Thinking about Thinking in 2017

It seems appropriate that this post go out in January; otherwise it doesn’t really feel like a New Year post.  The truth is, though, I’ve been experiencing a lot of ambivalence and indecision about the kinds of study I want to pursue this year and about the way I want to focus my time in general.  So let’s just say this is less of a plan and more of a trajectory, which could potentially change course.

We’ve got some categories:

1. Ambleside Online Year 11

I got attached to Year 11 when I was looking around for a Bible reading plan for myself.  Lamentations through the minor prophets looked especially appealing and challenging to me, and I’m making myself narrate every reading.  But the general theme in Year 11 (equivalent to junior year of high school) is that remarkable point in history when “the sacred canopy” fully disintegrated (post WWI), which is of particular interest to me.  I am a lover of modern art, especially abstract expressionism, and some of my favorite literature is that which squarely faces the despair of this time period.  So I guess I’m not your typicalsayers classical homeschooler!  I feel an almost desperate need to understand my own time–perhaps because we work with college students, or it could be that what was being expressed in the first half of the 20th century isn’t that far off from what’s being expressed now.  Year 11 offers me some fine options for exploration, especially from writers who were standing their ground for tradition, order and norms.

I’ve already read Brideshead Revisited, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby and quite a few of the free reads, including 84 Charing Cross Road (so fun!).  Several of my all-time favorite books are also on that list: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Violent Bear It Away, Peace Like a River and The Chosen.  Why We Can’t Wait, originating from Dr. King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail, which is still frighteningly timely and was viral on MLKJ Day this year, is also listed.

I’m currently working on Ourselves and Christy, and I’m looking forward to reading The Mind of the Maker, Amusing Ourselves to Death and some Edna St. Vincent Millay. 

2. The Origins of American Conservatism

It’s probably fitting then that I am also planning to spend quite a bit of time with Russell Kirk and Marilynne Robinson, in an effort to understand our current political climate, especially the origins of conservatism in America, because I am completely in the dark.  eliotLiving in Detroit, I find myself asking questions that liberals are answering and generally unable to conceive of the questions conservatives are asking (and I’m not talking about Trump-supporters here).  I’d like to understand better, because honestly I feel a little alienated from the Christian homeschooling world at the moment.  Believe me, I come at this topic with fear and trembling and many many prayers for humility.

In this category also goes the poetry of T.S. Eliot–a volume of his collected poems is on its way to me right now!

3. The Leadership of People of Colorthe-warmth-of-other-suns

Lori Harris recently put out a list of her favorite books written by people of color, which I intend to read through.  One of my big goals for this year is to step deeper into community with people who are different from me, especially to allow their voices to speak into my life and lead me.  My favorite podcast right now is called Pass the Mic, put out by the Reformed African American Network, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for this purpose.

 

dante4. Group Discussion 

I’m facilitating discussion of Dante’s Purgatory and Paradise on the Expanding Wisdom Facebook group this year for sure.  Beyond that lurks the ambivalence.  I have opportunities to join two separate local CM book studies, but I’m not sure I will do either (see point above about diverse community).  I was looking forward to following along with Close Reads’ discussion of a Dorothy Sayers mystery novel, but just finally admitted to myself that I don’t have time.  Maybe I’ll jump back on for the next pick.

 

5. Piano

I sorta kinda play the piano and got back into it in a big way last year.  Am currently working on Moonlight Sonata.  Am amateur to the max.

There you have it!  I’m sure I’ll have a good laugh over this “trajectory” in December.  As a beloved tour guide once repeated ad nauseum in Israel: “We’ll see what the Lord has.”

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Still Processing the Election

Here are some responses to the election outcome that I thought were exceptional, and which reflect my heart in the midst of the situation.

I’ve seen several people I know and love comment that there are “checks and balances in place” with regards to the amount of damage our future president could do. The overall sentiment is, “It won’t be that bad” or “I’m not worried.”
I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, I know there are “checks and balances” in place. I also know we will soon have a president whose campaign promises include building walls to keep our neighbors out, deporting image bearers, and stopping and frisking my children and friends. Will checks and balances prevent those things? We’ll find out.
What’s important for the majority of us to understand is that the people who are legitimately fearful, are so because of the CULTURE Donald Trump incites. A culture that promotes racism, grabbing women by the you know what, degrading the physically handicapped… Essentially a culture of hate.
So when you see someone saying they are scared, you should know they are likely not referring to your “checks and balances” mentality, although those are legitimate concerns, BUT scared of living in a culture that hates them. Hates their very flesh, the color of it, the makeup of it, and the differences of it. They are afraid because the imago dei in them is being assaulted by the future president and the CULTURE he has fanned the flames of.
I say this out of love for us all and a deep desire for understanding. If your skin hasn’t been the target of hate, perhaps it’s time for ears to listen to others whose skin God wrapped on differently than yours. We could all use a little understanding.

–Lindsy Wallace, fellow CM homeschooling mama in Miami (Light Breaks Forth) on Instagram

 

Friends, as we think about this election, I want to remind you that one of our candidates ran on a platform of removal and exclusion – “we’ll build a wall” – being the notable claim.

Problem was, he attracted folks to him who had much broader ideas of exclusion, and Trump was endorsed by KKK and neo-nazis with hopes of “making America great again,” or as they interpreted it, regain white power.

I am well aware that is NOT why most Americans voted Donald Trump into the office of President. No one wants that to be the reason why he’s in the White House. (I am not at all calling you a neo-nazi if you voted for Trump – I know there are always many complex reasons that go into supporting one candidate over another.)

BUT I know as a white woman, it can be hard for me to put myself in the place of minorities in this country. What does it feel like to have dark skin? White privilege can feel like it doesn’t exist anymore – surely we’re in a post-racial age, we rationalize. After all, wasn’t our last president black?

In this election, here’s what white privilege looks like: it is the privilege of not caring who won, not being concerned about the ramifications for you and your family, not wondering if you’re welcome in this country.

I pray and hope that Donald Trump’s is a normal presidency like any other. But what I hope MORE than that is that the church of Jesus acts like Jesus, who spent his days with whores, dropouts, criminals, and Samaritans, the most hated minority in the region. He spent his time with those on the outskirts, the marginalized. And who did he condemn? The rich, the powerful, the hypocritical – like me.

I hope we actively look out for those whose voices are not as powerful, and that we say we’re sorry early and often. We all have things to #confess

-Liz Grant (Literary Artifacts) on Instagram

 

Let’s start by noticing and listening to those who are hurting…

From personal interactions, I’ve already encountered minority students and women who are suffering a lot right now and wondering how so many people can overlook and even support a man who has said blatantly misogynist and racist things. Let’s listen to one another, be present with those who are feeling afraid and care for one another without having to argue our point. We can listen. We can care.

Let’s notice and listen to those who might be feeling shamed…

In all likelihood there are people in our congregation who felt the weight of a difficult choice and voted for Trump. That act alone doesn’t make them a bigoted or hateful person. In fact, some may be feeling a burden of shame or fear given the post-results fall-out on campus and around the country. Can we notice and listen to them without judgment? Can we be present with them and even hear the heart behind their choice? Can we care? We can.

Let’s be wise and a light to those who are openly prideful/hateful…

It is not the nature of our Savior nor of us as His followers to overcome hostility by force of hostility. Darkness cannot dispel darkness. Only light can do that.. Light looks like loving those who are hating as well as those who are hated. But we must be wise in the face of pride. Let us not become mired in heated arguments online or anywhere else when love is our point. If we would prove our point, we must ask the God Who is Love “Father, what does love look like right here and right now with this person?”. And then we must obey.

Let’s rely on the truth of the gospel…

We have One King in the person of Jesus Christ. This truth is not meant to short-circuit any grieving we or those we love may be experiencing. It is simply true that neither we nor this election has escaped Jesus’ watch. And we may take comfort in the fact that God, at any time, can raise up a leader, guide a leader or remove a leader according to His will.

-Kyle, a friend and campus pastor

 

For a seed to come fully into its own, it must become wholly undone.  The shell must break open, its inside must come out, and everything must change.  If you didn’t understand what life looks like, you might mistake it for complete destruction.

-Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Whose words have ministered to you during this time?  Whose words have challenged you or your perspectives?

WWW ladydusk
Wednesdays with Words

Hither By Thy Help I’m Come

I’ve gotten a few new subscribers recently (thank you so much!), which is super fun, and I’m wishing I would have posted more in August and September.   A LOT has happened.

Hospitality implies process.  You don’t know what the guest will do, you can’t control the situation, and there’s always give and take.  The guest is supposed to bless you as well as receive from you.  The guest can be, must be, loved by you without needing to be just like you.  The joy and blessing of hospitality, the truth of hospitality, comes not from some end result, but from the experience itself.  In the actual process, koinonia [fellowship] happens, Christ is present and the gifts multiply.  Surprise.

–Michelle Hershberger, A Christian View of Hospitality

So if you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that a fourth little girl is often tagging along with us on homeschool mornings.  We’ll call her K, and her presence in our home the last month is nothing short of a miraculous, specific and utterly thrilling answer to prayer.

In my post about living in Detroit I shared that we live a scant four miles from the only official Charlotte Mason school in the state of Michigan.  We almost enrolled by oldest daughter Ellary this fall, but last spring, when we were praying through the decision and working out the financial details, I began to sense that something wasn’t right.  I imagined all the narrations I wouldn’t get to hear, all the connections I wouldn’t get to watch snapping into place, all the books I wouldn’t end up reading.  It’s a tremendous school that we love and support, and I would have been extremely involved there as a parent and maybe even more, but in the end, we decided not to move forward with it.

It was God’s decision, it was a financial decision, it was a decision Kevin and I made together–but truly, it felt like my own selfish decision.  Our number one reason for considering this school was our belief in the benefit of its presence in the community.  It is a radical alternative to the rather bleak (but improving!) educational landscape in this city.  We want to be apart of that kind of thing.  We want to send our kids to an excellent school with their neighbors.  Integration and multi-ethnicity are often missing links when it comes to education reform.  What’s more, I don’t want my big old house on a little city lot to become a place of isolated privilege, which only directly benefits my nuclear family.  And homeschooling is an immense privilege that should never be taken lightly (I particularly like Lindsy’s post on the subject).

I was a bit befuddled.  When we started the enrollment process, it had felt like a done-deal in my mind, and then all of a sudden, we were strapped in for another year of homeschooling.  I was pumped, of course, because if we were just talking about what I want, then everything was lovely.

But we’re not just talking about what I want, and after the final decision was made, I began to feel so ill at ease, so heavy, as I thought about my place in this city.  So many people are moving back into Detroit, buying foreclosed homes, flipping them, making everything pretty.  A lot of those people are going to make ridiculous amounts of money on their investments.  If we were to sell our house right now, we would make an obscene (and I do actually mean obscene) amount of money on it.

I know that’s not why we’re here.  But do my neighbors know that?  Am I doing anything at all to show people that I’m not here because it’s trendy and lucrative?  Are we making things easier for our neighbors who’ve been here for 30 years…or making it harder?

These are the questions that haunted me when we re-upped for another year of homeschooling.  So I started praying.  Well, first I staggered around blindly, groping for some sort of action step to make me feel better.  Then I gave up on that and started praying.  Praying that I would meet more homeschooling families IN the city, praying for a chance to share my passion for education with someone somewhere…anything.

Three weeks into our new homeschool year, I met a woman (we’ll call her M) that had recently moved in across the street.  My jaw dropped when she told me she homeschools her 7-year-old.  I was ecstatic.  I practically squealed, “We should be friends!”  She smiled serenely and agreed.  She also told me that she was having major problems with her health–a concussion from 4 years earlier hadn’t healed properly and she was having chronic nerve pain and migraines.  On top of this, she is a single mom with a new (old) house to care for and a 5-month-old baby boy.  I knew when I walked away from that conversation that I was going to offer as much help and friendship to her as I could.  I took her daughter K on a field trip with us a few days later.  By Labor Day, M had asked if K could tag along with us during our homeschool days while she heals. homeschool

K will be with us Monday through Thursday mornings at least until Thanksgiving, and her presence in my home is nothing short of an ebenezer for me, “a commemoration of divine assistance.”  She is proof that God cares about me, He cares about M and K, He cares about our homeschool, He cares about Detroit, and He is involved.  We’re offering some stability and friendship and reading lessons to K in a difficult time, but she is offering us real relationship in this city.  Her mom and I keep saying to each other, “Thank you…no no, thank you.”  I just keep marveling at what God can do in six months.

Sacred Canopy: Reflections on The Abolition of Man

abolition of man

Last year, I had the privilege of contributing to Jennifer Dow’s Summer Classical Reading series.  Here’s an excerpt:

My mom and I had a conversation a few weeks ago that surprised me.  We’re very close, but I’ve been busy with little ones, and let’s be honest, pretty self-absorbed.  So I was genuinely surprised when she told me she’s been struggling for at least three years with significant doubts about the existence of God, a true “dark night of the soul.”  It began for her when my paternal grandmother, a life-long atheist, died without any indication that she had ever changed her mind about God.  It took the wind out of the sails of my mom’s Christian faith and forced her to confront what she termed “the siren’s call of atheism.”

To read the full post about how C.S. Lewis has given me historical perspective, visit Expanding Wisdom.