Archive for March 2010

Redeemed Time

March 30, 2010

Time is an odd commodity, don’t you think?  It can be spent, wasted, lost, but no one can make more or add more to the record.  We are told in Ephesians to “redeem the time, because the days are evil.”  Those words were penned in some pretty dark days, but I don’t think those days had anything on today.  So, am I redeeming the time?  Good question, since I should be writing a college paper right now.  Guess I should go do that and get back to you!

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Okay, I’m back.  You know, there’s a funny thing about assignments that I don’t want to do.  They would actually take much less time if I didn’t spend so much time disliking them and dragging my feet!  I have one course this semester that I haven’t been able to really get into and enjoy the way I do most of my courses.  The assignments, while not long, only 1000 words, don’t appeal to me either.  In consequence, I have struggled with writing those papers for the last ten weeks.

I went and wrote the first draft of the latest paper during the break above.  I did have to take some breathers (pauses while I refresh my brain with a mindless activity like solitaire), but I actually got the paper written in fairly short order.  Not, of course, as quickly as I could have written this post or some of my other assignments.  When I like an assignment and can apply my creative bent to it, I am likely to go above and beyond the requirements.  I’ve done that in courses ranging from World History to Communications for Professionals to Human Development to Digital Storytelling.  It doesn’t matter the content of the assignment so much as the set up; i.e., is there room for my imagination to play or room for me to express my views on the subject in a thought provoking way.

But should it have to be that way?  What does the Bible say?  “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).  I think that if I followed this with the assignments that I cannot enjoy, I would not only finish them faster, but would actually begin to enjoy them.  I can infuse life into most papers, though I have to be careful in doing so, depending upon whether the course material allows for creativity or not.  In any case I can act like I am doing something enjoyable instead of acting like it’s a chore.  Who knows, the acting could become the reality!

I hardly think that I’m the only one who has to write assignments that don’t appeal to me.  Maybe you, too, can give consider the assignment as something to do for God.  We know from Galatians that “in due season we shall reap,” so why not sow something worth harvesting?

Sure, I’d much rather be writing for my blog or working on my latest story ideas, but giving in and playing when I have work to do doesn’t build my character the way I want it to go.  Waiting until the last day to write papers doesn’t produce my best work, either!  That’s not exactly what I take “redeeming the time” to mean.

To redeem the time.  What does it mean exactly?  Well, in looking over the various meanings of “redeem”, it looks like in this context it means “gain or regain possession of in exchange for payment.”  That looks strange at first, applied to the commodity “time,” doesn’t it?  I think it means that instead of “filling up” our time, especially slack time between other tasks, we can be making time work for us, we can be possessing time as a useful commodity rather than either letting it slip away or letting ourselves fritter it away.  Does that make sense to you?

The payment part refers to our efforts.  No matter what we do, we could always be doing at least one other thing instead.  I redeemed some time by writing that paper, but I could have been writing this post, I could have been practicing my music, I could have been working on one of several projects, or I could have been posting to one of my college discussions boards.  I wrote the paper, so I did not have the time to do all of those things.  Just like when we buy groceries and don’t have enough money left for, say, a new game, a new CD, or whatever latest craze is out there that we want (but don’t need) to buy.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t spend time relaxing.  Actually, we do need to refresh ourselves in order to get the most out of the rest of our time.  Who hasn’t heard the old saw, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”?  At the same time, we can make our play time count too.  We can be enjoying uplifting music, reading (or in my case, devouring) good books, sharpening our brains at a game (I’m not a Sudoku adict, but it could get that way if I’m not careful), interacting with our families and friends, or exercising our creative powers, whether we be incline to write, draw, carve, paint, sculpt, garden, sew, crochet, or do any one of a multitude of other things.  Even watching videos and tv can be useful as well as refreshing.  My mom makes even lunch conversations count.  We may start a conversation talking about one of any number of mundane topics.  Then we’ll say something that reminds Mom of a story, and embedded in that story will be an important life lesson.  Those discussions are one of the best parts of homeschooling.

So think about it.  What are you doing to redeem your time?

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Thoughts about Turning 21

March 24, 2010

Add to the list of been there, done that.  I turned 21 several months ago, and if I had not already experienced a feeling of just another (birth)day with earlier milestones, I might have been disappointed.

When I turned 16, for instance, I did not immediately start acting more grown up.  Nor did I do most of the things normal 16 year olds do, like get my license/permit or at least have a big party.  I didn’t have a huge breakthrough at 18, either.  I had some deep heart searchings about that time, but it wouldn’t have been noticeable in my outward life yet.  I was learning that we do not grow up overnight.  That’s the work of years.  Still, I could definitely see growth by the time I reached that 21st birthday I had recently.

But a blog post I read recently made me stop and think again on a topic that has come up several times in recent years.  Agent Tim’s handling of the subject was fresh, however, and provided a much needed reminder for me.  Do I have to be grown up in order to do something for Christ?  What would I be taking to God if I were to die today?  Is it enough that I turned my life over to him as a child?  What have I done for him that will stand in the last day?  Do I have more than wood, hay, or stubble?

I’ve not risked my life, my health, my pride, my anything for the cause of Christ.  I’m not out preaching salvation to a world of lost sinners every week, nor am I regularly supporting even one great cause.  So what can I lay at the Master’s feet?  The question gets easier to answer because I realize that not every Christian is called to a missionary’s life.  God does not call us all to preach on the streets, reach out to the masses, or run a charity.  No, he also uses some that I might title “stay-at-home” Christians.

These are the people who live their lives like “normal” people, going to work every weekday, attending church on Sundays, playing games with the kids in the backyard, having friends over for dinner, and otherwise living like any other average family.  But they do it for God’s glory, cheerfully going about their business as if it was (as it is) his business.  Theirs is not a showy ministry, but they reach the people around them nonetheless.  Their whole lives are a witness to those who come in contact with them.

I am learning that God’s greatest desire is not for me to be doing his work, but to be knowing him – and through knowing him, I will do his work.  It probably won’t look spectacular, but did Christ himself look spectacular as he worked with Joseph in the carpenter’s shop?  How about after tramping the hills of Gallilee all day long?  I think we can focus too much on doing things that are visible, things that others can compliment us on.  Christ told the two blind men in Matthew 9, “see that you tell no man.”  Should we need more recognition than that of God for the little things we do in Christ’s name?

As I ponder further, another thought surfaces.  Are any of the things we do really worthy to be laid at his feet?  What makes anything we do worthwhile?  The answer is doing it for him, in his strength, in his way.  In that sense, I hope we can all bring something to lay at his feet, and once we’ve laid it there, forget.  Forget it because, we will be looking into our Savior’s face.  Much as we reverence the feet that walked the hill they call Golgotha, greater still is the face that looked upon our sinful selves and did not leave us to perish.

Doing School at Home

March 20, 2010

I loved doing school at home.  Not only did my mother choose curricula that fit my learning style, but I got to work alongside my siblings.  In some years, I shared a desk with my brother, 3G, and while one of us was working at the desk, the other would usually be reading on the couch.  We learned time management through having to schedule our work around each other’s work.

We moved to a new house the summer before I started sixth grade, and then we had a school room.  Four desks lined the walls, mine, 3G’s, Sister’s, and Mom’s, which was also the computer desk.  For most of the morning, Mom was out of the room with the twins, so we three supervised ourselves.

We liked to start conversations, discussions, and arguments whenever one of us got to a break point or a sticky point in our work.  I would turn around and say something to 3G, at his desk behind me, or Sister would ask one of us for a hint with her assignments.  Once started, we were off to the races.

What discussions we had!  Sometimes it was a current event, more often a historical one that we were studying.  From the time Sister was in first grade up to the time I started highschool, we all did the same history, so about five years.  Other conversations revolved around people we knew or life in general.  We liked to debate everything from the hows and whys of the Greeks’ intercity fighting to how our last play practice went at church.

By the time we had two in highschool, we got into more sophisticated arguments, but less often.  3G had reached the point where he could prove his point faster and more clearly, so I argued less even if unconvinced by his rhetoric.  We still had discussion, however, especially when I needed him to explain something in the science curriculum we shared.  Though he is two years behind me, we often did science together since science was one of his strong points and one of my weaker ones.

Our computer sharing also got more complicated with two people using it for Rosetta Stone (Spanish) and two people using it for Typing Instructor besides one using it for writing essays.  Yes, between the three of us we all used it for all these things, and it became a family joke during my senior year that whenever Mom walked into the schoolroom, someone or other was at her desk, working on the computer.

Then I graduated and we moved my desk into my bedroom.  We knew that my schedule was going to become a bit odd when I started college in the fall, and that I was going to need my own computer since I was doing college online. That left 3G and Sister to their own devices.  Since I was not there those two years, I have to rely on second hand information, but apparently the conversations got more frequent after I left.  For while I was not there to start the conversation, with only two in the room, the others could talk as long as they wanted.  Before, the third person would stay out of the conversation for the most part and eventually ask the others to be quiet because there was thinking going on.

I miss being in on those conversations, and I have fought to stay abreast of all that goes on in the household.  Since the others often talk about things and do not realize that I have not heard the conversation, I have to pick up on hints much faster and ask about things I am not aware of.  Most of the time, my sister is good at relaying the important things like who is coming over for dinner and when, but other things sometimes slip her mind.

People worry about socialization for homeschoolers.  I’ll probably write another post devoted solely to that topic, but I’ll say here that living amongst my siblings was a lot of socialization.  You know what they say, you can chose your friends but you’re stuck with your family.  Learning to get along with people of various ages who know you in your best and worst moods is tougher than almost any social situation you’ll encounter outside the home.

Stories of my Sister

March 17, 2010

How do you describe a sister?  I think it’s tough to find words to sum up a sister’s being and personality in a simple sentence.  It takes a book to do a sister justice.  Especially one as talented as mine.  Actually, it’s funny that I should say it takes a book to describe her since stories are what have bound us closest over the years.

As small girls, we used to play with our Barbies together, telling stories the whole time.  Because I was a bookworm (still am), we grew very sophisticated in our plots while still very young.  I liked to copy and modify the stories I had read, and my sister has always had to smile when she finally read a book which I had used as the basis for one of our “playings,” as we called them.  Depending on what we were studying in history, we might also imagine our dolls to be spies in the Revolution, Underground Railroad engineers in the Civil War, immigrants from a multitude of countries, Native Americans, pioneers, or cowboys.

The best part was that we got to change the story as we went along.  I would try three or four times before I got one character’s lines right, and Sister would sit there grinning the while.  I am afraid that I dominated the stories most of the time, but that was partly because my sister is four years younger.  When we started, I had read more, knew more, and had the better ideas.

That changed several years ago.  We were getting too old really to be playing with dolls anymore, but neither of us wanted to give it up, especially Sister.  I had been trying to quit since I reached my teens, since I entered highschool, and since I turned sixteen, but it was hard when my sister was four years younger and still wanted the sister time.  It was a favorite pastime of mine as well since I got to imagine all kinds of stories and pretend to myself that I was the heroine.

Then my mother had us write a play together for part of our schoolwork.  She got a book called Create-a-Drama, and we worked our way through it to write a melodrama.  This experience was eye opening, as we finally put one of our stories down in black and white.  I had joked about tape recording our playings sometimes, but never did anything about it.  This story, however, would last.

Since I held the pencil and did the actual writing, my fingerprints are most obvious in the finished result.  Also since I was the older, I overruled some of my sister’s objections to my style.  For instance, I wrote out much of the dialect for this mid-western set of characters, and she did not like all the apostrophes and the weird spellings that resulted.  I grudgingly let her fix some of them when she typed them into the computer, but dug in fiercely about taking all the twang out of the script.  You see, I expected people to read the story because I did not expect that we would ever actually perform it as a play or radio-play.

Still, my sister did have some input, and most of it was good.  Our creation passed muster with my mother, and we were brave enough to show it to a few people, who enjoyed seeing this product of our creativity.  Since then, we have begun collaborating on another story (about an actor, of all things), but this endeavor is taking longer since we have to fit it in around our school work, my job and volunteering schedules, and all the other things going on with our family.

In the meantime, we like to spend time chattering about everything under the sun when we are supposed to be doing something else.  We both have said that we cannot walk into the other’s room to ask them a question without it ending up in a half-hour (at least) conversation.  Still, we cannot complain.  After all, it could be worse.  We could each be stuck with a sister we could not stand!

“I’m Going to be Betrothed!” – article by Amanda Read

March 13, 2010

Just came across this article at Cross-Eyed Blog and Webzine.  All readers waiting for their happily-ever-after (and those who are ready for a laugh) should read and ponder.  Beneath the humor you’ll find several principles that are not always well understood today.

“I”m going to be Betrothed!”

My Preference in Christian Music

March 13, 2010

I grew up with hymns in church; that was almost the only Christian music I knew, although I’ve heard quite a bit of Keith Green, Twila Paris, Phil Keaggy, and Randy Stonehill. I remember hearing a lot of Twila in particular.

On the whole, however, I did not hear much contemporary stuff, though I’ve picked up a few names of a few singers and bands. When my family recently began attending a new fellowship with contemporary music, I got a little bit of a culture shock.

Over the last six to eight months, I’ve gotten used to the new music, though it’s not my choice of relaxing listening material and it’s not what I choose to sing around the house. I prefer hymns and older choruses that have doctrine worked into the text. Most of today’s music seems to be worship or praise choruses, and not only are the lyrics a bit hard to follow sometimes, but the tunes begin to sound alike after awhile. Granted, that theoretically makes it easier to pick up and sing a new song, but I like something a bit more distinctive – music that will stick in my head.

I’m not saying that contemporary Christian music is bad. Just that most of it does not fill my requirements. Twila Paris remains one of my favorite singers (granted, she’s more my parents’ contemporary than mine). I’ve learned a few new songs that I do like. For instance, one of Jeremy Camp’s called “Beautiful One.” I used that to make another Animoto, which can be seen here, BEAUTIFUL.

I guess I’m going to be slow to abandon the old favorites: “I’ll Fly Away,” “There Is A Redeemer,” “Lion of Judah,” “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus,” “This World is Not My Home,” “Create in me a Clean Heart,” “Be Thou My Vision,” “Spring Up, O Well,” “The Lily of the Valley,” and many more. They’re also great done in Smoky Mountain Style.

The Fiddler Narrator

March 8, 2010

I stared into the dim sanctuary, throat dry, and mind going blank.  My cue was coming, and I was not ready.  Why, oh tell me why, did I ever audition for this?

But I am getting ahead of myself.

My family had not belonged to the state homeschool group until my sophomore year of highschool.  Although we attended the homeschool convention sponsored by the group, we had not felt a need to be a part of it till that year.  We joined for a couple of reasons, one being that my oldest brother wanted to play his clarinet in the homeschool band before auditioning for the local youth orchestra.  Another was that I wanted to sing in the homeschool choir.

I’ve always liked to sing.  When I was little, I would even make up songs and tunes of my own, simple and repetitive.  I sang a duet with my father when I was only eight or nine.  So when I heard about the homeschool choir, I was very eager to join.

The rehearsals were in the choir loft of a church.  It was a half hour drive for us, but I gather that most of the other kids were from that area, so the location was actually almost central.  I remember being very shy the first day, but one of the other girls, we’ll call her Chelsea, introduced herself and some of the others.  We hadn’t much time to talk since our director was getting us organized by voice, but I did feel better to have someone reach out to me.

I have to smile every time I remember the bunch of us lining up by height.  Our director did that to help her get us in some semblance of order as we would be sitting.  I was the fifth tallest.  Chelsea’s brother and Chelsea herself were the tallest in the group, with two other boys just topping me.  I’ve since figured out that I was older than almost everyone, too.  Chelsea was a senior, but though I pegged two or three others as older than me, I later learned that they were my year or younger.  It’s a tough age to gauge.

Half way through the semester, our director held auditions for several solos.  She was going to have a small group sing “Amazing Grace,” and she needed a couple of people to do single lines in our “Fiddler on the Roof” medley.  “Fiddler” also had an opening narration.

I auditioned for the soprano part, though I was also slightly interested in the narrator part.  I did not want to try out for both, and I preferred to sing.  As soon as I finished singing, however, I knew that I had not done very well.  I went first, for one thing, and in front of everyone else I was extremely nervous.

The next week, our director announced the people who would be singing “Amazing Grace.”  A group of three girls had gotten the soprano part.  Chelsea and another girl were going to do the alto line together.  Then she said that they were going to re-audition for the narrator part because they could not decide who to give it to.

I quickly realized why they were re-auditioning for narrator.  The first week, three or four of the younger choristers had tried out, the oldest being eleven and very shy.  The most personality was shown by the eight year old, but he spoke too fast to be understood.  I resolved to audition unless someone from the bass section did.  The part was supposed to be a guy, anyway.

When our director asked for a show of hands of who was interested in auditioning, I raised mine.  She asked if I would start off, but I shook my head.  I had learned the previous week that I needed a moment to collect myself.  The younger kids went first, and then I was ready.  I stood up and read out the lines quite convincingly.

“A fiddler on the roof.  Sounds crazy, no?  But in our little village of Anatevka, you might say everyone of us is a fiddler on the roof! … ”

I doubt anyone was surprised when I got the part.  None of the guys stepped up, not even the director’s brother, who was on the debate team.  I guess I’ll always wonder at the lack of nerve they had.  And I thought I was inclined to be shy and reserved!

The director told me the week before our performance that the younger kids were imitating my rendition of the lines.  I’d been working hard on projecting and on keeping the narration within the time allowed – it had to finish before the first lines of the first song – so that piece of encouragement was welcome.  I was more confident on the day of the performance that I would have expected to be.

Then I developed nerves backstage.  I fought it to some extent by helping out.  We all wore white shirts and black skirts, pants, socks, shoes, etc., and the guys all wore red ties while the girls had red roses to pin on.  I pinned roses on for several of the other girls after figuring out my own.  It helped as a distraction.

Then we lined up to go on stage.  I wound up leading the procession of students.  I was the tallest soprano (Chelsea sang alto), so I had been placed on one end to help balance the height of the basses.  We had the sopranos on one side, basses on the other, with the altos in the middle.  Being on the end made it easier for me to walk forward to do my narration.  Well, easier physically.  Mentally was a whole different ball of wax.

“Fiddler” was our last piece, so I had time to calm down and be confident.  Then it was time to step forward.  All the nerves came back.  Somehow I made it up to the front, took a deep breath, and started on cue.  I remember noticing that my voice sounded strange, but I just kept going, trying to be as loud as possible.

I got to the end and went back to my place as the rest of the choir started singing “Tradition.”  Once back where I belonged, I could relax and sing again.  We finished the program on a high note, and we were generously applauded.  The soloists and I were applauded specifically, and I got several comments afterward from audience members and from other choristers.

I say the lines over every once in awhile.  I could do it so much better now if I had to do it again.  But wonder whether that would have been true if I had never bitten the bullet and auditioned, never put all that practice in to get ready, and never stood on that stage and fought my fear to speak my lines.  Interesting thought.  Wish I had thought of it as a shy, nervous sophomore on that stage!


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