pairs of pants and one skirt make us feel unburdened, or too limited? How many shirts or sweaters do we need until the next load of laundry? Do some of them suddenly feel like excess? Which things are fine in themselves, but don't work well with others, don't fit our current lifestyle, or (we finally admit) don't look wonderful on us? Pared down to the essentials, what shines through? 

I thought about all of this. I realize I could get along with fewer clothes, but: 

1. It's winter. I need enough clothes to stay warm.
2. I like most of what I'm wearing, and wear most of what I have. 
3. So a good general clean-out seemed like enough this time, rather than trying to pick this over that. I do have a bag of no-that-didn't-work things headed for the thrift store.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Joining the "Christian Greats Challenge" (Mama Squirrel's Reading List for 2019)

Carol at the blog Journey and Destination has set up a reading challenge for 2019, and several of my planned books fall into the categories she suggests. So I'm going to begin my new reading list with the challenge books, and then add the rest afterwards. 

1)  A Book on Early Church History (up to about 500 A.D) or a book written by a key figure who lived during that time, or a biography about that person. 

Part III: Christian Testament Since the Bible (re-reading)

2)  A Book About a Prominent Christian Who Was Born Between 500 A.D & 1900 

(See #1)

3)  A Christian Allegory

The Inferno

4)  A Book on Apologetics 

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (in progress)

Willard, Dallas

5)  A Philosophical Book by a Christian Author

Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis

6)   A Missionary Biography or A Biography of a Prominent Christian who lived [was born?] any time between 1500 A.D to 1950 A.D

Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

7)  A Seasonal Book

The Faces of Jesus: A Life Story

8)  A Novel with a Christian Theme


Robinson, Marilynne

Notes from Underground


9) A Good Old Detective or Mystery Novel


10)  A Substitute - choose a book in place of one of the above categories:

40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life: Living the 4:8 Principle (in progress)
Karon, Jan

Friends for the Journey
Shaw, Luci, and Madeleine L'Engle

Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith
Shaw, Luci

Praying Twice: The Music and Words of Congregational Song

Wren, Brian

Other Books to Read This Year

A note: My biggest mistake in planning is usually that I list books I don't own, or can't easily borrow. This year I'm sticking mostly to what's already on the shelf.

Tales from Ovid: 24 Passages from the Metamorphoses
Ovid, Ted Hughes (translator)

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Thien, Madeleine

The Book Thief
Zusak, Markus

The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets who Teach
Behn, Robin

How to Read a Poem
Phillips, Christopher

Pooh and the Philosophers: In Which It Is Shown That All of Western Philosophy Is Merely a Preamble to Winnie-the-Pooh
Williams, John Tyerman

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

Raelin, Joseph A.

Tools for Teaching
Davis, Barbara Gross

On Education (in progress)
Frye, Northrop
The Well-Crafted Argument: Across the Curriculum
White, Fred D.

Linked from the Challenge post at Journey and Destination.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Mama Squirrel's 2018 Reading List: What's done, what's not (Updated)

This felt like a good year for reading, although when I see the list written out, it doesn't look like so much. Only eight novels? Well, there were some others, but they were re-reads (listed separately). Three poetry books? I resolve to do better in 2019.

There are quite a few adult education textbooks included, because that's what I spent a lot of time this year reading.

Best Books I Read in 2018

Funniest fictionTo Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel, #2)
Connie Willis

Scariest fiction: The Thanatos Syndrome
Walker Percy

Most needed in today's world:  The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time
David L. Ulin

Most useful: Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done
Josh Davis

Runner-up for most useful: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Jeff Sutherland

A book Christians should read: A Mind for God
James Emery White

Runner-up for a book Christians should read: Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish
C. Christopher Smith

Most interesting devotional book: 40 days to a Joy-Filled Life
Tommy Newberry

Favourite simplicity book (and I read quite a few this year): Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff
Dana K. White

Runner-up for favourite simplicity book: Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism
Fumio Sasaki

Books completed in 2018, including re-reads

Disclaimer: just because I read it doesn't mean I recommend it!

Novels and plays

The Archivist

Martha Cooley

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee


Marilynne Robinson

To Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel, #2)
Connie Willis

The Thanatos Syndrome

Walker Percy

Leota's Garden

Francine Rivers

Clock Dance

Anne Tyler

The Cocktail Party
T.S. Eliot

Farewell, Four Waters: One Aid Worker's Sudden Escape from Afghanistan. A Novel Based on True Events
Kate McCord


This Great Unknowing: Last Poems
Denise Levertov
This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems 1979 - 2012
This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems 1979 - 2012
Wendell Berry

Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year
Malcolm Guite

Art books

Gathie Falk
Robin Laurence

The Tangled Garden: The Art of J. E. H. MacDonald

Paul Duval

Woldemar Neufeld's Canada: A Mennonite Artist in the Canadian Landscape 1925-1995 (re-read)

Laurence Neufeld

Faith and worldview

Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish

C. Christopher Smith

When Helping Hurts
Steve Corbett

Unpoverty: Rich Lessons from the Working Poor
Mark Lutz

A Mind for God

James Emery White

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
Rod Dreher

An Other Kingdom
Peter Block et al.

Getting Love Right (short paper)
Dallas Willard

Getting Stuff Done

Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done
Josh Davis

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Jeff Sutherland

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Kerry Patterson

Make Peace With Anyone: Breakthrough Strategies to Quickly End Any Conflict, Feud, or Estrangement
David J. Lieberman

How to be creative: Rediscover your creativity and live the life you truly want

Liz Dean

Homekeeping and simplicity books

Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life
Peter Walsh

Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff

Dana K. White

Year of No Clutter
Eve O. Schaub

Mini-missions for Simplicity: small actions for massive change

Courtney Carver

Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More

Courtney Carver

A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough

Wayne Muller

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story
Marie Kondo

Love the House You're In: 40 Ways to Improve Your Home and Change Your Life
Paige Rien

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

Myquillyn Smith

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism
Fumio Sasaki

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
Cait Flanders

Clothes and style books

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
Elizabeth L. Cline

The Curated Wardrobe: A Stylist’s Secrets to Going Beyond the Basic Capsule Wardrobe to Effortless Personal Style

Rachel Nachmias

The Face of The Business: Develop Your Signature Style, Step Out from Behind the Curtain and Catapult Your Business on Video

Rachel Nachmias

The Color of Style
David Zyla

The Pocket Stylist
Kendall Farr

The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men
Janie Bryant

Education, Charlotte Mason and Otherwise

Ourselves Book II (re-read)
Charlotte Mason

A Touch of the Infinite

Megan Elizabeth Hoyt

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration

Karen Glass

Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination

Vigen Guroian

The Purposes of Adult Education: An Introduction
Bruce Spencer

Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty

Elizabeth F. Barkley

Planning Instruction for Adult Learners

Patricia Cranton

Educating for a Change
Rick Arnold et al.

Designing Effective Instruction, 7th Edition

Gary R. Morrison et al.

Facilitating with Ease!: Core Skills for Facilitators, Team Leaders and Members, Managers, Consultants, and Trainers

Ingrid Bens

The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom

Stephen D. Brookfield

Methods that Matter

Harvey Daniels & Marilyn Bizar

The Art Of Facilitation
Dale Hunter

Learning Group Leadership: An Experiential Approach
Jeffrey A. Kottler

How To Teach Adults
William A. Draves

Reading and writing books

Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction

Jon Franklin

The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time
David L. Ulin

How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing

Paul J. Silvia

Style: Toward Clarity and Grace

Joseph M. Williams

Sin Boldly!: Dr. Dave's Guide To Writing The College Paper
David R. Williams

Deep Writing

Eric Maisel

Miscellaneous books

Gift Wrapping with Textiles: Stylish Ideas from Japan
Chizuko Morita

How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip
Hitha Palepu

Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type
Isobel Briggs Myers

The Twelve Teas of Christmas
Emilie Barnes

The Greatest Gift
Ann Voskamp

Hallelujah: A Journey Through Advent with Handel's Messiah
Cindy Rollins

Favourite and nostalgic re-reads

A Light in the Window
Jan Karon

These High, Green Hills

Jan Karon

Out to Canaan

Jan Karon

To Be Where You Are

Jan Karon

The Wisdom of Narnia
C.S. Lewis

The Last Battle

C.S. Lewis

Leaf by Niggle
J.R.R. Tolkien

Not Under the Law

Grace Livingston Hill

Sleeping Murder (Miss Marple #13)

Agatha Christie

Miss Pinkerton

Mary Roberts Rinehart

Jerusalem Inn (Richard Jury, #5)
Martha Grimes

The Man With a Load of Mischief (Richard Jury, #1)
Martha Grimes

Clothe Your Spirit: Dressing for Self-Expression
Jennifer Robin

I Haven't a Thing to Wear!

Judith Keith

Books I'm trying to finish by the end of 2018

The Invention of Clouds
Richard Hamblyn

Power through Prayer

E.M. Bounds

12 Rules for Living

Jordan Peterson

Books I've started that will stretch through the new year

The Divine Conspiracy

Dallas Willard

Keep it Real

Lee Gutkind (ed.)

40 days to a Joy-Filled Life

Tommy Newberry

On Education
Northrop Frye

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas C.M. Countdown, Day 24 (Last One!)

The final three chapters of Ourselves Book II are titled Thanksgiving, Praise, and Faith in God. They carry one overall message: that we may consider ourselves to be smallandunimportantselves, without great talents or special knowledge; but as human beings, Personsouls, we share both the opportunity and the duty to know, love, and serve our heavenly Father.
"There are poets to whom it is given to utter some vital word, painters who present us with 'The Light of the World,' or, like the Russian painter, Ivan Kramskoi, with a vision of Christ seated in the wilderness. Such as these praise God, we know, but they are few and far between. Christ in the Wilderness, 1872 - Ivan Kramskoy
"So, too, do honest, simple souls who bear affliction willingly, or who live their appointed lives with the sense that they are appointed. All of these ways of giving praise we recognise and bow before; but the duty would seem to pass us by as incompetent persons. We are not angels, we carry no harps. But the duty of praise is not for occasional or rare seasons; it waits at our doors every day"  (pp. 194-195).
"We know no more about the Creation than we do about the Incarnation, no more about the forgiveness of sins than about the resurrection of the body. All is mystery, being what the heart of man could not conceive of unless it had been revealed...Where we err is in supposing that mystery is confined to our religion, that everything else is obvious and open to our understanding. Whereas the great things of life, birth, death, hope, love, patriotism, why a leaf is green, and why a bird is clothed in feathers––all such things as these are mysteries; and it is only as we can receive that which we cannot understand, and can discern the truth of that which we cannot prove, and can distinguish between a luminous mystery and a bewildering superstition, that we are able to live the full life for which we were made" (pp. 200-201).
* * * * * * * * *   * * * * * * * * *   * * * * * * * * *
Thank you for sharing this journey! Wishing you all a very happy Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas C.M. Countdown, Day 23

(Book studied: Ourselves Book II, Part III)

Chapters III, "The Knowledge of God," and IV, "Prayer," are full of Christmas gifts for us to unwrap.

"A little plant of moss, the bareness of a tree in winter, may, as we have seen, awake us to the knowledge; or, dealings of strange intimacy with our own hearts, visitings of repentance and love, sweet answers to poor and selfish prayers, tokens of friendship that we can never tell, but most surely perceive, are all steps in this chief knowledge." (p. 184)
Are we longing to know God better, but we think the Bible is too hard to read, or we've been told it's full of errors? "But, as the friend listens to the voice, pores over the written word of his friend, so the lover of God searches the Bible for the fuller knowledge he craves...he believes that in these is to be found, and nowhere but in these, a revealed knowledge of God...a revelation of God which satisfies and directs every aspiration of the Soul of man." (pp. 184-186, italics hers). All for us: the gift of the Word.
"We cry in fear, and hope is spoken to us; in penitence, and we breathe peace; in sympathy, and we expand in love. These are the answers of our 'Almighty Lover' to the dull, uncertain movements of our poor hearts." (p. 188)
Do we need to know that we are heard and understood? God responds to both "felt prayers" and habitual, disciplined meditation and petitioning. All for us:  the gift of prayer.
"But the seeking must be of single purpose; we must not be bent upon finding what we take for dross, whether in the Bible, in the ordering of the world, or in that of our own lives. Our search must be for the grains of gold, and, as we amass these, we shall live and walk in the continual intimacy of the divine Love, the constant worship of the divine Beauty, in the liberty of those whom the Truth makes free." (p. 187)
Are we lonely because most people are "too far off" for us, and connecting is difficult for whatever reason? We are offered true intimacy with one who will not desert us. "'This is eternal life,' said our Lord, 'to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent'; and this knowledge, this exalted intimacy, is open to us all, on one condition only––if we choose" (p. 183)All for us: the gift of a restored relationship with God. As one of our little children put it: "God and sinners recon-smiled."

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas C.M. Countdown, Day 22

"How is the Soul of a man to be satisfied? Crowned kings have thrown up dominion because they want that which is greater than kingdoms...There is no satisfaction for the Soul of a man, save one, because the things about him are finite, measurable, incomplete; and his reach is beyond his grasp; he has an urgent, incessant, irrepressible need of the infinite." (Ourselves Book II, p. 175)
Charlotte Mason asks a hard question for "religious" people: when we say that that empty space inside us cannot be satisfied outside of relationship with God, are we referring only to a one-time prayer of salvation? Or do we have more to give, and more to gain? She obviously believes so:
"We have within us an infinite capacity for love, loyalty, and service; but we are deterred, checked on every hand, by limitations in the objects of our love and service. It is only to our God that we can give the whole, and only from Him can we get the love we exact; a love which is like the air, an element to live in, out of which we gasp and perish." (p. 176)
Mason offers a few thoughts on coming to faith, and warnings for complacent Christians. (We might say this is her version of the Parable of the Sower.) She previously told us to be "alert," and now she warns us not to be "inert." Spiritual sluggishness can happen to any soul. She also warns against "such preoccupation of Mind or Heart as leaves no room for the dominating and engrossing thought of God" (pp. 178-179). Do we need God? Do we want God? Is there room for Him in our hearts?
 "Let us hold fast our loyalty, knowing that this, of making with our Will deliberate choice of God, is the only offering we can make Him; knowing, too, for our comfort, that involuntary aversion is not sin, and only gives us occasion for choice; but, when we choose to turn away, our sin does not put us without the limits of mercy, but it is immeasurably great" (p. 181).
The third danger to the soul is aversionWe are fallen human beings. We struggle with a desire for sin that pushes us away from all that is good (Romans 7:15-17). But celebrate with this thought: God gave us free will.