Creation praising God

Continuing from a previous post I’ve come across another couple of good quotes from Marsden’s biography of Edwards which provide good food for thought and fuel for praise.  The first is Marsden’s reflection:

Edwards believed that he could develop a  unified account of all knowledge, but it could not be discovered by experience and reason alone.  God might speak in all of nature and in all of life, but the only place where one could find  the key to unlock the whole system was in Scripture.  All knowledge must begin there. Scripture was not just a source of information, but the necessary guide to a radical life changing perspective.  As every New England child was taught: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).  The starting point for unravelling the mysteries of the universe must be the shattering revelation of one’s total inadequacy and a recognition of God’s love in Jesus Christ. One who was so changed could then experience how all creation was one harmonious hymn of praise to the glories of the creator and the mercies of Christ.  Without the grace that gave sinful and rebellious people ears to hear, they would never  hear the sublime  Christ-like choruses or see how the particular notes of reality all fit together.

I love that in the Regent library where I studied for 3 years other similar bible verses were written in beautiful calligraphy so that they could not be missed each day as you walked in – a beautiful reminder that all wisdom comes from God, and begins with humble dependance on Him.

The second is an Edwards quote, introduced by Marsden:

Edwards was captivated by the idea that God’s purpose in creating the universe is to bring harmonious communications  among minds, or spiritual beings, and  every detail of physical creation points to that loving reality, epitomized in Christ.  In this enthralling framework he continued his meditation:

“When we are delighted with flowery meadows and gentle breezes of wind, we may consider that we only see the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ; when we behold the fragrant rose and lily, we see his love and purity. So the green trees and fields, and singing of birds, are the emanations of his infinite joy and benignity; the easiness and naturalness of trees and vines [are] shadows of his infinite beauty and loveliness; the crystal rivers and mumuring streams have the footsteps of his sweet grace and beauty… That beauteous light with which the world is filled in a clear day is a lively shadow of his spotless holiness and happiness, and delight in communicating himself.”

I love the ideas here, even if it needs reading a few times to catch the thread.  Essentially Edwards is celebrating the way in which God delights to share his goodness with us in the natural world.  All the good things we have in this life are because God loves to share his life with us.  God is holy and happy – and loves to share his goodness and grace with us.  The world was made, according to Edwards, for God to display his glory.  The reason that isn’t self centred of God is because the way God’s glory is displayed is by him sharing his life and goodness with us, his creatures.  The creation of the world is the overflow of the love that the Triune God has enjoyed for all eternity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God united in love, overflow in love to create a world to share that love with others.  God delights to show that love to us, and  draw us in to him – and the beauty we see all around us is one great reminder of that reality.

 

Death of a car

Yesterday our dead car was taken away on a car transporter.  The engine failed 2 weeks ago, at the start of our journey to London. DSCN0537 The friendly Toyota garage tried to see if anything could be done – but alas, the costs of fixing it would outweigh the value of the car, and our budget does not stretch to a replacement.

It makes me reflect on a car, and on all that driving means and has meant over the years.  At age 17 passing the test was a rite of passage. Over the previous year various friends had taken and passed, and failed, the test and were now driving various different small cars around the Guildford area.  In the youth group I attended (Guildford Crusaders) cars and transport featured higly – I remember 9 of us travelling around in Volvo estate for Friday evenings one  year.  I remember the minibus journeys in the Crus minibus (“Von”, after the registration plate) which had rust holes in the floor, but still rattled along at high speeds – especially downhill…  I remember car journeys on summer camps, being introduced to music – U2, Queen (my sister listened to Queen, but listening to it at Crus in a different car made all the difference!).  As a leader I remember escaping into co-leader’s cars to talk and plan and pray.

Having a March birthday meant I was ideally placed to learn and take the test in the summer – no night driving, no icy roads, very little rain.  Having briefly toyed with the idea of insuring me on my grandmothers old car (a real mini!) but realising how expensive that would be, my parents very kindly put me on their insurance, so I got to drive their Golf around – although since we grew up in wealthy Guildford the automatic assumption of friends at school and church was that I was driving Mum’s car (Dad presumably driving a company BMW or similar) – rather than the family car that it was.

It meant I got a taste of independance, and also the horrible feeling of fear of anything happened to the car (like when I drove half way across Guildford with the handbrake still on, wondering why pulling away was so hard…).  I drove to such exotic and dangerous locations as the Crusader (Christian youth organisation – in Guildford a slightly rowdy group of 11-18 year old “lads”) Hall on a Friday night – enjoying the chance to give lifts back to friends, especially those who lived in far flung villages such as Shalford (googlemap to spot the irony…).  I even got to be a “roadie” (spelling?) to my sister and her drum kit for band practice – a double advantage because it meant that I got to both drive the car and avoided listening to rehearsals of “Paint it Black”…

During my first spell back in Guildford I continued to drive my parents car when I needed it for Crusader purposes – with particularly fond memories of driving their Golf behind my co-leader’s red, rather battered old Polo, which had a bass box filling the entire boot, and which could be heard coming from several miles away (he graduated to a black Escort, and then on to BMW’s with age and income – and the bass speakers have shrunk slightly too).  Another driving memory from leading with that particular co-leader was the need to be careful when he slowed down just before the turning off the A3 for his parents house – for if an unwary friend tried to overtake, he would then speed up and leave the friend stuck on the A3 until the next turning (a good few miles up the road) – thankfully I avoided that fate…    The other vehicle I learnt to drive at this point was the Crusader minibus, and then other hired minibuses – earning something of a reputation somehow for “crashing” buses – I guess on one noteable summer camp I did manage to scrape the side of the bus down a stone bridge and on one journey scrape the roof 3 times on car park entrances…

My first car came with a job at a church in Harold Wood.  I was living in Upminister, only 4 miles away, but impossible to sensibly do by public transport – both locations on a train line to London, but nothing in between, so my parents graciously purchased a “salmon red” (according to the log book, although the untrained eye often said “pink”) Polo.  I owned the car for 6 years, in the period between then and getting married, and I have many good memories of it, and memories of significant times.  Late night drives with U2 blaring out of the radio between Upminster and Cockfosters, and back to Guidford at the end of the year, trips down to Cornwall to prepare summer camp series.  Driving around Guildford on a Friday for Crusaders, giving lifts back at the end of an evening with Stereophonics and other similar music of the era.  Driving then meant independance and ability to travel, and it also meant relationships and conversation.  Lifts in the car were good times for chats – I think for guys especially the car is a great place to talk – perhaps because there is minimal eye contact.

The car was also my main means of transport to work – a place of listening to Radio 4, or pehaps some music, or maybe a sermon series – St Helen’s Bishopsgate lunchtime talks being the perfect length for the 25 minute journey.  And towards the end of my time with the car it was also the way to get from Guildford to Leicester – 8am every other Saturday for a year up the M1 – driving to see Roz.  Then time in the car driving round Leicestershire during a lovely April in 2007.  My final trip in the car was Leicester-St David’s-Guildford, before inheriting my parents superior Polo for the start of married life.

This was the car for our honeymoon, and the car for our holidays of married life together, the first car in which we put a car seat. And then we said goodbye to that car and moved to a carless existance in Vancouver.  For the most part not having a car was fine – public transport was great, we used a car-coop for a few months, and for the most part never needed the car.  Sundays were hard, but we got used to the waits at the bus stop after church, and the limited options for afternoon entertainment (summer buses to the beach helped). I became aware of how good bus trips were for relationships in parenting.  One low point was, while feeling fairly unwell myself, trying to get my son to sleep to help his cold, taking the 33 bus out as far as Ontario Street (so half way across Vancouver), and then walking down to King Edwards Avenue to catch the 25 home.  The consolation, as ever in Vancouver, was the views and interest in analysing the different houses I walked past pushing a sleeping child.  The high points were the airport trips to Vancouver airport’s viewing platform – bus to Oakridge, Sky Train to the airport – hopefully with a front seat for best views as the train emerges from under Vancouver to go over the river – and then possibly, for a full day out, Sky Train back all the way to Downtown Vancouver (with sleeping boy in pram), and on to the library (with a stop at Blenz possibly), before walking across Downtown to catch the 44 bus back up with its spectacular views over the water.

For individual transport a decent bicycle helped no end – especially as going from campus across to Tenth Church’s building it was as quick as the bus – although not so much coming back…  I loved too the bike rides round the Pacific Forest Park and especially the fun of cycling down Marine Drive to Spanish Banks beach and along – back up was always hard work – whether via the slow pain of 4th or 8th, or the steep climb of 11th-15th. Vitally we benefited from others generously sharing their cars – some for a Christmas holiday period, others for evening trips to Superstore (with the soundtrack to Once playing on the car stero, as I geared up for the horror of organisation and customer service of a Vancouver supermarket), others for crisis hospital visits and some just so that we could go to the cinema in comfort.

Coming back to England we had the chance to get a car from friends moving overseas, and for 2 years it served our family well – as a means to go on holiday, for day trips, for shopping, for getting small children to sleep and us chance to talk – it has been great.  Now we say farewell. We are thankful that it died just before car tax was due.  We are thankful that two families at church have offered us use of their cars.  We said to our eldest at the Toyota/Lexus garage while we were waiting to see what could be done that he couldn’t expect to be in a Lexus any time soon – well, we have been offered use of a Lexus!

Personally I find it somewhat frustrating not to have a car – and it is constraining – but also a reminder not to be dependant on treasure here and now for satisfaction.  We lived 3 years without a car – it is possible.  I’m sure we will have a car at some point in the future.  But for now we figure out how to survive without it – grateful for the generosity of friends offering use of theirs and for supermarket online delivery so that at least I won’t have to do Wednesday evening supermarket trips.  Cheltenham buses are not quite as baby friendly as Vancouver ones, and neither is the pricing as good, but the D bus means we can get to Pitville Park, the town centre and the station easily enough, and from Cheltenham station we can get to most places easily enough by train.  The bike will get me into study into town – it is just a shame that a settlement the size of Bishops Cleeve has no decent cycle route into Cheltenham, and no safe footpath for a push chair and children.  In Vancouver we regularly walked to church (1hr 15mins) – but the same distance is just impossible here due to the lack of footpaths.

We have though now found a good park within a pleasant 30 minutes walk, which with the twin buggy/stroller means we can all get there to enjoy a tall slide, fun roundabout and good swings, all with a lovely view of Cleeve Hill.  Bigger trips will take more planning, and shatter the illusion of independance that a car gives.  I think this illusion is what is so good about a car.  Driving a car feels good because it makes me think I am independant and in control.  I go at my pace, and my choice.  Having a family somewhat changes this – now we stop because someone is crying or needs the toilet, but we can still set out when we choose, and take the route of our choice.

Not having a car makes me realise I need other people.  I might need to borrow their car.  I might need to get on a bus or a train driven by someone else, with other passengers.  I see others. I begin to appreciate something of their life.  At least I don’t need to be particularly awake. I might even doze off (if travelling on my own).  I can reappreciate the joys of bus travel with children – their excitement at sitting right at the back, or right at the front at the top of a double decker bus, and accept that I might not get somewhere quite as fast…

Our car may be dead, but life does indeed go on…

 

 

 

 

Rereading

I haven’t posted anything for a while, but I’ve just started re-reading George Marsden’s biography of Jonathan Edwards, and I thought I’d put up one of Marsden’s quotes regarding Edwards, and then one of Marsden on Edwards, so first the Edwards quote (reflecting on his experience  at around the age of 17):

And as I was walking there, and looked up on the sky and the clouds; there came into my mind, a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I knew not how to express… …in a sweet conjunction: majesty and meekness joined together: it was a sweet and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness.

Marsden comments a little later on

In fact, it was only when Jonathan’s vision expanded to appreciate that the triune God who controlled this vast universe must be ineffably good, beautiful and loving beyond human comprehension that he could lose himself in God.

I’m looking forward to re-reading more.  I don’t think it is necessary to agree with every detail of how Edwards understood God’s sovereignty to appreciate his desire to relate everything back to God, and in particular God’s extravagent, overflowing love for his creation that means God is always seeking to share himself with his creatures and draw them into his life. 

Edwards has a God-centredness and God-saturatedness that we need in our day.  God has joined together majesty and meekness, gentleness and majesty, holiness and love.  We must not separate them out to fit our agendas – or anyone elses.  

Stepping into our 2nd year of homeschooling

DSCN1692 We are just over a week away from a new year of learning and discovery. Though to be honest as all of us who have any interaction with children especially young ones, know they are always learning, always questioning, always discovering. Steps in growing up do not stop for the summer.

I am both excited and daunted by the year ahead. How does one actually manage to homeschool a 5 1/2 year old (Bob) and keep a 2 almost 3 year old(Zog) busy and 9 month old(Kanga) cruiser out of trouble? What I do know is that friends have walked this road ahead of us and are still going and there will be great days, disastrous days, mundane days and the unexpected. This year I have gone with a new pattern of study and holidays, spreading the work over the full 12 months with week long breaks every 6 to 7 weeks which gives room for off days, unexpected turns of events and to keep routine throughout the year. It gives room for days like today when Kanga thinks cutting 4 teeth at once would be a good idea (not) and 2 year old hovers on the edge of another bout of tonsillitis (5th in as many months). Bob blossoms in the midst of routine and I also benefit and am calmer for it. It means we can take time out as a family avoiding ‘school breaks’ and so take advantage of many of the great offers places give to homeschooling families during term time. That was a great idea before the car died on us last week on our way to London but thanks to the kindness of friends at church adding us to their insurance I am sure we can still manage to have some great trips out as a family to places.

One of the highlights for the coming year I believe will be our Tuesday homeschool co-op with another couple of families. Two of the families will gather in the mornings (6 children) to do a craft project, for the most part tied into our history curriculum and for which I will be responsible for and music which the other mum will do. Then another family will join us for a nature walk come rain or sun at the park in the center of the town in the afternoons. After this week’s walk I think I need to get myself a fun pair of wellies to match the boys’.  This week as we have not yet got going with history I did this craft inspired by http://theimaginationtree.com/2014/06/bubble-wrap-print-fish-mobile.html to go along with a favourite book Tiddler by Julia Donaldson.

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Bob will be covering maths, history, reading, writing, spelling, grammar, science, art and music and possibly a french class if that works out and I will continue to use some of the great resources from http://confessionsofahomeschooler.com with Zog which he loves. One of the big challenges this year will be keeping the necessary basic steps in reading and spellings fun for Bob who wants to learn learn learn, especially all things History and Volcano related but finds the basic skills hard and inhibiting. It will be a great moment when the reading clicks into place and he can read at the pace he wants to which we cannot keep up with as things like preparing meal and laundry and errands need to take place let alone looking after Zog and Kanga. His writing has come on in leaps and bounds since we started using http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2014/06/kindergarten-bible-verse-handwriting-worksheets.html which he loves. It is amazing how learning and skills take off once you find an outlet for their engagement and thinking. We will carry on with these for the first few weeks before swtiching to the book ‘Writing with Ease’. What has encouraged me most though is that while the sheets have traceable letters it has made a big difference to his free style writing rather than slowing that down.

We are often asked why we homeschool and to be honest there are many reasons that join up to form that answer but in a nutshell it is the right thing in this season for Bob and for us as a family and so we press on in prayer and take each day as it comes. And be ready to adapt for Zog as he is a very different character who is very visual and artistic and sees the world through pictures. Between them both though their imaginations know no bounds. What has been an interesting observation though for me is that while the structure of words and sounds is Bob’s biggest hurdle at the moment he is our ‘wordy’ boy and Zog who is visual and artistic will not hold a pencil correctly and hates if we try and encourage him to hold his marker/paintbrush correctly.

Names given here are names they have given themselves and they use them interchangeably with their real names at home and out and about much to the confusion of other people who thought they knew our children’s names!

Rights of Passage

We have had a right of passage today as our eldest has lost his first wobbly tooth. I loved his reaction when he realised having swallowed it at lunch, ‘Paddington got sixpence under his pillow when he lost a tooth.’ He then delighted in showing me the next wobbly tooth. He has loved wobbling that first tooth all week at me, partly because of the reaction of shivers he gets from me.

As I cradled our youngest tonight as she wrestled the pains of teeth coming in I was struck by how teething and wobbly teeth serve as bookends to a season in our children’s lives. And with the first tooth being lost we are stepping out of the early years into a new season of growing up. And unlike rights of passage that come from outwith ourselves such as new school years, loosing teeth comes from within. It is part and parcel of who he is. It shows his body is growing up and what I have loved to watch today is how he has embraced this step. His mind and body and heart are growing up together. He runs his tongue along the new gap like a badge of honour. He fell asleep beaming as his tongue kept finding the space. He is ready for this next stage of growing and maturing.

This summer he has stepped out from his comfort zone and taken on new challenges and tried doing new things which we have delighted in watching. What I am thankful for though is that with this right of passage his younger brother cannot replicate it straight away. Throughout the summer our younger son has watched his older brother at the park doing new things and with his agility and fearlessness he has stepped out and followed his brother assuming that anything he can do he can also do and to be fair because of his physical confidence; that his older brother does not share; he often has been able to do the same things. At lunch he tried to explain to me that he too had lost a tooth but I had to explain that he had not yet and that he would have to wait a couple of years or so for which I am thankful. Our eldest often congratulated and encouraged his younger brother with his ability to do the same things at the park this summer but my heart longed for him to be free to do something for himself that was a mark of growing up that was not shared with a sibling.

I am excited to step out into this next season with our eldest and see him mature and grow, no longer a little boy but a young boy seeking to make sense of the world and its history.

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Meals for September

We have two weeks of summer left before we dive into a new year of learning and discovery and the everyday. The summer has been filled with a variety of days and a wonderful holiday thanks to the opportunity to house sit for friends in the lovely village of Wylam, Northumbria.

It was also to be filled with visits with cousins and family but the car has driven its final miles and we are now adapting to being a car free family and seeing how that works. We have had a wonderful visit from one of my friends from Dublin days who the boys have adopted as part of our family as ‘grown up Roo’. We have three children now on the move with healthy appetites and bounds of energy from before sunrise to bedtime. And test match commentary has provided the backdrop to our days. And so the blog has not had lots of attention but lots of deep conversations have been had face to face which have been live giving. And we sense God’s presence even if it feels more like unnerving trembles and rumblings rather than tender and gentle nudges.

I have been taking moments here and there to get homeschool material in place, very excited by our reading list for the year ahead and have also got a new monthly meal plan in place to help for the month ahead. Now to be organised and get the online shopping ordered and avoid a last minute rush as we get ready for a new season.

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Sept 2014

meals for July

DSCN1466I have enjoyed discovering some new summery reciepes on this beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and look forward to the meals ahead even if the rain comes some of the time. And while I don’t mention desserts don’t forget to enjoy the delights of summer fruits to round off a good meal in the presence of great company be it a dinner party or a family weekday supper.

July 2014