Jack and friends

Hiya, everyone! I’m J-j-j-jack! That’s Jack. I’m the newest pride and joy of the Hair House. People call me a nuisance. I have no idea what that means, but It’s gotta be good, right?

I come bringing tidings of great joy! The best dog in the world (that’s me) has a new side-kick. His name is Felix. Or Happy. Still trying to figure that out.

He isn’t a very good one, though. He eats all the food. He never shares. And he always licks people before I can. He takes control of everything. Sometimes I wonder if he knows that I am the hero and HE is the sidekick. He likes to switch it around. But I don’t mind too much.

The biggest problem with Felix is that he likes chickens. Now I think chickens are kinda fun to chase, and all that, but he thinks that chickens are yummy. What a goofball! I guess he’s never tasted one. I think they’re all feathery.

But Felix is good for one thing: he comes up with a nice set of games! He came up with one called “Dig up the garden” and we did it. Dad wasn’t happy, but it was really fun. Then he came up with a new one: “Fly the coop” and we tried it out. It involved getting into the chicken coop and making the chickens fly out.

The world according to Felix:

A good idea: we could take naps in the middle of the road.

A better idea: we could take naps in the middle of the road when cars could come.

A good idea: eating an ant-hill

A better idea: eating a spider

The best of them all: eating a rattlesnake.

As I’ve said, Felix is very weird. But he’s a nice sidekick. He just needs some training. How should I train him? I guess I could stick him with a cat…no, wait. He actually likes cats. Oh well. But something needs to change. I need a plan.

Anyone have ideas on how I should teach Felix? If so, you can tell me in the comments.

Sketching Lily

In case you are wondering, I feel poetic. It seems to be much easier to write a poem than to actually think out an article. I also was going to enter a poetry contest, but two things stopped me. 1: I’m not a poet. 2: I didn’t like the assignment. I could also add 3: I forgot to mail in the form. So here goes. Perhaps this is self-condemnation. If it is, it’s in a nice way.

Sketching Lily

Sketching Lily

Waiting in the car one day,
I pulled out my sketchbook to sketch
It’s much better to hide in the images of mine,
But what I should draw is a stretch.

 

I think I should draw up a field of flowers,
Or a Castle hewn out of cold stone.
Perhaps a dancer with joyful steps,
Or a cave filled with carven bone.

 

I pull out a pencil and ready the slate,
But my mind has suddenly gone silly.
Instead of picturing a figure or place,
I can only sketch up Water Lily.

 

With anger and resentment seething within,
Outwardly, my pencil is still.
I can think of a thousand things to sketch,
But somehow, they are outside of my will.

 

I love to draw almost more than I love anything,
But what actually comes out is bland.
I can think up the most amazing of drawings,
But somehow, they don’t come out as planned.

 

I finally give in and draw the same character
I’ve drawn at least seventy times.
I know that I’m losing the battle within,
But I’ve tired of holding these lines.

 

They think I’m an artist when they see that sweet girl,
They say my skill has become great.
But it’s only because I’ve drawn her so much,
And can’t think of another as of late.

 

I’ve grown to love my sweet Lily-Fair,
Though our partnership has been rather forced,
I still bring out my sketchbook all cluttered with notes,
And I admit, they really aren’t the worst.

 

Look after all that you can do
Be it sing or paint the Lily-Fair
Remember that God picked your talents for you,
And each one has a reason to be there.

Life at the Top and the Bottom: Homeschooling Through High School

Homeschooling through high school means that you're on the top, on the bottom, don't have to ask to go to the bathroom, and can wear  cloaks if you feel like it.

Homeschooling through high school means that you’re on the top, on the bottom, don’t have to ask to go to the bathroom, and can wear cloaks if you feel like it.

 

Many people have questions and curiosities about life as a homeschooled high school student.

 

“Do your family’s students get a home economics credit for doing the dishes?”

“How do you teach integral calculus?”

“Where in heaven’s name did you get such a nice transmission electron microscope?”

“Is school violence a major issue—are there gangs or bullies?”

“Is that a pipe organ in your living room?” 

 

I am asked these questions and many more hundreds of times each year; usually I say “no comment” or refer the askers to my press secretary or my cat. However, at last I have taken the time to personally answer a few of them; do keep in mind, however, that no two homeschools are alike.

 

School Sports

My school football team has never lost a game. Consequently, we have never played a game, either, and none of us know how to play football. That’s beside the point—the point is that we are doing better than Lumberton High School.

 

School Music

This homeschool has a thriving music program. Currently there is a nose-flute virtuoso in middle school here; we had a banjo player until last year, when we banished him to an apartment and gifted his instrument with the ultimate banjo mute (a.k.a, the sledgehammer).

 

College Preparation

Two thirds of my school’s students have learned to like coffee by at least their sophomore years; the other third has not yet reached its—or, well, her—sophomore year.

 

School Lunches

There is no policy forbidding me from bringing, cooking, dissecting, or hunting my lunch. Usually the school lunches are quite good, unless the freshman home economics class is in charge for the week. (I failed the home economics class the first time around after catching the stove on fire.)

 

Science Experiments

My school has never had a lab safety issue or explosion, and the school’s decontamination shower has never been used. (Once some potassium permanganate stained the kitchen countertop, but it blended with the pattern anyway.) Personally, I have only eaten one science experiment; I’m still alive and maybe with superhuman powers to boot.

 

School Violence

My cat kills things, but usually just mice or Entergy workers. The facility is monitored 24/7 by sniper-archer-ninja freshmen sitting on the roof.

 

Socialization

Do not worry about it. I talked to a person once and despite that I think I’m still turning out alright.

 

Home Economics

Chores-for-grades is a simple system my homeschool has developed for making the most of the home economics experience. Target practice and science experiments are integrated to help with the first-time cake failures and carbonized animal tissues.

 

Field Trips

Personally, I am quite taken with the field just west of my house—lovely for geological expeditions. I found a baby armadillo there not too long ago.

 

Calculus? Quantum physics?

Two words: Khan Academy.

 

School Dress Code

Pajamas are acceptable, but chainmail, swim suits, lab coats, or sometimes jeans are also acceptable. The freshman prefers wearing cloaks and chainmail, but I—the junior or senior or whatever you would like to call me—am nocturnal, so it is of little consequence anyhow.

 

School Spirit

Like many high schools, my homeschool likes to show school spirit. My family mainly does this by having pep rallies around the dinner table and then watching DIVE videos* together.

 

Letter Jackets

I actually learned my alphabet long, long ago. I see no use in wearing letters at this stage of the game.

 

Competition

My sister once whacked me upside the head after I beat her at chess. Other than that, student rivalry has not been a significant factor in academics or trips to the emergency room.

 

 In conclusion,

hopefully this has answered a few of your most pressing questions. But again, remember—not all homeschools are all alike, and not many homeschools have such great football teams.

 

*For the uninitiated: DIVE is homeschool celebrity Dr. Shormann’s lifesaving curriculum. Best thing since the Pythagorean theorem.

 

Thunder Hymn

I wrote this after church one night. It had been stormy, and the dark clouds frightened me. But God is with us even through the hardest storms.

Thunder Hymn

Storm clouds rise
Fill the skies
With dark clouds all around.
Storms will come
And cause some
to fear Thunder’s drum.
Do not fear!
God is here!
He will help you even here.
Do not take fright!
God will fight!
For your cause day and night

Fear not the flood
For the blood
Of Jesus Christ claims your life
You won’t be lost
For your cost
Has been paid on the Cross.
Fear not the fire!
For his desire
Is that your soul be refined.
Though it may burn
You will learn
Your faith grows when it is tried.

Watch and Pray
Seize the day
He has promised to be with you always.
Lift up your heart
Stand apart
Do not fear the deadly dark.
Lift up your hands!
Don’t fear to stand!
He is with you in this land.
Lift up your voice!
Make your choice!
Make a stand against this noise.

Lift up your eyes
and see the skies,
For the sun will surely rise.
The clouds won’t stay
Light finds a way
To make a new and brighter day.
Lift up your head!
Your God’s not dead!
He bore the scars for you instead.
Lift up His Name!
He stays the same!
He will come just as he came!

Look to the Sky.
God is Nigh.
He will return,
Our praise to earn.
Fear not the End
God is our friend.
He will bring justice to the end.
Do not fear!
God is near!
He is with you even here.
Fear not the night!
He makes all things right!
For your cause he will fight.

Chosen Ones: Caro’s Plan

The young men couldn’t believe their good luck. Now they would be able to enter the city without being noticed. But Davis, Simon, and Tully’s military background made them suspicious of the sudden order. “Nya doesn’t just make a random census.” Davis warned. “This is because of Gino, make no mistake.”discussion

“Gino?” Simon laughed. “How would he be so important?”

“Hold your tongue.” Davis growled. “You don’t understand.”

He was right, though. Most of those who followed Caro were young men who wanted in on the action. They wanted a military strike. Very few of them had guessed the true significance of the Chosen, and some had mistakenly thought Opal to be Caro’s sister. Caro had tried to explain, but it seemed to be beyond them. However, Caro had no complaint, for everyone there was fiercely loyal, brave, and valiant.

Rocket the gunfighter soon discovered one of Nya’s hidden motives. “The temple has been sacked.” He reported after a scouting mission with Andrew.

“Say that again?” Tully asked.

“The priests are all gone. Completely shipped out. Most people said they were sent to the core. Nya must be tired of them.”

“Why wouldn’t she be?” Caro muttered. “She detests anything that reminds her of being Chosen; she wouldn’t let the priests and priestesses join the True King.”

“Our Creator is our King.” Andrew said quietly. “And He delegates power to those whom He chooses. But this is a bad turn. How will the priests offer intercession on behalf of our people from the core? Will the Creator forsake us, when we are so close? He can’t! Will the nation have to keep suffering for its leader’s wickedness?”

“I’m afraid so.” Davis agreed. “We’re in a war now. The Chosen are gone. Opal, or Iya, or whatever you called her, has gone ahead. Maybe she’s gotten there already. We need to make a distraction and make sure she makes it to the palace and to Nya. We cannot rely on Gino. We must act quickly.”

“It’s not like the people themselves are innocent.” Rocket interjected. “If this “Creator” really cares, I’m sure he won’t be happy with me, or any people right about now.”

Andrew shook his head in frustration. “You’re talking about things you don’t understand.” He began. “None of us are good enough to be right with our God. But that is why the priests muse intercede. If they cannot…will He understand? I think so. There is a prophecy…”

“We’re getting off the point.” Davis interjected.

Caro agreed. “Andrew, tomorrow meet Rora in the place we agreed on before. I want to make sure she and Opal are safe. The rest of us will enter the city by groups and pairs. Some will even pretend to do the silly census. But that’s going to be a ploy to get us unnoticed and past the gates. Once inside, we should head for the sea. I found something a few months ago that no one knows about. A way to the castle.”

“”What?” They asked in surprise. “How do you know this?”

“Because I sailed there, before I came here. We’re going to use boats to get to the shore on the other side of the cemetery. No one will be there. Nya’s people fear ghosts.”

“Ghosts?”

“It is a cemetery. And Nya’s people have plenty of reason to fear the dead.” Caro explained.

“But are there really ghosts?” Rocket wanted to know.

“No, I don’t think so. And if there are, we have no trouble with them. Most of them are my family, anyway. Let’s hurry.”

“I have a question.” Andrew ventured.

“Is it about ghosts?” Caro asked, half-smiling.

“No…it’s how I’m supposed to meet up with the others if I’m going to go to the town square and meet Rora.” Andrew explained.

“You’re not.” Caro tried to explain. “You’re going, the rest of us are getting things ready. We’ll come back to one of the inns in the afternoon, trade information, and then head out together. Try to get back around lunch time. We’re acting at one o’clock this afternoon. If Nya is to be stopped, it has to be before her army masses for the attack planned against Lithia, if I remember right.”

“Who is going against the queen?” Rocket asked.

“Opal is. Our job is distraction.” Davis sighed, as there was a collective groan.

“A blind girl?” Tully asked in disbelief. “Next you’ll be telling me that the dog is going to take down Dawes.”Promise sniffing the air Caro turned and looked at Promise. Since Gino had been taken, the dog had been almost savage. Davis had tied him up, but the dog was obviously agitated. Some of the men had suggested leaving him behind, but Caro couldn’t bring himself to do it. Gino had loved the dog too much.

“He might.” Rocket said sarcastically. He had no idea what Caro was planning, but he would do anything for his captain, and was irritated at their hesitancy.  “Now shut your mouth and follow orders!”

The Songbirds

Maybe this is just us, but our family loves to sing.

Both of my parents sang, and we’ve been singing ever since. Our ideas of good music vary from person to person, but we all enjoy listening to and making music. At any given time, six or seven people might be singing. One might start off with “Do you want to build a Snowman?” From Frozen. Then her sister will chime in with “Let it Go” and her brother, trying to drown them out, will start singing “Hope in Front of Me” by Danny Gokey. Finally, their older brother will get fed up with all this noise and start singing a weird version of “Kung-Fu Fighting” from Kung Fu Panda.

Actually, I think the noise aspect of this house could be summed up in this little ditty taught to us by our Theater Kids director.

Sing, Sing, Sing
I like to sing
I like to sing a song
Sing, Sing, Sing.

In some cases, however, it comes out like this.

Scream, Scream, Scream
I like to scream
I like to scream a lot
Scream, Scream, Scream

That’s when our mom starts to wonder if we’re really all worth the trouble. But we like singing. We like to sing. We sometimes play games where we talk in song, or make parodies of some songs we don’t like so much. This comes in handy when the song in question has questionable material. No problem for a family of jokesters. We’ll just warp the words and make them say something else. If the song is kinda rocky and we have no idea what it’s saying, but we like the movie it comes from, we’ll just change some of the words up and make it applicable to the film in other ways. “Immortals” becomes “We could be Portals”. And that’s just the beginning.

After some time, and years of refining, we’ve discovered that music is a deadly weapon. Some of the rhymes we have come up with are rather crude. Others were hurtful to the person listening. Music has a strange way of creeping up on a person and turning off your senses. I sometimes wonder if music isn’t just distilled emotion put to sound. Whether this will be poison or medicine is up to the writer.

I suppose that’s why our parents have to be so careful with what we listen to. I remember a particularly rocky tune that I couldn’t get out of my head for weeks, simply because a friend was playing it. The lyrics were ridiculously awful, but there was something in it that was so captivating.

Maybe girls have this harder than boys. I just keep thinking about that short story by Mark Twain called “A Literary Nightmare” about a little rhyme that the author couldn’t get out of his head. Maybe it’s just a little thing about how music and rhythm that makes us go on autopilot. Plato saw it, and many have seen it since.

We communicate with music at our house because it makes our contradictions softer. No one wants to hear someone yell “Sam! You haven’t finished your job yet!” But if someone sings those same words, somehow it’s different.

Singing also makes memorizing easier. Even just a little rhythm to the presidents can make them easier to remember, and with so many of them, that’s a good help. Singing helps many things. Singing can also make things worse.

Why is it that singing is such a large part of fairytales? The princesses sang to lure in handsome princes. So did Sirens, but they were thinking about lunch. Speaking of lunch, a bunch of goblins were going to try and eat a miner. What did he do? Sang to them. Some witches in the old stories used song to work their evil, and C.S. Lewis picked up on this when he was writing the Silver Chair. So I guess music isn’t harmless.

To tell the truth, music opens us up and makes us vulnerable. This is another warning: We need to be careful what we say and what we do. But we need to be careful of what we listen to, too. It’s not harmless.

No, I’m not saying to riot or burn cd’s. Some music is just plain rotten, but in this country we have free speech. All we are responsible for are our own actions. Those two options might seem more fun, but they don’t solve anything. After all, they aren’t attacking the heart of the issue: ourselves.

As Christians, we have the obligation to guard our ears. We need to guard our hearts from garbage. We also need to be considerate of others when we make up rhymes. This might not be your problem. But what about making rude comments, or posting terrible things online? That hurts just as much.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, be considerate. It’s Ok to want to sing your own tune. But be considerate! There are others singing with you. Don’t introduce something that will bring discord. And I really do mean discord.

Ella: A New Miniseries

 

Ella, starring Avery Danielle, Frank Bolton, Sophie Hannah, Andrew Stecker, Joshua Boertje, Michael Sung-Ho, Martin Brady, and Michael Swan.

Ella, starring Avery Danielle, Frank Bolton, Sophie Hannah, Andrew Stecker, Joshua Boertje, Michael Sung-Ho, Martin Brady, and Michael Swan.

 

Last week the first episode of Ella, a new adventure miniseries, was released on Vimeo.

The award-winning creators of the series—writer and producer Eric Johnson, producer Scott van Dalen, and director Zac Anderson—wanted to craft an impactful, unforgettable story.

“My favorite part of telling stories is the impact they can have,” Johnson said, “I want to tell stories that are inspiring and impactful.”

Ella’s dramatic cinematography, compelling plot, and strong dialogue serve as clear indicators that Johnson, Anderson, and their team succeeded.

“I’m not quite sure where the original idea for this show came from. I wanted to write a story about photographers, so I just sat down and started. That’s how I came up with the concept. From there, I ran the idea by Zac and Scott, and we made the idea bigger and better,” said Johnson.

The story begins as Ella, her friends, and her sister are celebrating her 23rd birthday with a hike into the woods; the group is taking pictures and having fun. (Except Dave, who’s mad that there is no cell phone service in the middle of nowhere.)

“Low key, quiet, and photography,” turns into something far more sinister. Ella sees something through her camera lens that is out of the ordinary: two murderers and their victim.

After seeing what Trev, the leather-clad gunman, doesn’t want them to see, they hikers have to run for their lives. And they all have choices to make. Ought one of them to take the car and leave the others behind? Is there even anything to be done?

Ella has the option of running away from the scene and abandoning her friends, or risking herself to save the others. As the disaster unfolds, she decides to try to find out what is important to the gunmen in pursuit and why they were there in the first place. The story is very much one about characters and their selflessness (or lack thereof):

Johnson continued, “The theme of the show is a very important aspect to me, but not a lot of people ask me about it. The theme of Ella is selflessness. Every character is either selfless, selfish, or somewhere in between. Ella, our hero, represents one extreme while our villain Trev represents the other.”

Ella is an intriguing example of how Christian filmmakers can branch out into new genres and tell a story–from a Biblical worldview–without resorting to cliché plots or preaching a sermon.

You can watch Ella here. (Please note it probably is not suitable for young audiences.)

Still Struggling

What began as a casual reading of WORLD magazine turned into a soul-searching that I had never experienced before. It all started when I had some free time in the afternoon. I flipped through the pages, reading of the fight for Cambodia and the battle for religious freedom in our Nation. But as I was going through it a second time, I found a story that I had missed. The story was from Burma. This interested me, because I’m praying for a Missionary named Ngun in Burma (Myanmar) and I think the country is very interesting. That was where Adoniram Judson served, after all.

But the story turned sickeningly horrible within seconds. Two young women, missionaries, had been tortured and killed. I read, almost in shock, as the story revealed a battle no one is talking about. These two girls were martyred, abused terribly… all for their faith. Throwing down the magazine, I asked myself “Why?”

The age old turmoil between what I see as just and what I see as merciful flared up again. These two girls were murdered. They were senselessly brutalized, and for what? What could God possibly accomplish in the death of these two workers? Why would He let this happen? They were His. Why didn’t God protect them? And those men who did it…how could hey be so cruel? Why didn’t God just strike them down where they stood?

All these questions and thoughts rushed through my head like a hurricane. Louder and more frightening  by far, however, were the thoughts of revenge. I didn’t even know these girls. But I wanted those men to die. I wanted them dead and I wanted them to suffer for what they did. This thought scared me, so I turned to God and asked him to take away these thoughts. Then, like Job, I began to ask why he had let it happen at all.

My drive for justice and vengeance was as sinful as their rampage. I had to be reminded that Christ died for their sins as well as mine. Though I didn’t want to, I prayed for them to repent. I prayed that they would turn to God before it was too late. After a while, I realized I didn’t want them to suffer for their actions. Who would want anyone to suffer in hell? Just another sinner, I suppose.

Slowly, painfully, I had to come to grips with the fact that I don’t know everything. Me, who had been raised in the Church to the best parents in the world! Me, who knew all the answers! That hurt, maybe even more than anything else. That I was even thinking like this scared me even more. Was I becoming a Pharisee?

If I was, I was in good company. Paul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5) These were the people who thought themselves perfect. Strangely enough, the people who act most like them today are those who condemn them. But that’s something for another post.

Christ our Mediator

It’s so hard to not condemn. I know, I know that we are all sinners. But why is it that everyone else is such a great sinner compared to me? It sounds silly, and perhaps it is. But when Jesus told us that we wouldn’t be able to see the beam in our own eyes, he had a very good point. We are so blind when it comes to our own faults. It’s so easy to think of ourselves as perfect. But we’re not. We’re so far from perfect.

But what of this….this atrocity? Was it wrong to want justice to be served? Well…I guess even Justice can be twisted to be used as an instrument for revenge. So it’s a good thing that I am not God. But oh, why do we have to struggle so hard? Why do we have to suffer through life? In my disbelief, I wonder if Heaven is really worth it. But in God’s word, I discover that it is.

Why does God take his servants, those who do his holy will? Why doesn’t he save them? Why doesn’t he let them live? There are thousands of sinners around who deserved to be treated that way. Why would God allow his gems to be violated? Why is it that only the good die young? Is it because they are the ones ready to go home?

In a scene from one of my favorite books, Rebel’s Keep by Douglas Bond, a Scottish leader named Cameron prayed that God would “Spare the Green and take the Ripe.” Perhaps God knew that these two girls were ready to go home, and he took them. But why then? Why that way?

As my mind rambled from topic to topic, it kept returning to the same question: why? Why would God allow this to happen? Why would he take away two young women who could have done such good in their ministry? They could have strengthened His church!

But something else echoed through my head. The blood of the martyrs grows the church. God uses his saints, even through their deaths. In fact, God uses martyrs to break the hardest hearts, and who knows? Maybe the murderers would remember them and God can use that to break their hearts and save them. God doesn’t always destroy. Sometimes he takes captives. These captives are people who are dragged kicking and screaming into salvation in the beginning, but in the end become some of his best workers. Paul is a good example of this.

The things that we call Mysterious Ways are named well. We don’t understand God’s purposes. I don’t know if we ever will. But it doesn’t matter. As far as we know, Job never found out about why he ran into all of his troubles. But God doesn’t have to tell us what he’s planning. It’s his plan, not ours.

If we knew about them, they wouldn’t be called mysterious, would they? We’re so curious about things we simply cannot understand. Curious to a fault.

It’s hard not to know what’s going on. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after a tragedy. Right now Baltimore is erupting into chaos, and Nepal is picking itself up from a massive earthquake. Bad things are happening. But they will not overtake us.

After a while, I came to realize that no matter what happened to these two missionaries, they are safe with God now. They have joined the company of white-robed martyrs, and their sufferings probably don’t seem that bad now. God is a God of justice, and those who hurt his children are hurting him. If they refuse to listen to Him, their justice will come to be after their deaths. And that is a pain that no one envies. That is a pain no one should wish on another, and I confess with shame my reluctance to forgive. God save me from my wicked passion!

To be truthful, I have no idea why God wanted to take two of his workers home early. I don’t know why he let them take them in this terrible way. I, even I, don’t have all the answers, and I probably never will. Job, as far as we know, didn’t until he died. But I know God had a reason for the events turning out the way they did, and I need to be content. God uses sin sinlessly: though he doesn’t orchestrate it, he knows that it will happen, and he turns it for the good of his Church. Even when it’s hard to understand.

Thanks for bearing with my rambling. If you have some free time, please pray for the families of these two missionaries. The murder happened in January, but their hearts are still broken. And if you have some more time, pray for those who did it. If we get some prayer pressure on them, perhaps they will finally come to see God’s love. It’s tough praying for those who persecute us. But it’s something we’re commanded to do.

Oh, it never gets easy. Even for me. Especially for me.

Philippians 3:4, 7:

Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more…But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.