22 July 2015

Folk Song: Barbara Allen



In the past, we have done some work with learning folk songs. It's one of those cool things that a lot of Charlotte Mason's followers do, and I really enjoy when I remember to get it done. So we're doing some more. I went to Ambleside Online and looked at their suggested folk songs. Top of the list was Babara Allen. We printed out the lyrics, and we listened to a nice performance:



I even checked the chords, to see if we can play it on our instruments. I'm going to try to do my banjo, and if Hero is interested, I'll write out a violin part for him, too. We'll see how far that goes; I don't require that he play with me, and he's already working on a difficult song right now. But he likes to play with me, so it may happen, anyway. I hope so, because that's fun.

We actually keep our folk songs pretty simple. I sing them a lot, and the kids pick up the words kind of by osmosis. We mess around with our instruments a little, and that's about it. Simple. Easy. Snuck in like vegetables in spaghetti sauce: they often don't even realize that it's part of their education. 

21 July 2015

Loving Liberty is Tough

I love Liberty. I think it holds the key to curing so many of the world's ills: poverty, exploitation, church-state conflicts, discrimination, tons of things. Liberty lifts. Liberty strengthens. It ennobles.

Liberty is very, very unpopular.

Sure, people sometimes pay lip service to Liberty and the Constitution, but in general, people don't understand either, and they aren't that interested, and they don't like the sound of it.


We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion... (D&C 121:39)


"We need to use government to compel people to help, because otherwise people won't do..."

"We have to have compulsory education laws because otherwise people won't..."

I see it all the time. People don't want liberty because they want to force their neighbor to "be good." Which means some very different things to different people. Or, they'll come at it from the other side: it's been so common to use government as a limitless lever to shove people, that individuals can't imagine how anything could possibly get done without that shove. And, when you suggest that Liberty would not only work to improve society, but work better than compulsion, people often get pretty upset.

Add to that an awareness of just how much Liberty has been lost (the losses in the past 100 years are staggering), and it can sometimes get pretty disheartening.

Who am I kidding? It's completely discouraging, and if it wasn't that I am convinced that Liberty is an eternal principle, and an essential part of the Lord's plan, and also convinced that the Lord has things under control and the evil attacks on Liberty and all else that's good will be, in the end, utterly futile, I would give up. It's hard, constantly rocking the boat. It's exhausting, emotionally. It takes a toll on relationships I cherish, sometimes a heavy toll, and sometimes the cost is high, and I can't always see that my words have any impact, whatsoever.

I have long been fascinated by the story of Isaiah's call as a prophet.


Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking int he midst of the land.

But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. (Isaiah 6:8-13)

I've been drawn to it since I was a teen, before I really understood any more than that Isaiah was being sent on a hard, hard mission. "Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant." That's a good long time to preach while nobody's listening. I admire a man who can take on an assignment, knowing it's going to be that. And I ached for the people who refused all the Lord's efforts to heal them. For a long time, that's all I saw from this passage. I didn't understand the last verse well enough to take anything from it. But my husband gave me Strong's Concordance for my birthday, and I've begun exploring the Hebrew and Greek meanings of some of the difficult words in the Bible, and it makes things so much clearer. The word that's rendered "substance" in this verse, is a "pillar" in Genesis 35:14&20. Well, the pillar of an oak tree is its trunk, which looses its leaves every fall, but then grows them back again. Isaiah's mission was to testify of Christ, and he taught the people that Christ would proclaim Liberty to the captives, and heal the brokenhearted. No, people then mostly didn't listen to Isaiah, but that didn't tell the whole story, any more than a oak's naked branches in early winter is all that's left of the tree.

More than once, I've stepped back, and tried to stop talking about Liberty. But the Gospel of Christ is all about Liberty, and if we are to exercise our hard-won agency we need to protect the Liberty that gives us the space in which to use it.  Every time, the Spirit gives me a breather, and then asks me to go back and do it some more. Talk some more. Try again to show people the gift that Liberty really is.

Still, watching the news, the outlook for Liberty right now is pretty bleak. However, I recently read an article that reminded me again, and in a new way, that the news isn't all that there is to the story.


It is crucial not only to think about the problem but also to see the solutions being lived out all around us. We need to learn to observe the marvelous businesses starting and succeeding every day, the beauty of spontaneous human interaction, the order and prosperity that emerge from the exercise of human choice. We should thrill in the many ways that people go about their lives in casual defiance of the central plan. We can glory in the creations all around us that were never mapped out or approved by politicians, or by the experts in their pay.

In other words, focusing on the solutions rather than solely on the problems can brighten your day and give rise to creativity in the service of the good. Liberty is not just the absence of oppression; it is the presence of well-lived lives and institutions that emerge despite every attempt to stop them. In this sense, freedom is blossoming all over the world. If we can focus on making that positive change, rather than dwelling on what’s wrong with the world, our task becomes more delightful and a dedication to liberty becomes more sustainable.


I love that. Look at the solutions being lived around us. Focus on the positive changes. Look for the wins. I need to get better at both seeing them, and at talking about them. After all: one good thing leads to another.

13 July 2015

Vacation Time!


So, my sister had a baby. An adorable one, to boot. The kids and I got to run away for a few days to smother her in kisses. It was quite the adventure. 




Dragon and Cousin C played at getting married. Or, they tried to. "I tried to get married, but my wedding was crashed FIVE TIMES!" Her little brother clearly thought they were playing Chase, rather than House, with hilarious results. 


We took all the cousins to the zoo. They were pretty sure that a picture of the whole bunch of them was torture. Buncha cuties. The part where they're lined up in age order is a happy accident. 



The statues were clearly the best part of the zoo. So much so that Uncle D and I discussed how a date to the zoo - no kids allowed - would be nice. Then, we could read plaques and look at animals (rather than statues: we checked out ALL the statues we found) and linger a bit if we wanted to. Silly grown-ups. That's not how you do zoos! 



Cute baby! Cute sister! 


We messed with this big watery globe thingy they had just inside the front gate for a while at the end, putting off the end of the event: Nana and Grandpa were leaving to visit Uncle J and aunt N: they're moving at the end of the month, and could use a hand getting ready. 

The next morning I got together with a blogging buddy. We'd planned to do some geocaching, but it was a canyon, and there wasn't enough signal to play. We had a great time anyway. 




It was lovely. Nobody wanted to leave. At some point, I'd love to do something like this again. 


On the way back, we drove past the temple where my Grandma used to be an organist. 


More excitement the next day: we took the kids for a picnic on Temple Square. Dragon was particularly impressed with the Conference Center. 




The last day, I slipped in a quick get-together with a college friend. It was such a lovely trip. 

19 June 2015

Mormon Bible Study: Should Christians Fight?



I am fortunate enough that I was born and raised in an excellent family. My parents will celebrate their 40th Anniversary next year, and they're just cute. Among the many things they worked hard to teach my siblings and me, they taught us not to hit. We don't hit; it's not nice. We don't solve our problems by fighting.

I grew up, and I married a martial artist. He believes that sometimes, we should fight.

I eventually came to a point where I was feeling significant internal conflict between these two ideas, and in that space where I struggled to know what was right, I turned to the scriptures to find out what they say about fighting. It wasn't what I expected.

First, the sixth Commandment:


Thou shalt not kill. -Exodus 20:13


I always thought that was pretty cut and dried. But right there, in the Old Testament, still in Moses's time, I started to notice some apparent conflict: The Lord gave this commandment, but then He also said:


Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle.
-Deut. 2:24 (emphasis added)



And that was not the only time that He explicitly commanded Israel into battle - into killing. Now, we know that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so I was confident that these things could be brought into harmony with each other. The beginning of that is to consider the meaning of the Hebrew word, ratsach, that was used in Exodus 20:13.

"Ratsach means 'to kill, murder, slay.' (Strong's Concordance, 266)" This same word is translated into various English words, the most frequent being, "slayer" (16 times), and "murderer" (14 times). From the ways that this word is used in other passages, it's pretty safe to say that this passage could have been rendered as, "Thou shalt not murder." This was a good beginning for settling the question of whether or not fighting is appropriate for a Christian.

Another place to look for guidance is the life of Christ. And when I do that, I notice that it's not all peace-love-joy. Christ frequently incurred the ire of people around Him, notably the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Sanhedrin, groups which included the priesthood leaders of the Jewish faith of the time.  Indeed, Christ warned the Apostles as He sent them out that they should expect serious trouble:


Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother...

Christ, Himself, did not shy away from conflict, occasionally including physical conflict.


Of course, the was not the only way that He solved problems. In fact, the scriptures give us a lot of insight into when, and perhaps more importantly, how conflict is to be conducted. As is usually the case, the Lord has very high standards for where our hearts should be when we find ourselves in a conflict situation. There are whole collections of scriptures that deal with our conduct with our fellow men, and it is clear that while fighting is a possibility, it's definitely not the only one, nor is it the first thing we should try. There also aren't any, "well, you were fighting, so we'll give you a pass" passages in scripture. In fact, we are commanded to love our enemies. Christ had high praise for peacemakers. He commands us to not only be slow to anger, but warns that anger may endanger our salvation. We do not solve all our problems by fighting, nor even most of them. However, though we can expect that, if we are obedient, the Lord will fight our battles, we can also expect to have a hand in our own deliverance:


Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.
-Alma 60:11


In fact, the Nephites considered self-defense to be a duty that they owed to God:


And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.
-Alma 43:46 (emphasis added)


But what about the martial arts, specifically? Does it matter what type of  self-defense we are learning? A concerned acquaintance recently shared an article with me that suggests that the Eastern martial arts are hopelessly contaminated by Buddhist and Zen philosophy and should be avoided by followers of Christ. At first glance, the concern is understandable, but I do not personally believe that all martial arts should be avoided simply because they grew up in non-Christian cultures. Brigham Young addressed the issue when he said:


Be willing to receive the truth, let it come from whom it may; no difference, not a particle. (Teachings of the Presidents: Brigham Young, chapter 2)


Certainly, dealing with non-Christian traditions requires care and the spirit of discernment, but members of the Church who have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost need not shrink away from truth found outside of our own heritage. The Holy Ghost's mission is to guide us to all truth! By this same logic, we could condemn the medical sciences as being hopelessly contaminated with secularism. It makes as much sense. But Brigham Young taught us that:


If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. (Teachings of the Presidents: Brigham Young, chapter 2) (emphasis added)


We know that the Lord speaks to all nations; it should not come as a surprise that some truth can be found in the traditions of all peoples. I know, now, from experience, that martial arts contain a great deal of truth and knowledge about how the human body works, and that the philosophies that have developed around the art I have personally studied also contain more than a little bit of truth about things that are spiritual in nature. This also should not be a big surprise, as the distinction between the physical and the spiritual is largely artificial.

So, yes, I think that there is solid justification for Christians to fight in certain situations -even a duty that they be prepared to do so- and the martial arts are one viable option for learning how to go about doing it.

11 June 2015

Home From Japan

The Daddy goes to Japan every year, and it's always fun to see what gifts he finds to bring back. A few years ago, he brought me a lovely stash of fancy brush pens. This time, I asked if he could look for measuring cups and spoons. And he found them. They're metric, and I have my eye on some stuff on Pinterest I want to learn to read so I can try cooking it.


He found a few more picture books, too. And we're having a good time looking through those and will spend the next while slowly working through them, figuring out what they say and putting the sentences into my flashcards. 


I'm even saving several bits of wrapper and packaging to slowly figure out how to read them before I throw them away. Maybe that's silly, and overkill, but if like to know what they say. Especially the postcard that came in one of my books. 



This last one is actually a gift he gave to Tigress, but we all get to listen to it. I was so excited: I understood a large section of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman"!


It's so nice to have him back! The two weeks he was gone felt like a long time, even with a 4 day trip to my parents' place and 2 more days with my sister. All the cool gear he brings is nice, but the best part has been chatting with him all day long. In spite of daily calls and Skype, it feels like there is a ton of catching up to do. It's so nice to be able to do it.




05 June 2015

Visiting Kate!

We had a lovely day, today! Actually, it's been a lovely couple of days. We went to see my sister and her family. After the kids went to bed, I watched the end of a basketball game with her and John. It was surprisingly fun! I think I could learn to enjoy sports, if I was able to watch with them more often. They didn't mind my clueless questions. (So. Blue and white are playing tonight. Which ones are the "good guys" today?) The crowd doesn't match the players; they were all yellow. Turned out they did match; it was the blue team's other color. They were very patient, and it was fun. White won, in overtime. 

Then, this morning, Kate and the kids and I headed to the zoo. Her little dude, Mr. T, is usually so placid, but he was so excited about "going to see so many animals!" It's funny how quick kids grow up when you're not looking; I knew he's older than Tigress, but I was surprised at how articulate he's getting. It was adorable -- he kept saying exactly what his Daddy had just said. 

So, we went to the zoo. And we saw lots of animals, as advertised. And we rode a carousel. And generally had a lovely time. 













By that point, everyone was getting tired, footsore, and hungry, so we had hugs and said g'bye: Mr T needed a nap, and we needed to head for home. 

By way of a cute Japanese shop I'd heard about. We didn't stay long; everyone was pretty worn out. But it was awesome. I definitely want to go back, hopefully with no kids, so I can have a better look around the place. 




Then, because we were right close, and the kids don't get to see it very often, we stopped by the temple as well. 


It was kind of a quick trip, but I'm so glad we went!











24 May 2015

Weely Wrap-up: A Win in Japanese!!

Easily the most exciting thing in my week has been a huge leap forward in my Japanese studies! I recently started browsing through the All Japanese All The Time blog, and came across his suggestion to study whole sentences, rather than vocabulary and grammar in isolation. I've been trying this week, and I don't think that I've ever done anything so effective! Part of the magic is the way that he suggests collecting: out of real Japanese materials (not the Engilsh-Japanese student "ghetto") that you're using because they are fun. Right now, I'm enjoying my flashcards immensely. Can't get enough. I've always kind of liked reading the dictionary, and right now the sample sentences in my Japanese-English dictionary are completely fascinating, so I'm building a list of sentences out of my dictionary, built around words I already know. So lots of the sentences I'm studying are ones that have one or two words that are new, and the rest is familiar. But the really cool thing is that I'm learning to say things in a Japanese way. And, being more comfortable with saying things in a Japanese way, the simple ebooks I've been working on are getting easier -- after only one week!! I have my eye on some Stargate episodes in Japanese, and I've kicked up the Japanese talk radio background noise, since that helps to get the language and patterns into my ear. The kids were eating up the Avengers in Japanese that I found on YouTube, and they ask for Shimajiro. I switched my phone's default language to Japanese, and I'm trying to persuade my phone to show me stuff in Japanese on Pinterest. And it's working. For all of us. Every day I understand noticeably more than the day before - without putting in tons of effort. Because, after all, there's still the rest of life to accomplish.

And, in spite of my enthusiasm for my dictionary and flash-cards, we did do quite a bit of non-Japanese stuff.

Nature Study went particularly well. Our pond is really coming to life. We saw tadpoles - the first time I've seen them, ever - and fed turtles. The kids got muddy. We watched water-scooting bugs and listened to bird song. I found plantain and burdock, and identified the remains of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit we found last week, even though the flower was broken off. We noticed that "our" mouse has opened a new hole - the 3rd we know of on his house. I still have some wildflower photos to identify. The pond was gorgeous. The woods were beautiful. It was fascinating. I love Nature Study!





Hero(8) has been hard at work, learning to blow bubbles. Not that that's terribly educational. But it's important to him, and he's so happy with himself! We've had several pieces of gum hit the floor... ew. But he's making progress. Even if it is hard to photograph his successes.




We were minding our own business, attempting some bookwork on Friday, when Nature Study came to us. We discovered that a Mama Mallard built her nest in the neighbor's rhubarb. Happily, they don't eat the rhubarb; hopefully they'll wait until the ducks are done nesting to finish taking out the plants. In the mean time, we have front-row seats, since the fence is easy to see through. I've seen 5 or 6 babies, but didn't get a good enough view for a reliable count. The neighbor says there's 8. I'm wondering why they decided that a suburban yard, a mile or more to the closest drainage pond, much less a real pond, is a good place for a nest? No idea. But I'm delighted.



The kids have been doing some great stuff around the yard. Hero has decided that mowing is one of his favorite jobs. And they all like the planting we've been doing. Hero and Dragon each did their own pots. Dragon chose red ones, appropriately, Snap-dragons. That makes me smile.





Hope that your week went as well as ours did!
 

17 May 2015

Psalm 4: Hear My Prayer


When I sit down with a passage of scripture,  the first thing I want is to understand the meaning of all the words in the passage. My parents raised me consistently exposed to and talking about scripture language (in many ways, it's its own dialect), so I am fortunate that, for the most part, the distinctive language of the scriptures doesn't bother me, even with the King James Version. But even with that, sometimes the scriptures, and especially the Old Testament, can be tricky. Psalm 4 has one of those tricky spots. From verse 2:


"...how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?"


This didn't sound like the usual sort of leasing, where you rent something, so I looked it up in Strong's. It comes from the Hebrew "kazab," which is typically translated as lie, but was also rendered as deceitful, false, liar, lies, and, here and in Psalm 5, as leasing. When you render this with one of those other words, it makes a lot more sense: "... how long will ye love vanity, and seek after lies?" I looked it up in the 1828 Websters, just for fun, and it appears that this used to be meaning of leasing, but it was obsolete back then already. So, at that point, I backed up and looked at the beginning again.


Photo courtesy LDS Media

I love that. The Psalmist combined both a plea for help and a faith-boosting reminder of the times He has previously assisted. During prayer is a great time to think about how the Lord has cared for us in the past, precisely because that will boost our confidence before the Lord, and it seems to me that quiet confidence or assurance is a key to unlocking the power of prayer (which is distinctly different from arrogancy, or from selfishly demanding). I found myself browsing through scriptures about prayer. There are so many to love. I scrolled through dozens, dealing with a bunch of situations. Invitation after invitation to seek Him in prayer. I ended up making a scripture chain of some of my favorites.

Psalm 4:1
Hebrews 10:35-36
Matthew 21:22
Luke 6:12
Matthew 17:19-21
Words of Mormon 1:8
Colossians 4:2
James 5:16
Jacob 4:10



Sweet Power of Prayer, April 2003

Brother Nelson's wry humor appeals to me, but he has a great point, too: the act of praying isn't hard, and that's by design. It's not something that only holy people or smart people or whatever kind of People Who Are Not Me do; prayer is for all of us. Our Father wants us all. He wants to hear from us; He wants to help us. Not only does He want to hear from us -that's only half the equation- He wants us to hear Him.




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