Picking Living Books

Dear Reader,

My method for homeschooling history is to get a stack of books on our topic — usually whatever comes next chronologically — from the library, to skim them, and to pick one or two for each child to read (as well as possibly some read-alouds). If there is a lot in our library system, one trick I use is to sort the results by publication date, from oldest to newest, and to request the older ones first.

Next up for us is a brief detour from our study of American history to touch on Victorian England. I need to get more books still, but I have a few here sitting on my counter so I thought I would share a paragraph from each to show how I pick a living book.

“One Friday in August, late in the morning, Susan Shaw came into my life again, more than a year and a half after she had vanished from Ward Street and the twentieth century.” (All in Good Time by Edward Ormondroyd)

“Almost one hundred years after her birth in 1819, ad novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie slyly points out, Queen Victoria’s image might have called to mind pocket change rather than pomp and glory, and the place of her birth was merely an architectural backdrop to promenade and play. From this perspective, the old queen signifies little to Edwardian children. In Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, the narrator compresses the widely known facts and fancies of Victoria’s life at Kensington Palace from birth to accession — her solitude, love of dolls, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s audience with the newly made queen, and her public coronation — into a child’s version of Victoria’s life-story: ‘She was the most celebrated baby of the Gardens . . .'” (Becoming Victoria by Lynne Vallone)

“‘I will not learn my lessons!’ Princess Victoria stamped her tiny foot. ‘I want to sing and dance and playa s other children do. If my father were alive. he would not make me spend all of my time in the schoolroom!'” (Queen Victoria: English Empress by Sally Glendinning)

So which of these three would you pick? I find the first and third most engaging. Their first paragraphs make me want to know more. The first, if it isn’t obvious, takes a modern child and, by some stratagem, I don’t know what yet, has them travel back to Victorian times. I find this plot device a bit overdone and it tends to make me skeptical of the book as a whole. Nonetheless, the story still sounds intriguing and I want to read more.

The third strikes me as not being overly well-written, but, on the other hand, it also makes me want to continue reading. And in the first few sentences it has given me a taste for Victoria’s personality and a fact about her: her father is dead.

I couldn’t even bring myself to type out the whole first paragraph of the second book. I was bored reading it and I was bored typing it. It’s not that it’s completely dry, it is trying to be interesting. But it is also slipping in too many facts in too small a space without really giving me an interest in the subject. It does make me want to find and read Barrie’s book though :)

An key point here, I think, is that while there are some guidelines for living books, there are no hard and fast rules. One book may be living for me and not for you or vice-versa. This is important to keep in mind as we pick books for our children especially — just because I like a book doesn’t mean it will be a good fit for my child. On the other hand, we do want to gradually challenge out children’s reading and understanding skills so  one needs to use discernment and not let them off immediately if they squawk about a particular book.

As for me, I am back to the library because I have only two books I like so far and 4 children.

Nebby

The Catholic Church on Indulgences

Dear Reader,

Indulgences. The word sounds so old-fashioned, doesn’t it? As I have been studying up on various aspects of Roman Catholic doctrine, I have also reread their position on indulgences. As every article on the subject says — you may not realize that the Roman Catholic Church still believes in them. (I did in fact know this so I count myself ahead of the game.)

While in my other recent posts relating to Catholicism my aim has been to inform other naïve Protestants like myself (I’m actually an ex-Catholic myself and I think a relatively well-informed one but I still find there is much I didn’t know and was never taught), this time I think I would like to talk to the Catholics. The articles I have read on indulgences from Catholic sources are along the lines of “This is how you misunderstand indulgences; this is what they really are and why they are not so weird and bad.” To the authors of those articles I would like to say in return: “This is why you are not convincing me as a Protestant; these are the real issues I have with your position.”

Indulgences in the Catholic Church Today

Let’s start then with what indulgences are and how they are used in today’s Roman Catholic Church. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

“What is an indulgence? ‘An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.’ ‘An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.’ The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1471)

Before I get into this, let me clarify for my Protestant friends that, unlike in Luther’s day, the Catholic Church does not sell indulgences. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) banned the misuse and selling of indulgences. For perspective, Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in 1517. Trent happened a mere 40 years later; that’s a pretty quick turn-around in church terms. So I am not going to spend time talking about what was; I’d like to focus just on modern day teaching on indulgences.

Returning to the above quote, I’d like to pull out and discuss a few phrases:

  • “the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven”
  • “the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints”
  • “. . . or apply them to the dead”

For each of these, I’ll give you first the Catholic Church’s elucidation and then turn to my own questions and critiques.

Temporal Punishment

A large part of the Catholic defense of indulgences is spent explaining that in obtaining an indulgence one is not working for or buying forgiveness for sins. Indulgences are about the temporal punishment of sin, not about guilt and forgiveness. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

“The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the ‘old man’ and to put on the ‘new man.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1473)

Canon Law Made Easy seeks to explain this:

“To begin with, receiving an indulgence is not the same as being granted forgiveness. We Catholics know that God forgives our sins when we humbly confess them in the sacrament of Penance and receive absolution from the priest, who acts in God’s place . . .

. . . Rather, indulgences concern the temporal punishment which must be paid, even after a sin has been forgiven. A simple example might serve to clarify the distinction.

Let’s say that Jeff is a bored 12-year-old boy sitting idly on the curb, throwing stones he’s picking up along the side of the road . . . Suddenly there’s a crash — and he realizes he just broke the neighbor’s window!” (“What are the Church’s Current Rules on Indulgences?” from Canon Law Made Easy.com)

The article goes on to point out that even if and when the neighbor forgives the boy, there is still the window to be dealt with and paid for. The boy “is morally obliged to make restitution.”

On the surface this seems like a reasonable thing to say. We Protestants too believe that sins have consequences and that it is often not enough to merely say “sorry.” Boys who break windows should pay for them. The Old Testament likewise tells us that those who steal must restore what they have taken with interest.

The problem I have is that this is a false example. The broken window that needs paid for is not really the sort of temporal punishment that indulgences deal with. The article this example was taken from is about an indulgence received by listening to or watching a papal blessing. So what if in our example the boy had participated in such a blessing, could he then not pay for the window? Could the indulgence he earned by applied to the window situation? Of course not. The neighbor still needs the window fixed; the effect of the sin would still remain in the form of the broken window.

The problem is that the broken window is not really a temporal punishment. It is a natural consequence; it is the effect of sin, but it is not punishment. What the argument above shows is that there are effects of sin which last beyond the point at which forgiveness has been given. But I don’t think even its writer would really think that receiving an indulgence gets the boy out of paying for the window.

Though this is the sort of example Catholics like to cite, the truth is that they seem to be talking about something quite different than the broken window situation, which is a natural and physical consequence of a sin, when they speak of “temporal punishments.”

If an indulgence can’t fix  a broken window, that sorts of “temporal punishments” are really in view? In my reading I have not found one clear answer to this question. Here are some of the answers given — first from two official documents of the Church:

“On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin. These two punishments [temporal and eternal] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1472)

“It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God’s sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or ‘purifying’ punishments . . .

. . . Every sin in fact causes a perturbation in the universal order established by God in His ineffable wisdom and infinite charity, and the destruction of immense values with respect to the sinner himself and to the human community . . . ” (“Indulgentiarum Doctrina” 2-3; This document is an Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s as a part of Vatican II.)

And from two online Catholic apologists:

“When we are sorry for our sins and have received absolution for them, they are forgiven — but we still owe God a sort of “debt” that needs to be paid either here on earth, through prayer and penance, or after death in Purgatory.” (“What are the Church’s Current Rules on Indulgences?” from Canon Law Made Easy.com)

“While our sins are truly and fully forgiven in the sacrament of penance, our souls can still suffer the spiritual damage caused by our offenses.” (“A Primer on Indulgences” from Aleteia.org)

It is unclear to me from these just how Catholics themselves view the “temporal punishments.” Are they a debt we owe to God? Are they a sort of spiritual injury to ourselves? Are they wider ranging as the Vatican II document implies? I don’t even really know what to make of the Catechism‘s “an unhealthy attachment to creatures.” I assume it is more about sin’s attachment to us human creatures than about our becoming attached to creatures, but I can’t get much further than that with it.

So, my Catholic friends, my question for you is just what “temporal punishment” there is to deal with. From my Protestant perspective, there are three effects of sin:

  • The guilt I incur when I sin which is removed when I receive forgiveness. From the above quotes, Catholics also believe in such guilt and believe that it is removed when forgiveness it sought and given.
  • The natural consequences of sin. These would include things such as the boy’s broken window, losing one’s job, losing the trust of one’s friends and family, etc. Again, we both acknowledge that such consequences exist, but I don’t think they are what you have in view when you speak of indulgences.
  • The pervasive effects of sin on Creation. “Indulgentiarum Doctrina” speaks of “perturbation in the universal order.” These effects are not personal in that we usually cannot connect them to specific sins (beyond Adam’s first sin in the Garden). Creation itself is fallen as we are told in Romans 8:20-22: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:20-22; ESV). Practically speaking we see this is natural disasters, the difficulty with which men till the earth, disease and illness, etc. So too human nature is fallen. I don’t believe Catholics and Protestants, though we both use the term Original Sin, mean the same thing by it (that’s another upcoming post), but we do both believe that humans are born with sinful  natures even before they have had to opportunity to commit sinful acts. But none of these are tied to specific sins we have committed. So despite the wording of the Apostolic Constitution cited above, I don’t see how these can be the “temporal punishments.” 

Which brings me back to my intial question: what are the “temporal punishments” which indulgences remove? Do they fit into one of the above categories? Or is there another category still?

The Treasury of Satisfactions

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of “the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints” which the Church opens to the faithful. I picture a giant treasure chest of extra righteousness just waiting to be assigned to deserving individuals. Indeed the Catechism tells us that “the ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1476).

My first reaction to this is that it is simply not necessary. It is not that I doubt the abundance of Christ’s merits or their infinite value, but that the necessity of such a treasury implies that Christ’s initial salvation of us is not sufficient. There is a fundamental difference here in how we view sin and salvation. In the Protestant view, our sins have been paid for once and for all by Christ; there are no remaining temporal punishments, and so there is no need for such a treasury.

Beyond this there is that little phrase “…and the saints.” For it is not just Christ’s merits which fill the treasury but also those of other Christians. There is a truth at the bottom of this that the Church is the body of Christ and that its parts work together. But I think that the Catholic Church takes it too far in saying that the spiritual merits of one can thus be applied to another. The Catechism says that:

“In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1475)

and:

“‘This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1477)

And from the Indulgentiarum Doctrina:

“Following in the footsteps of Christ, the Christian faithful have always endeavored to help one another on the path leading to the heavenly Father through prayer, the exchange of spiritual goods and penitential expiation. The more they have been immersed in the fervor of charity, the more they have imitated Christ in his sufferings, carrying their crosses in expiation for their own sins and those of others, certain that they could help their brothers to obtain salvation from God the Father of mercies.” (Indulgentiarum Doctrina 5)

“A Primer on Indulgences” explains that

“Yet there are some saints who, through their lives of heroic patience and charity, have already done more than enough to ready their own souls for heaven. Because of this, the Church effectively has a surplus of goodness, which is referred to as the ‘treasury of the Church’ (cf. CCC 1467). Given the Church’s doctrine on the communion of saints (the Church’s teaching that all Christians share a deep spiritual bond with each other), it is possible for one Christian’s overabundant merit to be applied to the spiritual healing of another soul still in need of purification.” (“A Primer on Indulgences” from Aleteia.org)

The idea that some could “help their brothers to obtain salvation” goes too far for most Protestants. Again it implies the insufficiency of Christ’s own work. It also overrates human abilities. The Protestant view is that we do not contribute to our own salvation in any way; how then can we contribute to the salvation of others? Of course, God does answer our prayers for our others and He uses us in their salvation in that we show them His love and tell them about Him, but it is a far cry from that to saying that our extra merits can be applied to their account. Again, this gets to the nature of sin and salvation. In the Protestant conception, the debt we owe is paid in full when we are saved — both past and future sins have been paid for fully by Christ. Since the debt is paid in full, there is no lingering “temporal punishment” in the sense discussed above. Nor do we contribute in any way to the payment; it is Christ who pays all. Because there is no debt to pay, there is no need for a “treasury” of merits to be dispensed. The whole idea of an accounting system in which debts are tallied and paid off gradually is foreign to Protestant thinking. Love, after all, does not keep a record of wrongs (I Corinthians 13), nor, I think, does it keep a record of rights in this way.

. . . Applying them to the dead

There is one more point to discuss and that is the application of indulgences to those who have already passed. This conception is not possible without the idea of Purgatory. Indeed, the concept of indulgences seems closely linked with that of Purgatory. Indulgentiarum Doctrina states that:

“That punishment or the vestiges of sin may remain to be expiated or cleansed and that they in fact frequently do even after the remission of guilt is clearly demonstrated by the doctrine on purgatory. In purgatory, in fact, the souls of those ‘who died in the charity of God and truly repentant, but before satisfying with worthy fruits of penance for sins committed and for omissions are cleansed after death with purgatorial punishments.'” (Indulgentiarum Doctrina 3)

If there were no lingering temporal punishments, there would be no need for Purgatory. If there were no Purgatory, there could be no punishment for believers beyond death. And in the Protestant conception, there is neither. As Christ told the thief beside him on the cross, “‘Today you will be with me in Paradise'” (Luke 23:43).

I am not sure which came first, Purgatory or indulgences. It seems that the one implies the other and vice-versa. The doctrine of Purgatory itself seems to rely heavily on the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees which is not in the Protestant Old Testament so it doesn’t tend to be very easy to convince Protestants of.

Summary

To my Catholic friends– the basis of our disagreement on indulgences is really a more profound disagreement on the nature of sin and salvation. I have only scratched the surface of these issues here. I hope to do another post soon on Original Sin which will add a little more to the discussion.

If you wish to convince Protestants of the need for or value of indulgences, you need to show above all that there is a temporal punishment which needs remitted. And it is very important to be clear on the nature of this punishment. It is not merely a broken window. I find the Catholic sources themselves a little vague on this so I think it needs a lot more clarity not to mention biblical support (we Protestants gobble up that sort of thing). That is the most important issue, but I am also not convinced that there is a treasury of merits to which people other than Christ are able to contribute. And lastly, we cannot separate the doctrine of indulgences from that of Purgatory so the latter needs some explanation as well, preferably one that does not rest on 2 Maccabees as that is unlikely to convince us.

Nebby

 

Recipe: Stromboli, Gluten-Free and Low Carb

Dear Reader

This is a variation on my calzone recipe. Basically a stromboli is a rolled calzone. And that’s what this is — my calzone dough rolled out, topped, rolled up, and baked. Cut it into slices and you’ve got a yummy main dish or appetizer.

Ingredients/Supplies:

Gluten-free calzone dough

Toppings of choice (suggestions include slices of ham with shredded cheddar, pepperoni with shredded mozzarella, slices of turkey and swiss)

Parchment Paper

Wax Paper

Cookie sheets

Directions:

  • Make the calzone dough according to recipe instructions.
  • Place empty cookie sheet or pizza stone on oven and preheat to 450.
  • While the oven is heating, put out a piece of parchment paper that will fit on the sheet or stone. Divide dough into thirds. Taking one section at a time, press it onto the parchment paper, place wax paper on top and roll flat into a rectangle about 4″x10″. Carefully lift off wax paper.
Roll the dough out between the parchment and wax paper.

Roll the dough out between the parchment and wax paper.

  • Top with your favorite toppings, placing them at least 1″ from each edge.
Add your favorite toppings -- but don't let them get too close to the edge.

Add your favorite toppings — but don’t let them get too close to the edge.

  • Roll up the dough along the long edge. Press dough together along all edges to seal.
Roll up and press to seal.

Roll up and press to seal.

  • Repeat with remaining portions of dough.
  • When over in preheated, take the whole piece of parchment with the strombolis on it and place it on the preheated cookie sheet or stone.
  • Bake for 25 minutes until the dough is lightly browned.
They're done when they are lightly browned.

They’re done when they are lightly browned.

  • Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting.
Yum!

Yum!

Enjoy!

Nebby

 

 

Sample Narrations (9th Grader)

Dear Reader,

My older two often type up their written narrations. The problem with my 9th grader is she rarely actually prints them out. I told her she had to this past weekend or else she wouldn’t get snack. So I ended up with about a million narrations, all patched together in one long document. Below is a short excerpt covering three subjects to give you an idea of what a 9th grader can do. I haven’t edited it; all mistakes are hers, though I suspect more are typos than outright mistakes.

Nebby

There is a famous painter named Titian. He has only a half dozen paintings that we know he painted. He is said to be one of the best painters ever.

He has a painting called the Concert. It is a strange painting because you can’t figure out what the people are doing. The two men are said to e in contrast because they are opposites. One is rich and the other is poor. The women are supposed to be nymphs or spirits in human form.

John Wilkes Booth was from a famous family of actors. They were the first real actors in America. He was the youngest and they called him Johnny. He had two brothers named Edwin and Junius Brutus and a sister named Asia. He was a normal child. When he got older he became very anti-north and pro-south. He was extremely racist and hated Abraham Lincoln. His ideas were not strange for the time but he was more firm in his ideas.

He was a very good actor. He was very handsome and women always gathered by his dressing room door. He was pretty famous.

The rest of his family was in favor of the north. Once he said something about the north must fall and his sister said “but we ARE the north.” We know a lot about John Wilkes Booth because his sister Asia wrote his biography after he died.

Johnny had always hated Lincoln, but once Lincoln’s son, Robert, was leaning against a train. The train started to move and Robert fell between the platform and the train. A man pulled him out and the man’s name was Edwin Booth.

Johnny booth had a big group of followers who all wanted to get rid of Lincoln. Originally they jus wanted to kidnap him. Booth had the opportunity to shoot him at his second inauguration. Once they made plans to kidnap him, but they realized that Lincoln had sent another man in his place who was also wearing a top hat because Lincoln didn’t feel well.

When the south lost the war, Booth got angry and decided to kill Lincoln because Lincoln had destroyed his “country.” Booth was not the only one who hated Lincoln. Lincoln was a very unpopular president. All the southerners hated him and a lot of republicans did too. They thought he wanted to make the black people rule over the white people. They trained their children to hate him. One little boy was handed a picture of Lincoln and he threw it on the ground and started punching it.

Lincoln did not do a very good job guarding himself. He often went unguarded. He said that if someone really wanted o kill him then they wound get around a bodyguard and they would do it anyway.

Protoazoas are small things. They are alive. They are footprint-shaped. When they reproduce, they separate into two baby protoazoas. The Zoa part of protoazoa means “animal.” It is like the word “zoo.”

Algaes are in the same kingdom as protoazoas. They are usually in the water, although there are some land algaes. Lichen is algae sandwiched in between two fungis.

The word protozoa is plural. The singular word is protoazoan.

There were tow scientists who discovered protoazoas. They liked to make miroscopes.

The most deadly protoazoa disease is malaria. It is deadly because we don’t have a cure for it.

The protoazoas and the algaes and some other things are in the kingdom of Protista.

Is there a place for twaddle?

Dear Reader,

Those new to Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy often wonder if they should allow their children to read “fun” books. Does every book need to be a living one? Is there room in one’s life for Captain Underpants if that is what your child prefers? What about the American Girl books or Magic Treehouse?

From a favorite book of mine, The Golden Milestone by Frank Boreham, I find this answer:

“There is a place in life for the novel, the love-story, the frolic of an author’s fancy. It is sometime pleasing and restful to leave a world of facts and sail out on the fairy seas of fiction. The product of a great imagination has its irresistible charm. We are among the shallows of literature, it is true, but then we are only attempting to minister to the shallows of life. The danger comes when we settle down to the shallows; when we never hear the voice of the deep; and when the deep within us becomes neglected and starved. It is good sometimes to get away from the shallows into the deeps; to enter into fellowships with the great masters; to feel the throb of reality; and to grapple with the problems of the universe.” (from The Golden Milestone by Frank Boreham; emphasis his)

Now there are fairytales and such that we would consider living books. The test here is not whether a book is found in the fiction of non-fiction section of one’s local library. I think Boreham uses the words fiction and novel more to denote the sort of books which we would today call “popular fiction” or “beach reading.” Nonetheless, his point, I think is a good one. There is a place for our lives, and our children’s, for these easier, more purely entertaining books.  The danger comes when we do not delve deeper and challenge ourselves with deeper works.

Charlotte Mason uses the analogy fo food and I think it is (if you will pardon the pun) a fruitful one. Those quality living books are the meat and vegetable sof life; they contain the proteins and vitamins which out bodies need and without which they can’t thrive or ultimately even fiction. There are other works which are more along the lines of white bread; they are not awful for one but they would not sustain one in a healthy way for long if they were all one took in. Still others are perhaps the sweets; they may be thoroughly enjoyable and in small doses will do no ultimate harm but in large doses there is danger. And without naming names, I think there are also some which are poison; which should be avoided at all costs.

The lines we draw may be different, even within a  family there may be one child who can tolerate more “sweets” than another. For my own kids, I am willing to put up with a certain amount of Magic Treehouse; I do draw the line at Captain Underpants. But then sometimes if all a child has known is the teeth-rotting books, one must make the transition gradually. And over time, I do find that the palate changes and the child comes to enjoy the “vegetable” books and even to ask for them.

This analogy has probably already been stretched too far but indulge me in one more thought: the good advice which applies to food may also apply here — Avoid battles; Sneak in the healthy things as you can (audio books in the car are one example); Require a bite fo two of the quality nourishment every “meal”; But if you find youself cajoling and wheelding, just stop and back off; and, lastly, Be persistent.

Nebby

Benefits of Solitude

Dear Reader,

As I mentioned recently, I am rereading The Golden Milestone by Frank Boreham. Boreham was a pastor in New Zealand 100 years of so ago and writes wonderful pastoral essays. In “Reflections in the River” he discusses the need for us to get to know ourselves by spending time alone, in solitude and even loneliness. I am reminded of an older (though she wouldn’t like that word!) homeschooling friend who observed that her homeschooled son knew himself better and was so much less prone to peer-pressure and so much more content than her daughter who had always gone to school because he had much time alone.

Boreham advances the same idea — that it is in solitude that we get to know ourselves and that we become prepared also for what God may call us to next. Here is what he says:

“It has often impressed me as a most striking circumstance that the greatest of the prophets and the greatest of the apostles were both sent into the silences for years and years for no other purpose then to get to know themselves.”

He cites the examples of Moses who spent 40 years as a shepherd in the desert till he was called to lead his people and Paul who after his conversion “retired to the Arabian solitudes.” The examples could go on — what of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert and John the Baptist’s time in the desert and Elijah’s vast loneliness?

Our tendency is to schedule ourselves and our children into oblivion. I think especially as homeschoolers we fear missing nay opportunity or having any gaps so we pile our kids up with academics and extracurriculars and socialization and we leave them little time to be alone. And if they are lonely, we have failed and not socialized them and they are sure to be ruined by our efforts so we add more and more. But perhaps it is loneliness that they need. Boreham shows us that it is often through solitude, even hard solitude, that God prepares us for what comes next in each of our lives.

Nebby

A Reason for Nature Study

Dear Reader,

I am rereading The Golden Milestone, a book of essays from one of my favorite authors, Frank Boreham. I have a problem which I think Mr. Boreham himself would have appreciated that I love his books so much that I can’t seem to progress through them. I am always going back to reread bits though I know there are many more out there awaiting my efforts.

As I reread, I find that new bits strike me that I did not note on my first perusal. In the chapter entitled “Wedge Bay” Mr.Boreham tells of a particular bay which he spent six months poking around until he felt that “if one of the trees about the water’s edge were to fall in my absence, I should miss it and mourn it next time I go.” He then goes on to say that:

“Fortunately, however, such calamities [as fallen trees] occur much less frequently than one would suppose, and the thing that most surprises you is that the changes are so few. I rowed one day recently into a shady little inlet, and was surprised to find it exactly as I had left it a couple of years before. The stone fireplace I had fashioned, and the traces of the picnic we had held there, were quite undisturbed. So far as I could discern, not a stick not a stone had been moved since our previous visit, and the bush was to all appearances exactly as we left it. Out in the world of men things change so swiftly that one’s brain reels and swims with the ceaseless whirl, and it exerts a steadying influence on one’s mind to retreat unto solitude that simple scorns all your lightning transformations. Here, as it was in the beginning, it is now, and so it ever shall be, world without end; and it is restful to saturate oneself in the brooding silence of the forest primaeval.”

How is that for a reason for nature study? I will admit that too often I have been bored by it because it does not change and I am always looking for something new to point out. But perhaps the pint should be just the opposite, it is good because it does not change, because one can get to know it as it is and because it is so much the opposite of the rest of our lives which I am sure have only gotten so much faster and disjointed since Mr. Boreham’s time.

Nebby

 

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