Friday, January 30, 2009

All-State IMEA for LaRae

Some of my readers may not know what IMEA is. Our state public education system has a music organization called Illinois Music Educators Association. As far as I know, most--if not all states--have similar organizations and festivals. IL is divided into six districts for IMEA events. Six district festivals are held in November each year.

Students are nominated (for orchestra, band, or choir) by their music teachers early in the school year and then in October allowed to audition for placement. If a student ends up in a high chair (placement) in their district festival--and they are at least in 10th grade--they are invited to attend the All-State festival in late January where the kids (in similar placements) from all six districts come together to form orchestras, bands, and choirs--two of each.

Once they arrive on Thursday of the week of All-State, excerpts--of music they have been preparing for a month or so--are posted, and an audition sign-up sheet is posted. They do not know if they will make the All-State group or the Honors All-State group, so they have to prepare all six pieces for the auditions.

Auditions are held from 10 AM to 2:30 on Thursday. Placement is posted by 4:30 or 5:00. First rehearsals are from 6:30 to 10:30 Thursday night. The groups rehearse most of the day on Friday and Saturday morning. All the groups then perform on Saturday afternoon in the Peoria Civic Center. The three all-state groups (orchestra, band, and choir) give their performance at 1:00 pm, and the Honors all-state (orchestra, band, and choir) give theirs at 3:15.

So, with that explanation, some of you are wondering how is it that we (home educators) are involved. Home educators are allowed to participate in limited numbers in our state. I'm thankful... of course, I have to admit that since Curt and I pay about $5000.00 a year to our local schools via property taxes (!!!) I would certainly be offended if we were not permitted to take part. Sorry, a side topic there... it just spilled out. : )

So, in the pics below, first, LaRae is working her way up to the board where audition results are posted. (This was yesterday.) I had already read the results while she was with some friends at a concert (IMEA sponsored) down the street at the Civic Center. But, I didn't tell her the results once she arrived... wanted her to see for herself.

The honors orchestra list was on the far right, so she was looking, looking, looking, working her way over that direction until she saw the results.

She's right up at the board here--in the middle, still trying to find her name...

About 100 kids auditioned for violin placements. Approximately 50 made it into each orchestra. LaRae made Honors Orchestra, First Violin, Chair 13! We were so happy for her. This being her first year, and she being young for 10th grade, only 14... we couldn't have been more pleased.

You can imagine the excitement when she looked up and saw HONORS ORCHESTRA at the top of the page where her name was listed!

Here she is, back in our room, still stunned and delighted. She is a sweetheart, never assuming anything, despite the fact that she practices diligently. My mother-heart is thrilled for her.

Proud daddy...
Of course, I know the world of music; it's a cruel and unpredictable one. It is a world of extreme subjectivity! More than anything, Curt and I are thankful that she has developed a skill that makes her a tool in the hands of God. Not only does it give her a skill that can be of use for the benefit of others, but she is developing diligence, endurance, and other character qualities through the whole process!

We all have potential abilities (talents) that God has placed within us; as we develop them to be of use to Him, I believe He is pleased.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blogworld and its Effects

I ran across this interesting and thought-provoking post from a fellow-blogger. You might enjoy it as well. She encourages us to make sure we are truly "in touch" with He who knows us far better than any other. Blogworld can be a very confusing world. We must be aware of the dangers.

I want to continue questioning myself as to how I affect others through this amazing venue. I want it to be pleasing to HIM and helpful to them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wintertime Delight

O Winter,
King of intimate delights...
~Wm. Cowper

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.
You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different,
and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
~J.B. Priestley
A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations,
but look what they can do when they stick together!
~author unknown
Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
~Bill Morgan, Jr.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Worship HIM

When I look into Your holiness. When I gaze into Your loveliness.
When all the things that surround
Become shadows in the light of You.
When I've found the joy of reaching Your heart.
When my will becomes enthralled in Your Love.
When all the things that surround
Become shadows in the light of You.
I worship You, I worship You.
The reason I live is to worship You.

©1980, Integrity's Hosanna! Music
Words and Music by Wayne and Cathy P

Here is a link to hundreds of Hubble photos!
~Thank you, Father of delights!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Blessing of Being Contradicted

Sometimes I read what I've written and I cringe. Words on a page can sound so different then when they're in your head. I'm learning that I have to write and read, and read, and read, and read, and then rewrite, and read some more... It's hard work to take strings of words and communicate ideas, concepts, abstract observations or conclusions. Attitudes and tone of voice can be grossly misunderstood in the written word.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to just quit trying, to stay in my warm little corner of the world and write nothing. But I cannot do that. I am compelled to keep trying to hone the skill, to learn to better articulate the thoughts and ideas that churn in my mind.

I have written songs for many years. Those are somewhat safer territory, but even there one can be misunderstood. I suppose if we state any proposition, someone is bound to misunderstand or disagree with us.

So, we continue the journey, sharing our thoughts, whether they are ideas we will hold to for all of life or whether they are passing concepts that will be completely refurbished at a later point. Our understanding is always growing if we seek to live a life that is open to examination.

I recently heard the statement, "unless we are contradicted we never learn." I thought about that for quite a while, and I believe it is true. Whatever I believe at this moment to be truth will stay just as it is until it is brought into question (contradicted) somehow, somewhere, by someone, including myself--if I am willing to re-examine.

Being contradicted is a blessing. Doesn't always feel like it, but it is.

I'm so thankful I had and still have family and friends who are willing to love me with "tough love" and contradict me if and when they have questions about my present state. I would never grow if I refused to accept it.

When I was almost a teenager, some folks who were upset at my father said some hurtful things about me. It was before I had submitted my will to God, and the things they said were true. Their motive was not tough love. They wanted to hurt my dad by hurting me. But you know what? My dad was wise and had tough love for me. He said, "Laura, I know they are saying these things to hurt me and you. But if they are true statements, it doesn't matter what their motive is. You must change, so that they cannot say such things. Truth is truth, and no matter who says it or how they say it, if we want to live in the truth, we will accept it and become better people."

His tough love did more to change me and head me in the right direction than he'll ever know. The natural human thing would have been to protect his baby girl. But he had an eternal perspective and saw down the road where I was headed. He looked beyond his own hurt, beyond my hurt and saw my need. His reaction cemented in my mind that there was a reality beyond my self-centered little world, and I was being called to face it. My dad had faced it, and now I had to.

Thank you, Daddy, for contradicting me, for loving me with deep love that saw way down the road and wanted what was best for me--for eternity.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What I Worship Rules My Life

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi

“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going--so far as I can tell--but it’s changing.”(1) So begins Nicholas Carr’s Atlantic essay, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" His article describes the shifting of his own thought patterns; how he once could delve easily into long bouts of prose, but now finds his mind trailing off after skimming only a few pages. As a writer he is the first to applaud the instant wonders of Google searches, information-trails, and hyperlinks ad infinitum. He just wonders aloud about the cost.

University of Virginia English professor Mark Edmundson is another voice attempting to articulate the current cultural ecosystem, and the minds, souls, and relationships it cultivates. In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education he attempts to describe the turbo-charged orientation of his students to life around them. “They want to study, travel, make friends, make more friends, read everything (superfast), take in all the movies, listen to every hot band, keep up with everyone they’ve ever known... They live to multiply possibilities. They’re enemies of closure... [They] want to take eight classes a term, major promiscuously, have a semester abroad at three different colleges, [and] connect with every likely person who has a page on Facebook.”(2) Edmundson argues that for all the virtues of a generation that lives the possibilities of life so fully, there are detriments to the mind that perpetually seeks more and other options. For many, the moment of maximum pleasure is no longer “the moment of closure, where you sealed the deal,” but rather, “the moment when the choices had been multiplied to the highest sum...the moment of maximum promise.”

There is a phrase in Latin that summarizes the idea that the way our minds and souls are oriented is the way our lives are oriented. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi is an axiom of ancient Christianity, meaning, the rule of worship is the rule of belief is the rule of life. That is, the way we are oriented in worship (whatever it might be that we focus on most devotedly) orients the way we believe and the way we live. In a cultural ecosystem where we seem to worship choices and possibilities, where the virtue of good multi-tasking has replaced the virtue of singleness of heart, it is understandable that we are both truly and metaphorically “all over the place”--mentally, spiritually, even bodily, in a state of perpetual possibility-seeking.

Of course, the ancient Christians who first repeated the idiom, Lex orandi lex credendi lex vivendi, did so with God in mind as the subject, aware that God was the only object of worship who could ever quiet their restless souls. Before any formal creeds were written, the early church held this adage, knowing that the essence of their theology would rise from their acts of adoration, thanksgiving, and petition. And they knew that the ways of their worship, the things they said when they prayed, not only defined their ultimate beliefs, but ultimately defined their lives.

The same is true of our lives today. That which claims the most thorough part of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength both reflects and shapes our lives. We most certainly live in a time when the greatest commandment comes with great difficulty, when focusing our hearts, minds, and souls on one thing is a challenge met with a constant parade of options vying for our attention. But the God who longs to gather us, whose arm is not too short to save (even from ourselves), nor ear too dull to hear, is the same yesterday and today.

What’s more, the distracted soul is hardly unique to the age of Google. There was a time when the ancient church father Augustine of Hippo defined his soul as “too cramped” for God to enter. He prayed that God might widen it, seeing too that it needed to be emptied. “You prompt us yourself to find satisfaction in appraising you,” he prayed. “[Y]ou made us tilted toward you, and our heart is unstable until stabilized in you.”(3) Of course, such satisfaction in worship is not likely if God is treated as one of many possibilities in a never-ending, ever-expanding web of activities and diversions. If faith is only a part of life, then it has become as optional as pursuing one more hyperlink or skimming one more article. But those who fully approach the God of all possibilities find rest and focus, wisdom--and indeed, possibility--for their souls. As we worship, so will we live.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Nicholas Carr, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Atlantic, (July/August 2008).

(2) Mark Edmundson, “Dwelling in Possibilities,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 54, Issue 27, Pg. B7.

(3) Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Garry Wills, (New York: Penguin, 2006), 5.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reality Check

The Barack Obama administration has wasted no time in announcing what his pro-homosexual agenda will include.

Just hours after becoming president, the website has laid out Barack Obama's agenda. Under a section of that agenda titled Civil Rights is a very detailed outline of what Obama plans to do for the homosexual community.

First on the list is the expansion of "hate crimes" statutes to include extra punishment for crimes committed because of sexual orientation and gender identity. Highlighted is the president's political history of support for hate crimes legislation.

Obama also supports full civil unions and federal rights for homosexual couples, and calls for repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). According to the agenda explanation, the president also is opposed to a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as only between a man and a woman,

As expected, the Obama agenda calls for the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy to allow open homosexuals to serve. "The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals," says the website.

Obama also wants to expand adoption rights for homosexuals. The 44th president, states the website, "thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not."

Elsewhere on the Agenda section (The Agenda - Women) is a statement noting Obama's longstanding support for abortion rights. On that issue, the "consistent champion of reproductive choice" -- as Obama is described on the website -- promises to stand against any effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, increase funding for "family planning and comprehensive sex education," and remove any insurance restrictions against contraception.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Where even the teakettle sings from happiness.

That is home.

~ Ernestine Schumann-Heink

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Show Yourselves to Be

Sweet are the branches growing the fruit that comes from the vine
But these are just branches blown by the wind holding on to life
I want to be like them holding to the One whose life is mine
And I know as I follow Him His life will surely show in me

He said you will
Show yourselves to be the ones who follow Me
By the evidence you leave along the way
They'll know that you are Mine like the branches on the vine
If you show yourselves to be following Me

Faith joins our hearts to Him, it's not a result of anything we do
But if we are part of Him there will be reasons to believe it's true
The fruit cannot help but grow if the branch is joined into the tree
And love cannot help but show in the one who goes where Jesus leads


Planted in the fertile soil of quiet times
watered by the rains of trouble, growing toward the sun that shines
They'll know that you are Mine like the branches on the vine
If you show yourselves to be following Me

~ Steven Curtis Chapman

Monday, January 19, 2009

No Better Place to Be

The start of another week... another Monday.
We awaken and eat our cereal as words ring through the house.

"We will abandon it all for the sake of the call... What kind of joy is this?... Your higher ways teach me to trust You..." "No better place on earth then the road that leads to heaven."

Lawyer husband prepares to leave for work. We give our goodbye hugs and look forward to lunchtime when he returns.
Snow--soft white fluffy crystals, a fresh covering to the gray-brown drab of winter--came down last night. Not enough to be a solid blanket, but beautiful anyway. And I have to look. I have to examine the beauty, some of those millions of unique shapes. I thank Him.

Nandinas are a delightful winter sight around here. They make my eyes happy with their red and green coloring, the reminder that there is life bubbling within.

Morning light makes the snow glisten as it rests on holly leaves.

" Mom, what's up?" LaRae steps out--barefoot, wet-head of curls--to observe her mother, still in fleecy robe and slippers, taking in the beauty.We head back inside to begin the day's duties.

Between violin practice, the songs continue, "I know this path we travel on is very straight and narrow, but I've looked down other roads along the way, and from all I've seen I can say without a doubt there's... No better place to be..."
~lyrics from Steve Curtis Chapman's album, "For the Sake of the Call."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mocha Mix

On cold winter afternoons, when the sun is setting, the wind is blowing, and the snow is falling (in my dreams!) I like to take a cup of milk, heat it for 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave and then add a tablespoon or two of this homemade mocha mix! It is really a delight.

Just take:
1/2 c. dry non-dairy coffee creamer
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. instant decaf coffee granules and
4 T. baking cocoa.

Mix it in a blender or food processor and you have it! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Slice of Infinity

Generations, Regeneration, and the Word

Some years ago I read a powerful book by the famed theologian Carl Henry entitled The Christian Mindset in a Secular Society. The book was quite prophetic, for it set forth plainly where the lines of a cultural battle were being drawn and how far-reaching would be the fallout. Two ideas that he juxtaposed immediately caught my attention. The first was that "biblical truth, transcultural as it is, has an indispensable message for modern man." The statement is a very logical conclusion for anyone with a high view of Scripture. But then came the blunt portrayal of the contemporary scene in its relentless emasculation of truth, the hallmark of modern humanity. Carl Henry referred to this generation as "intellectually uncapped, morally unzippered and volitionally uncurbed."

This disturbing reality was driven home to me in a story relayed by a friend, a professional actor who dramatically narrates Scripture word for word. Describing his last performance at a university, he said he had experienced something thoroughly unnerving. As he enacted the anguish of Christ on the way to death, students laughed through the presentation, mocking the pathos. This would never have happened in a Hindu or Buddhist context, where reverence is shown for anything spiritual, even if it is not part of their creed. Clearly our context is different. How then does one communicate to people who have bought into such a mindset as Henry describes, who openly reject ultimate authority and ridicule the sacred? The answer is not simple, but we rob ourselves if we think it is therefore impossible.

First, let us be absolutely certain that every generation at some time has in its own way resisted the truth that God has proclaimed. In Matthew 11, Jesus compared his own generation to children in a market place crying out, "We played the flute for you but you did not dance. We sang a dirge but you did not mourn." They wanted John the Baptist to "dance" because they considered his message--the demands of the law--too somber. On the other hand, when Jesus came with the message of grace and freedom they wanted him to mourn because it was too merciful. Any message that threatens our autonomy is automatically rejected no matter what it is.

As cultural fads ebb and flow, the inescapable truth emerges that century after century the power of his written Word has surpassed, and will continue to surpass, the exhilarations of momentary experience, which are conceived and die in an instant. We tenderly set a halo on the forehead of feeling or miracle, but in times of greatest loss it is the written Word, the embodied Word, that carries us through, not feeling.

The apostle Peter reminds us of this very truth. We must remember that this is the same Peter who experienced the ecstasy of the transfiguration--a sight that caused him to plead that he and those with him be permitted to permanently bask in its afterglow. It is Peter who, contrasting the temporariness of that experience with the eternal and unfading brilliance of the Word, says, "We now have the more sure word of prophecy" (2 Peter 1:19). Inscripturation has a present and eternal point of reference, transcending mere flashes of feeling or of the miraculous.

Over the span of life, the Word can be tested time and time again and its truths will stand tall as our culture's fascination with the subjective proves itself to be hollow and false. By contrast, the biblical documents have withstood the most scrutinizing analysis ever imposed upon any manuscript and have emerged with compelling authenticity and authority. No other ancient literature demonstrates such a high degree of accuracy.

But not only does the Word come persuasively inscribed on paper, the effectual power of the Word is evidenced when that inscription, proclaimed through the Spirit, embodied in Christ Jesus, brings life-changing conviction with it. Let us never forget the very incarnation itself, where the Word became flesh and came to dwell among us. The transformation that comes as a result of this personal touch is what regeneration is all about, when the letter of the Word and the Word as Christ himself are written on the heart of the hearer. The Scriptures, the touch, the presence, and the love of Christ lived out--these combined become the sword of the Spirit to break down the armored resistance of a culture at war with his truth. For ultimately, all pursuits apart from God lead to alienation and loneliness that only the touch of Christ can resolve. The Christian, therefore, stands in the position to proclaim and live the truth that reaches the mind, stirs the heart, and purifies the imagination. The regenerative power of the Word is what makes it indispensable to every culture and every generation in every century.

~ Ravi Zacharias: founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.Listen online to the last message in
the series as Ravi teaches how to engage the culture with conversations that count on this week's Just Thinking:

I hope this encourages you as much as it did me today! I deeply appreciate the ministry of Ravi.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Casting Crowns: Slow Fade Video

Slow Fade Teaching Video from TAATD DVD/CD

So true...

Let Me See!

~ God, open my eyes that I may see! Lead me to the path that takes me to Thee.

Blind Lead the Blind
-Steven Curtis Chapman/Geoff Moore

There's a teacher in a school room
Somewhere on the edge of town
Telling innocent little children what we used to be
They look and listen without a question
They see the pictures passed around
Making facts out of a theory and they all believe
As the lost lead the way
Another heart is led astray

These are the days when the blind lead the blind
And there's one narrow way out of here
So pray that the light of the world will keep your eyes clear
'Cause it's a dangerous place here where the blind lead the blind

There's a preacher in a nice church
Anchored in the heart of town
People flock to hear his eloquent delivery
He talks of Jesus how he can please us
But the cross cannot be found
Makin' theory out of facts until they're all deceived
And the lost lead the way
And more hearts are led astray

This is a dangerous time
And the truth is hard to find
So let His word light your way
And guard every step you take

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Living Well

A friend gave this beautiful little Willow Tree ornament to our family recently.
I love the simplicity of the art work.
The attached tag says, "2008, Celebrate a year well-lived."

A year well-lived...
Can't help but immediately go to my Abba and thank Him for helping us make good choices. For, day by day, moment by moment, we can choose wrongly, and there will be unavoidable consequences. Any living well our family was able to do, is directly related to the relationship of trust we have in Jesus Christ; following His example brings us to a year well-lived, a year we can look back on and know we did the best we could with what we understood. Our hearts were completely open to Him. That's what counts.
As I awakened this morning--my mind immediately perusing the halls of conscience, checking for clarity of purpose, and clearing away the clutter of dreams, I was overcome with the remembrance of my early struggle of finding God.
Raised in a Christian home, but born with the same selfish interior known to all, I had a tough time wrapping my mind around the reality of eternity and the necessity of surrendering my will to my loving and wise Creator.
I'm thankful He got to me. As I continue to read His words, I am ever drawn to follow after His Son. Following in His footsteps brings us to living well, no matter what the circumstances.
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him."
~John 14:15-21
"And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."
~1 John 2:3-6

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More on Simplicity and Soapmaking

Simplicity continues to emerge in quiet moments... a theme for a new year of blogging. What should be simplified this year? How can I make my life more focused on real things, on things that matter in the forever world? How can I more orderly manage my home, my time in this world?

The Apostle Paul expressed concern for the church in Corinth. He wrote, "I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."
~ 2 Corinthians 11:3

I desire an even more simple and pure devotion to Jesus Christ. With God's help, I will not be lead astray.

I've made a couple of batches of soap each morning the past two days. I bought a bulk base this time and am re-batching it, adding the delicious-smelling essential oils I prefer. has some luscious bases; mine has goat's milk in it. It has none of the harmful additives store-bought soaps have these days, and it is full of the skin-soothing glycerin that is taken out of commercial soaps to be sold for use in lotions.

One of my friends who has had very dry itchy skin has found that with our homemade soaps, her skin no longer itches! If you've never made soap, I highly recommend it! I'm not even a crafty person, and it's so easy and enjoyable, I think I probably will do it the rest of my life! The bars I've bought that are most similar to what I'm making are about $6 per bar!!! That's a motivator to make it myself, wouldn't you say?

This is base I purchased from Brambleberry.
I chop up the desired amount of soap base,
heat it in the microwave--just like you melt chocolate, let it cool a little and add the EO of choice.

Then I pour it into the molds (mine are down-spouts cut to desired lengths. My hubby, the king of creative-bungee-cord-uses, set me up a way to clamp the molds down so they won't leak at the bottom. I also add the sticky kind of plastic wrap secured by rubber bands.

The soap hardens enough to remove it in 12 to 24 hours, and at that point I cut it, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it cure for a couple of weeks--ideally. Sometimes, I can't wait, and so I use it after a couple of DAYS! It gets harder if you let it cure longer, which makes it last longer. I think it ends up with a little lower pH as well, so it's easier on your skin if you wait. I read that somewhere, but haven't actually tested the pH myself.
Hope you're having a wonderful Wednesday, my dear readers!