Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Christmas Afterglow

Christmas feels like that time of year when so much of my work blooms. Even though the leaves on our Boston Ivy are falling and the Avocado is very confused about what season we're in, the children are stretching their minds and using their little voices in new ways. They fill my hands with colorful leaves on our walk and say, "Here Mommy-Bird, some pretty leaves to decorate." They squeal with excitement about the chance to stomp in the fuzzy-looking winter rye or the ankle-deep clover, and they race up and down the slopes of our neighbors' front yard. 

Everything is a treasure to them: the limes that fell off a neighbors' tree, the junk-mail in the mailbox, a handful of change in their stockings. I was inspired by Laura Ingles Wilder's Little House on the Prairie.

"And in the very toe of each stocking was a shining bright, new penny! They had never even thought of such a thing as having a penny. Think of having a whole penny for your very own. Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny. There never had been such a Christmas." 

Inspired to not rush my children onto bigger and better things. Inspired to fill their miniature stocking with toothpaste and an automatic toothbrush and pennies. And to make them wait all through a candy cane making demonstration and dinner too before allowing them to eat their one individually wrapped candy bought for thirty cents at Logan's Candy shop in Ontario.

It's the thrill of saying yes after days upon days of saying no. Finally, the presents can be unwrapped. Finally the tape can be torn off and the paper crumbled and the box opened, not for the joy of the gift inside really, but the discovery of the hidden. Indeed the gifts that brought the biggest reaction were the used books that I bought off These were stories from the library that the children knew. 
And then there was the treasure hunt for Lee that lead him to his big wheel that we salvaged from the curbside in Friendly Hills. We were delighted to find that some of the buttons on the thing still work. And we were delighted when Lee without prompting handed the big wheel over to Rose to have a go after him.

They are asking for oatmeal for breakfast and tea when the rain falls and a blanket to play with during their quiet times. They think a box filled with sand is the next best thing and balloons and kitty shoes and an inflatable pink bed.

And the best of all are the grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts, great-grandmas and great-grandpas and the cousins and friends too, who have built the foundation of love and grace being passed down from generation to generation. Here grows little plants in rich soil.

And I too consider myself delighted when I delight in the simple things.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sermon on the Mount

Jesus has just called some of his disciples to follow him. So they did and he says to them, “How blessed are those who are here in this kingdom. They are different than the world. They are like light in a dark place. They not only do what is right, they feel what is right too. They do the right things for the right reasons. They aren’t afraid. They don't try to play at being God, and they are always asking God for wisdom. They are perfect.”

Well at that moment, I’m sure the disciples looked at one another and wondered, “Who’s perfect? I’m not perfect. Neither are you. Maybe we’re in the wrong place.” Or maybe some of them started to think, “Gosh, I’m pretty far away from that perfection. I better start getting my act together so I’m good enough to stay here.” Still others might’ve said, “That’s impossible! No one can live like that. We’re human after all. Not only do we do wrong things, we have wrong thoughts and motives.” And I think that Jesus could’ve taken any of these wonderings to the place of truth. 

Jesus has invited the disciples into his kingdom, and his only requirement of them so far has been that they follow him. They are in. Now Jesus is explaining to them what is to come, the operation that will now commence upon their hearts. He is saying that to be part of his kingdom is to be transformed from the inside out. It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of surgeries, a lot of time, but God will not stop until he has made us. Perfect. We are in the right place. For we are where the sick people are made well.

For the followers, and anyone who heard these standards of perfection and tried to follow them, they would’ve soon discovered the shocking truth. Effort is not enough. They’ve tried to be perfect, and it didn't worked. Indeed we all must try because it is through trying that we’re reminded that we simply cannot. We need someone else operating the controls inside this stubborn heart. We need new hearts really. We need a heart that wants to obey for that is what we owe God. It’s our obligation to him. An obligation that we find we cannot keep. 

What gives? We are lost! No one can keep this obligation!

And if Jesus’ disciples came to this conclusion by the end of the Sermon on the Mount, then they were in a good place. Because these teachings of perfection lead us to see that while we cannot, Christ can and did. What is left to do, but for a man to say, “Okay. I can’t. I see that now. But you can. So do it. And do it in me too.”

Then Christ will look on that person and say, “How blessed are you for you are part of this kingdom, and your foundations are built on this rock. Now let the building commence!"

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 12

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Twelve spinners spinning,
Eleven fighters fighting,
Ten fingers opening,
Nine spherules dangling,
Eight panes a glowing,
Seven persons wondering
Six bells a ringing,
Five pink rose buds,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones,
Two bobbing heads,
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 11

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Eleven fighters fighting,
Ten fingers opening,
Nine spherules dangling,
Eight panes a glowing,
Seven persons wondering
Six bells a ringing,
Five pink rose buds,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones,
Two bobbing heads,
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 10

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Ten fingers opening,
Nine spherules dangling,
Eight panes a glowing,
Seven persons wondering
Six bells a ringing,
Five pink rose buds,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones,
Two bobbing heads,
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 9

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Nine spherules dangling
Eight panes a glowing
Seven persons wondering,
Six bells a ringing,
Five pink rose buds,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones.
Two bobbing heads,
And marmalade boiling down for thee.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 8

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Eight panes a glowing
Seven persons wondering
Six bells a ringing
Five pink rose buds,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones
Two bobbing heads,
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 7

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
Seven persons wondering,
Six bells a ringing,
Five pink rose buds,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones,
Two bobbing heads,

And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 6

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Six bells a ringing,
Five pink rose buds,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones,
Two bobbing heads,
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 5

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Five pink rose buds,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones,
Two bobbing heads,
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 4

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
Four boxy flakes,
Three hidden cones,
Two bobbing heads,
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 3

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three hidden cones,
Two bobbing heads,
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Days of Christmas: Day 2

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
Two bobbing heads 
And the marmalade boiling down for thee.

The Days of Christmas: Day 1

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
The marmalade boiling down for thee.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

 That an escaped rabbit could bring such delight to children and mommy alike. 
Praise Him!
That children delight in mimicking my baking, stretching, and parenting. 
"Mommy, if you get tired while we're walking, you can hold my hand." 
Praise Him!
That broken branches of seeds and pods found in the streets 
can be the embellishments of my home. 
Praise Him!
That the hills rise up out of the city, 
and that trees fall dead on their dusty slopes. 
Praise Him!
That when I sit down to eat, I never have to apologize for the meager portions at any meal. Praise Him!
That barefoot boys raise ruckus. 
Praise Him!
That houses foster gatherings of home-baked pies and home-baked people.
Praise Him!
 That tenderness need not be taught among the tenderhearted. 
Praise Him!
That when I lay down to sleep every night, 
I have no terror of destruction or enemies or oppressive spirits or haunting memories. 
That the walls of my home and the walls of my heart 
are guarded by a great and powerful God 
who orchestrates and mends both in its proper time.
Praise Him!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Rabbit

Everything I know about rabbits I learned from Richard Adams' Watership Down. 

1. Rabbits can be ferocious fighters.
2. Hutch rabbits are idiots.
3. Rabbits do not like to pass droppings in their burrows.
4. Rabbits can swim.
5. Rabbits don't walk single-file or make very long sprints.
6. Rabbits can only count up to four.
7. Female rabbits are the ones that usually dig burrows.
8. Rabbits can be so scared that they freeze or drop dead.
9. If conditions are too bad, female rabbits can absorb their unborn young into their bodies.

Unfortunately all that nonsense—Or who knows? Maybe it's true.—hasn't helped me understand the nature of owning a rabbit as a pet.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the front yard with the children when Joan, our neighbor across the street, asked if we'd seen the rabbit. A rabbit! Why, that could provide a good ten minutes of entertainment. We hustled up the street to where our other neighbor, Brenda, and her two daughters, Kayla and Corin, were trying to lure a small gray rabbit out from under their mini cooper with a stalk of asparagus. We joined the fun, chasing the little rabbit from one car to the next. Lee succeeded in getting it to take a few bites from the asparagus stalk, and Brenda brought out her dog carrying cage and a broom.

We chased the rabbit under cars and to our side of the street. With a carrot in one hand, I was able to grab the rabbit and drop it into the cage. Now what? We agreed to divide the responsibilities. Brenda would post the "Lost Rabbit" signs. Joan would post something on our neighborhood website. I would take care of the rabbit. Three weeks later, we are still rabbit owners. I'm rather glad that no one claimed it.

The children were over the moon. It ate from our hands and let us pet it. The children kept exclaiming, "Mommy, do we have a pet?" or "I'm gonna go check on the rabbit."

In the past Phil and I have told the children stories about Bigwig, Fiver, and Hazel from Watership Down, so the children wanted to call our rabbit Bigwig even though it's neither big nor wig-like nor a boy rabbit. Oh well.

A week later and we built a hutch out of leftover wood scrapes, chicken wire, and roofing material. The backyard is rabbit-proofed for the daytime wanderings, and we've been putting Bigwig in her hutch at night to keep her safe from coyotes and cats and wolves and bears and things of this nature. We have already spotted a hawk resting on our telephone lines above our backyard. I hope the rabbit survives for more than a month.
 Already Bigwig is teaching the children all sorts of new lessons. Namely:
1. How to not scream at the rabbit
2. How to not jump on the trampoline when the rabbit is under it
3. How to not chase the rabbit
4. How to not poke the rabbit with Tinkertoys
5. How to not poke the rabbit with carrots
5. How to leave the rabbit hutch's gate shut
6. How to leave the backyard gate shut
7. How to chase the rabbit if it escapes
8. And how to built little make-believe houses for the rabbit out of wood scraps.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Escaped Surgery Patients!

Wounded by wrongs, real or false, I know
For treatment I must to the doctor go. 
There answers cut open my heart like knives,
And a fount of forgiveness freely I may imbibe.

But oft' when ill feelings’ have found their source—
Her indifference to regard me as I like, of course—,
I recoil at the image in this 'luminating mirror 
And assign this diagnosis to another who’s near.

“Perhaps that’s why she's so hostile to me—
No accolades I sing her, no recognition's free.
And I with her censures cannot agree.
She too must need insight for errors to see.”

“Maybe I can play doctor on her soul with this light,
And charge not a penny for my wise insight.
Just a simple apology and the esteem I deserve
For diagnosis and operation on what I observe.”

Thus I by my scruples decode then her own
Neglecting that heart where insight's been shown:
The heart I call mine that leapt off the table
After doctor’s incision this vision enabled.

“The Lord won't etherize his patients,” devils say,
“Nor ties them down for the operation each day.
So lure them off before treatment commences,
And they to each other will be quite senseless.”

“Lure them with the gore that they see in each other,
With fault-finding, a past time aimed at a brother.
Seduce them out the door with a tantalizing mystery,
To find blame elsewhere but call it psychohistory.”

Then “STOP!” says a voice, a helper inside.
And I cease roving and look back wide-eyed. 
My wounds leave a trail to where the doctor still stands
In the operating room with my blood on his hands.

Must I with cut flesh to the table thus crawl,
When I have no heart but my own to o'erhaul?
And nodding to the doctor for him to proceed,
He'll operate simultaneously upon millions in need.

I’ll know not what he finds in family and friends
In the souls of this Body waiting to be cleansed.
Yet their blood with mine mingles in this joint operation
As we lay side by side in this, our salvation.

But if I flee the ward again and meet you in the halls,
Let's not wield plastic scalpels or push each other 'gainst the walls.
Let’s smile sheepishly and with courage understand
That we go best under the knife when we go hand in hand.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween for the Christian

Can God redeem anything? The bible shows how Christ took back for himself the symbol of the snake, demon-possessed people, actions meant for evil, meat sacrificed to idols, and the alter the Greek’s made to an unknown god. 

But there are also some things that God commits to destruction because their wickedness is too great: the world at the time of the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the inhabitance of Canaan, the alters to Baal and Asherah, and people who committed certain crimes. 

In the new testament we are told to put to death the deeds of the flesh: lust, greed, malice, envy, hypocrisy, slander, deceit. Sins aren’t worth keeping. The sinner is redeemable up to a certain point, but they will probably have to sacrifice certain activities or pastimes to stay far away from the sins that so easily ensnare them.

So how do we know if something can be used for good or if it should be committed to destruction? Certainly it will be different for every person. One man will refuse to even walk into a bar in order to stay away alcohol. Others may have no problem having a glass of wine every night. One woman may have to keep herself off facebook to avoid gossip and slander while another woman may have no troubles there. Some have no issue with contemplating gore and death; while for others, this leads to depression and fears. 

Events or avenues or objects may seem wicked, but God may call certain people to enter into these thickets of wickedness for a certain purpose. Gang towns, cannibal tribes,  Hollywood, politics, Mormonism, even marriage to a prostitute—although that was certainly an extreme case for Hosea. God would never ask us to sin, but he may ask us to enter places where sin is rampant in order to be his light in the darkness.

Now comes the question that can only be answered by each believing Christian through his or her own communion with God and fellowship with believers. Can Halloween be used for good? Has the day become so wicked that believers must put it to death like they would the deeds of the flesh or is this the place where God would want them to be a light in the darkness?

We can look at the origins of Halloween, but that will not help us make a decision. Christmas after all was the Christians’ solution to the feast of Saturnalias, a week celebration of drunkenness, rape, destruction of property, and human sacrifice in the time of the Roman Empire. We can also consider the atrocious crimes committed and the heightened demonic activity on Halloween, but this only tells us how some decide to celebrate this day, not how we ought to celebrate. Rather, we must ask ourselves, how am I bringing glory to Christ through Halloween?

If the day is a source of fear and anger for us, then perhaps it is best to lock the door, turn off the porch light, and spend some time in prayer and in the word. If God must be ignored in order for us to celebrate Halloween as we wish, then we know we’re joining into the world’s form of self-destruction. If we see the costumes, candy, and pumpkins as merely children’s games, perhaps this is our chance to use those seemingly simple symbols to point others to Christ. 

But let us be clear, no action—eating, drinking, waking, sleeping—is neutral. All our efforts are either dedicated to the glory of God or are bringing about the further corruption and decay of our soul.

How does Christ’s power manifest itself in you on Halloween?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tales of Central Park

The usual assortment of people were at Central Park today. The hispanic nannies, the lovers making-out beneath the trees, the homeless fellows sleeping next to their chihuahuas, the engaged dad holding a fairy wand while chasing his daughter across the lawn, the mentally handicap man with bright orange hair with his completely functional son, the lanky little girl missing two front teeth and talking to her imaginary pink dog, the threesome of boys and one highly flirtatious girl trying to engage both admirers but always leaving one rather bored and depressed.

Lee and Rose were playing with the big kids on the play structure. A group of three boys around six or seven years old gathered around the base of the play fort. Lee had climbed up inside and was scaling the walls of the fort using the pretend windows as footholds. He popped his head over the top and looked down at the big boys below.

"You're too small to do that," said one of the boys.

"Yeah," joined his friends. "How old are you?"

"I am four," said Lee.

"Oh, four is too little to do that. You might fall and crack open your head, and your brains might fall out." They told him. "Then your mom and your dad and your grandpa and your grandma and your brother and your sister are all gonna cry for you."

Lee starred down at them with an emotionless expression. "That's okay I do that," he said. "My mommy doesn't worry I climb up here."

Regardless, eventually Lee climbed down and then the boys attempted to climb up the same spot from the outside of the fort. Lee watched them from within. "I'm going to climb up over here," he said, pointing at the other side of the fort.

Then Rose entered the fort. She waltzed right over to where the older boys were trying to climb and stuck her arms through the holes.

"Uh oh," the boys said jumping back. "It's a girl!"

"You're too little to climb up there," the boys tried on her. "How old are you?"

Rose didn't answer. The boys starred, then squealed. "Ew, she looked at me funny." They screamed and ran away only to circle back.

In the meantime Rose climbed onto the fort window and stuck her feet through the lattice holes.

"How old are you?" the boys asked again.

Rose showed them two fingers.

"She's two!" the boys said.

"She likes you," they joked to each other.

"She's going to be your girlfriend."

"Hey, let's take off her shoes."

Lee heard that. "No! Don't take off Rosie's shoes. You can't do that!" he shouted down at them, pointing a finger.

One of the bunch must've had a sister too because he approached Rose respectfully and asked her if she could get off the fort so they could climb it.

"No. You can go up the ladder," Rose replied pointing at the ladder.

"She can talk!" the boy shouted to his friends. They all giggled, and then Lee decided to chase the boys around the play structure. They were a head taller than him but they ran away anyway yelling in a good natured kind of way.

I was riding the tractor on springs while all this was going on, and beaming rather proudly.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dragged Out of the Mud

Dang! I’m not as perfect as I thought I was. Wait! What am I saying? I mean everything is fine. Nothing to see here. Just move along. Yes, if you were in my shoes, you might discover you were a raging monster too.

Dustballs in the corners, toys and un-toys strewn across the house, continuous nagging, defiant rebellion, screaming and crying and the long-past sleepless nights have all burned away a layer of goodness that I was sure I had. That’s what a good trial will do to you: show you what’s beneath. And this “trial” is merely the common experience of motherhood. I have it quite easy, which is probably why I’ve been able to continue believing myself rather good for so long.

I suppose it is the curse of the rich. We can keep our darker selves at bay with tasty food, trendy clothes, luxurious homes, and lengthy insurance policies. And here I thought that low income people could behave themselves if only they tried harder. Yes, if I were in their shoes, I might discover I was a raging monster too. Wait a second. I already am.

When things are under control—little people are getting along relatively well and the house is somewhat tidy—I find myself slipping back into the old way of thinking. “Okay, I’ve got this together. I’m doing pretty well. I haven’t yelled at anyone today. I have good thoughts about my husband. I must be an asset to God today.”

But when things fall apart, I find myself wallowing in the mud. “I’m a failure. I just brooded all evening about my husband. And I spanked the children out of anger, and I hate our neighbors, and this stupid house needs new flooring. God must be ashamed of me. I’m a useless corrupt Christian.”

I look back on the days before kids when I thought I was a gift to the world, and I see now that I was actually selfish and ungrateful. I just didn’t know it yet. Perhaps in the future I will look back on these days and think how self-righteous I was. And perhaps in heaven I will look back on this entire life and say, “What a silly goose I was!”

Because it's all a waddling through the mud. The days that I think I'm pretty good are just a waddling through the mud towards God. And the days that I think I’m a disgrace are also just a waddling through the mud towards God. Is any deed untainted? All this effort and splashing and falling facedown? Is this my spiritual offering, holy and acceptable to God? Is this the new creation?

I think there must be a missing piece here. For certainly my "successes" and "failures" at living like Christ are different than an atheist's attempts at goodness. Indeed, we are both in the mud making quite a mess, but God has lassoed me with his lifeline and is reeling me in towards himself. Yes, and all my attempts at goodness, tainted and selfish as they may be, are in fact moving me towards God because of that rope around my waist and the irresistible pull beaconing me on. 

Without the lasso all my attempts towards God would simply sink me further down in the mud. But with the rope around me and my life-dependent grip on it, I'm really getting somewhere. Muddy, yes. It's all mud. And someone might look at me and say that I am just as muddy as a pagan, but it wouldn't matter. I'm being reeled in, and my knuckles are turning white as I grip this rope harder now than ever. Looking at the grassy bank ahead of me. Looking at my savior who is pulling me ever so hard.

And when I reach that grassy bank and leave behind this mud hole, God will ironically say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Here are clean clothes. Let us leap on the hillsides and move unhindered like I made you to move."

"If you are a good worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it's something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift." (Romans 4:4-5 MSG)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Strange Genesis Stories

Genesis has some peculiar stories. Random stories. Stories that seem to completely interrupt the plot. I'd like to share how two of these stories make much more sense to me after reading John Walton's NIV Application Commentary Genesis. The placement of these stories isn't accidental, and their themes are not disjointed.

Take the rape of Dinah. This story comes towards the end of Jacob's conflict with his brother Esau, which was a result of Jacob stealing Esau's birthright. Jacob has moved back home and after wrestling with God and making peace with Esau, Jacob's daughter Dinah is raped by the Shechemites. When Jacob's oldest sons, Simeon and Levi, hear of this, they slaughter the Shechemites. But what's that got to to do with anything? Does it simply show the sorry state of Jacob's family or explain how third-born Judah became a tribe of leaders and kings? Well, yes, but it does much more.

Backtrack a few chapters to when Jacob is first fleeing his father's house. After his ladder dream, Jacob makes a vow to God, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (Genesis 28:20-22)

God comes through. With great wealth Jacob returns to his homeland safely. And what does Jacob do? Nothing. He doesn't fulfill his vow to God. So here we have this story of Dinah inserted into the book. It ends with Jacob scolding his sons for making themselves a stench to the surrounding people. Simeon and Levi respond to their father with a question, "Should he (Shechem) have treated our sister like a prostitute?"

Immediately following this episode, God has to tell Jacob to fulfill his vow by returning to Bethel and building an alter there. Thus, Dinah's story might be seen as God saying, "Jacob, will you use me as a prostitute to get what you want? You are treating me no better than Shechem treated Dinah. Fulfill your vow!" It might also be seen as a future warning to the Israelites post-Exodus to whom this book was first presented. Don't treat God in this way either or worse will befall you than what befell the Shechemites.

How's that for context? God using rape and violence as a warning of what has happened and what will happen. It reminds me of that pictures of a sunken ship from The caption reads, "It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others." While we have no way of knowing if Dinah's rape was ONLY used as a warning, it seems the bible is using it primarily in this way. We don't have windows into Dinah, Simeon, or Levi's character development. Certainly this episode altered them in some way too. We do, however, see how it altered Jacob. He moves back to Bethel, gets ride of all his household's foreign gods, and makes an alter to God.

Throughout Genesis God goes to great lengths to make sure his people have a correct view of himself because to assign false traits to God might be equivalent to not worshiping God at all. I think that's why God caused the flood to happen—because people thought God didn't care about justice—and why God scattered the people building the tower of Babel—they believed if they met God's needs, then he wouldn't hurt them.

Let's look at another story, the weird one about Judah's daughter-in-law Tamar. That story is put right into the middle of Joseph's narrative. What gives? Judah has just convinced his brothers not to kill Joseph, but instead to sell him into slavery. His brothers follow his leadership and return home to tell their father, Jacob, that Joseph has been killed by a wild animal. Before we find out what happens to Joseph in Egypt, we get this strange story about how Judah married a Canaanite woman and had wicked sons through her. Because of their wickedness, God puts them to death, leaving behind Tamar, their widow who has yet to bear children. This is a big deal to anyone reading Genesis because Judah becomes the tribe of leaders and kings. The line mustn't end here. King David and Jesus Christ come from this line, after all.

So Judah promises Tamar to give her his last and youngest son as soon as the boy is of age, but Judah doesn't keep his word. Probably because he's afraid Tamar has been putting death hexes on his sons. So, what does Tamar do but trick her father-in-law into getting herself pregnant: an interesting ruse involving disguises and prostitution. In the end Judah confesses that he's wronged Tamar and that she was more righteous than himself. And that's that.

Aside from this being an interesting insight into Judah's history and Jesus' genealogy, the story proves that Judah has had a change of heart since selling Joseph into slavery. In order for Judah to say that his deceiving, prostituting daughter-in-law is more righteous than himself is to believe himself rather low. Judah is now ready to take the leadership role over his brothers.

The ruse involving Tamar also serves as a foreshadowing of the tests that Joseph will give to his brothers in Egypt to see if they've had a change of heart. In Egypt the brothers don't recognize Joseph, just as Judah didn't recognize Tamar disguised as a prostitute. In Egypt the brothers receive their food without having to pay for it because Joseph puts all their money back in their bags. Judah promises a young goat to Tamar for sleeping with him, but the goat never gets delivered. In Egypt Joseph hides a silver cup in Benjamin's grain bag to identify him as a thief. Similarly, Tamar takes Judah's seal, chord and staff to identify the man who's impregnated her.

Such treatment from Joseph to his brothers was done to see if the brothers had truly changed. Would they willingly sell their brother Benjamin into slavery to save their own necks? No. They wouldn't. In fact Judah would rather sell himself into slavery than give up his brother Benjamin. And Tamar's trick to her father-in-law, shows how Judah is now no longer willing to rob Tamar of the offspring that she desires.

What a web of intricate parallels and character development! And all this time, I'd thought Genesis was just weird and random.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Library Finds: Great Books for Children

I believe it's time for another listing of Library Finds. Some of my books included some historical fiction relating to the American Revolutionary War. I was doing some research earlier in the year and found a handful to well done children's books.

Again, my rating criteria is based on illustrations, parental appeal, storyline, and whether or not my children requested them again and again.

Colonial Voices, Hear them Speak by Kay Winter. This children's story was not for a 2 or 4 year old. Probably 6 or older. Excellent retelling of the Boston Tea Party from the perspective of a paper boy who's delivering newspapers to different people in town. The delivery boy then hears the opinions of everyone in town. Great illustrations. (Book Rating: 9)

Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen. Clever rhyming story about a circus ship that sinks off the coast of Maine and all the circus animals come live on the island. Based on some real life events, which is always interesting. Great pictures with plenty for the children to explore during multiple reads. (Book Rating: 9)

Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach. I found this story really interested because it was based off of a time when New York sunk old Subway cars to make temporary reef-like homes for the ocean life. Fascinating. Both children liked this story. Unique style of pictures. Pastels, I think. (Book Rating: 7)

You Can Do Anything, Daddy! by Michael Rex. Very clever book about a boy asking his Daddy what he’d go through to save him from robot gorilla pirates from Mars. Very clever and laughable. Descent illustration, though nothing particularly fantastic. (Book Rating: 8)

Adele and Simon in America by Barbara McClintock. Beautiful pictures illustrating a journey two children take across America highlighting major locations. The text was somewhat unnecessary and repetitive. During the trip the children lose one of their possessions on each page. My children enjoyed finding each hidden item. (Book Rating: 7)

Where is the Cake Now? by T.T. Khing. Yes! If I were to make a wordless book, it would be like this. The pictures are so involved that you can read the book multiple times and be following a different character in each picture. Or you can follow the main storyline of discovering who stole the cake. Follow a vain poodle, a noncommittal cat, a lollipop eater, a thief & others. (Book Rating: 10)

Homespun Sarah by Verla Kay and Ted Rand. Another beautiful watercolored book about a a little girl's pioneer life. Simple two-word rhyming phrases that describe doing jobs and all the work that must take place to make a new dress. (Book Rating: 7)

My Lucky Day  by Keiko Kasza. Clever book about a pig that pretends to accidentally knock on predators’ doors to get a massage, a bath, and a good dinner. Simple illustrations. (Book Rating: 7)

Worst of Friends by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain. Another good story for older children. Maybe 6 or older. This book illustrated some concepts about friendship using the stories of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson's lives. Watercolored illustrations that I like to call sloppy in a sophisticated and lovely sort of way. (Book Rating: 7)

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. A comical book about a boy trying to retrieve his kite from out of a tree. He throws increasingly more and more ridiculous items up into the tree to get down his kite. (Book Rating: 7)

Darcy and Gran Don’t Like Babies by Jan Cutler. Excellent sentiments about babies and what they can make a family feel. Excellent expressions on the little girl's face as she dialogues with her granny about why she doesn't like her baby brother. (Book Rating: 8)

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin. Oh, this one made me laugh out loud the first 4 or 5 times I read it. A Newberry book winner with that messy watercolor style that I find appealing. Yes, it's a story about cows who use a typewriter to get their demands met. Some new vocabulary in here for children too.  (Book Rating: 8)

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon. Excellent illustrations accompanied by little sketches above each section of text. A sweet story about a bat that loses her mother and is raised by birds. (Book Rating: 7)

Henry and the Cannons by Don Brown. One more historical book that Lee requested again and again. It's the tale of Henry Knox bringing cannons from fort Ticonderoga to General Washington in Boston. (Book Rating: 8)