Saturday, September 26, 2009

Facebook killed this blog

A final note: unless Facebook goes under we will not be posting here any longer. For our friends and family, Facebook is a much better and much more private way to figure out what's happening with us, in near-real-time! Ask to friend us there and we will be happy to connect with you. Anji's Facebook is a good place to start.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Created to be creative

We are a homeschooling family. As of yet, only Number One (and now* Number Two) are being formally homeschooled, but I am already beginning to see a serious issue with both our focus and the focus of our chosen curriculum. I believe that this issue exists in our public schools today as well. The issue is that creativity, or rather, the practice of thinking creatively and the act of creative discovery, is being overlooked and placed in a secondary or even tertiary position in relation to the the general gathering of knowledge.

Sir Ken Robinson, author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative and a well-known expert on education and creativity, spoke at the 2006 TED Conference about this subject. He believes that there is no way for us to prepare our children for the future without giving them the ability to be creative in their educational processes and allowing them to use their gifts as they move through those processes. The story he uses to illustrate the importance of seeing what our children can become is the story of Gillian Lynne as a young girl, being nearly diagnosed with something like ADHD. Gillian’s mother takes her to the doctor because Gillian cannot sit still and the doctor, very kindly, shows her mother that Gillian was made to dance, not sit. Gillian is now a renowned dancer and coreographer. He goes on to say that the education system of today is designed to produce one kind of individual: the university professor. University professors live in their heads (weighted to one side), not in their bodies, like Gillian does. Do we want our children ending up like a professor, or like Gillian? You can watch the video of Sir Ken’s talk on the TEDTalks website.

The thing is this: We are made to be creative. God implanted in each of us the creative spark. Every day we make choices that will either feed or starve the ember that we hold inside. Every day we make choices that can do the same to others in our lives. Look around you. Every physical thing you touch has been created, by either divine or human means. Do you want to extinguish such a power in the name of degrees and business and occupations? I doubt you do. Neither do I. So what’s person to do? I propose that it is time to take action and consciously choose to grow ourselves and our progeny creatively. Here is a short list of things you can do to begin:

  1. Set time aside for you and your children to be creative. There’s nothing formal required here, just put the paper and crayons down in front of your two-year-old. Better yet, sit down with your two-year old and draw and color to your hearts’ content.
  2. Point out great design, art, dance, music, nature, etc. to your children to make them aware of creation. No trip to the museum is necessary. Good design is as close as your local Target or BMW dealership. Art is everywhere. Put a Rogers and Hammerstein DVD in the player to enjoy great music and dance. Take walk and look, look, look.
  3. Read about great creators. “In the beginning…” Now that’s CREATION!
  4. Cook with your children. The act of creating a great meal or dessert is just as creative and inspiring as writing a poem or song. It is a process that requires preparatory thought and executional grace. Plus, you get to eat whatever you cook!
  5. Listen when your child says “When I grow up, I want to…”. You cannot overlook this fact: When we are young, our hearts have clearer visions of the future than our minds. When we are old, our minds attempt to control and manipulate the innate desire of our souls. Children transparently transmit their desires into the world. Do not, do not, crush their hopes.

*Originally written June 30th, 2006

A name set in stone

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to "introduce" (a Primitive Baptist term for a short talk before the actual sermon) and spoke to the congregation on the subject of "names". The key scripture behind my talk was Revelation 2:17 which was brought to my attention by Hugh MacLeod's (@gapingvoid on Twitter) wonderful post The White Pebble. The scripture, from the King James translation, reads: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."

Names are of the utmost importance. My wife and I considered each name for each of our children very carefully, turning them over and over in our minds, putting first and middle names together until the right combination was found. Sometimes names come from family. Number One Son was given the name of his paternal grandfather and my middle name, which turned out to be his paternal great-grandfather's full name (obviously, this was not something I was aware of). Sometimes names come from other sources of inspiration. Number Two Son was given the first name one of the few good kings from biblical history and the first name of a few of our dear friends as his middle name. Number Three Son was given the nickname of my grandfather and uncle as his first name, but we call him by a different nickname that suits his personality now. Number Four Son ... okay ... you get the point. Biblically, we see that God gives men different names at turning points in their lives: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. Names, to God, are covenantal and prophetic.

As the Catholic monk illuminates in Hugh's post (see above) there's another name that God's children possess: a name written in, not on, a white stone. That name, being a gift of God (The Spirit), is good. It is very good.

Recently, my wife attended a Community Bible Study session where they held what has come to be known as "cardboard testimonies". I had not heard of the term before, so my wife showed me one on YouTube and I was moved to tears. The idea is this: on a piece of cardboard, you craft a sign. On the front of the sign, you write (in letters big enough for an audience to see) what you saw yourself as before conversion and, on the back of the sign you write what you see yourself as becoming after conversion. Once the sign is made, you walk up in front of the congregation and present first who you were and then turn the sign around. The effect is very powerful and further illustrates the importance of names. You see, the old thing written on the carboard is the old name you call yourself, and the new thing written on the cardboard is a new God-given name you call youself. So the name in the stone isn't the only name God gives you, but it is the final name God will give you.

The names we call ourselves are one thing, the names others call us (or assign to us, rather) are another thing, and then, as the monk said, there is that name God gives you. The monk was right in saying that the stone is what we should think of when the other voices in our life: our family, our friends, our self, are calling us names that don't align with who God calls us to be. The elect are called "children", "brethren", and "saved", among many other blessed names. We need to employ those names as filters when we hear other names being called.

The name in the stone is special, no doubt, because it is a secret only you and God may know, but the stone itself is truly the most amazing part of The Spirit's gift. Here, in a few words, you see an accurate picture of Christ, the rock of our salvation. He is the stone. He is pure white. He hides us within His grace and love. He protects our special name in His mercy. The stone is of the greatest value because it does not have the name written upon it, but rather in it, which is representative of a sure salvation for His loved ones.

Oh what joy to know the name The Lord would call me! Oh what a precious picture is the name in the white stone for us His chosen ones!

May God richly bless you.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Now for something completely different!

We're now nearly halfway through the year and things continue on, but The Lord, while always faithful, is not without a sense of humor. On March 31st Anji's ultrasound revealed that the latest addition to our family will be female. Now, to some families that may not come as much of a shock, but to one with a (current) 5-to-1 ratio of males to female(s) it can be. (That ratio does not include the dog, in case you were wondering).
This revelation has sent both Anji and my minds abuzz with new thought patterns. Girls, first and foremost, may wear pink on occasions other than Easter. Girls, we are told (by liars, no doubt) are "easier" than boys. Girls, we know, have dissimilarities in many other ways: some obvious to the casual observer, some not.
The news of our newest's gender also deeply disturbed Number One Boy, who has spent way too much thought on the necessity of the girl having her own room, girl toys, and the various accoutrements common to the fairer sex. He sees her as interloper in a distinctly masculine environment. He will undoubtedly be her greatest protector and supporter among her siblings as the years pass.
So we anxiously await her arrival in August and pray for her and her Mama's health constantly.
In other news:
-We (with Dad and Mom's help) put up a playset and basketball hoop in the backyard.
-Number Two and Three Boys are playing soccer. I am coaching. It is hilarious and great fun.
-Anji was sick, sick, sick during her first trimester. Maybe because Biscuit is a girl? Nonetheless, she is much better now and is beginning to really show.
-I am still employed and have recently returned from Illinois.
That about wraps it up. Further updates to come, no doubt, but if you're on Facebook be sure to befriend Anji for a more real-time view of our goings-on. Until next time may God bless you and keep you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The state of things

Here we are, six or seven weeks into the new year, and I'm sure you're all dying to know what the heckfire is going on with the Tennessean Settleses. Well, I'll tell you:

1. #2 is 6 years old.
2. Anji is pregnant with #5.
3. Lucy (the dog) cost us a fortune just to tune up, but she's fine (darnit).
4. Christmas came and went uneventfully.
5. The Georgia Settleses came up for New Years and visited.
6. #1 started basketball.
7. I'm fatter, slower, and fortier than I was last year at this same time.
8. Working from home continues.
9. Homeschooling continues.
10. Primitive Baptisting continues.

That's about it. Next update in a few months? Perhaps so, perhaps not.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wrote a blog post. Check!

I have spent many of my early morning meditations lately in 1 John. I am particularly drawn to this little book because it was written in a way that gives the impression that John was trying to express to the disciples that Jesus didn't only come to earth, lay down a few new rules, die on the cross, and leave for heaven. Rather, I think John was trying to explain to the disciples that there's more to the story. I think John was trying to get across a message of hope for now, not just for the future someday when we (die or) are carried up into Glory. 

I guess I'm of the general impression that a lot of folks who proclaim Christ as their Savior don't necessarily believe that He's still around. Not that they're doing bad things. No, it's not that at all. They do a lot of good things all of the time. A lot of the time, they do that out of a sense of duty or obligation or, maybe more commonly, because they think they'd better keep up the good work because God's going to get them if they don't. Some folks are even doing stuff because somebody else told them that that's what they're supposed to be doing because it's just always been done that particular way! 

No, it's more that they don't act as though Jesus is still present (and I mean present as in when you raised your hand in school when attendance was called), nor that God is still working in the minutiae of their lives. You see, John was probably encountering something that we see pretty commonly today: Christians who'd reverted to "check box religion". 

Check box religion goes something like this: During the work week I get up, I pray at breakfast, I read a devotional book (or maybe actually read the Bible), I go to work, I pray (if nobody's around) at lunch, I go home, I pray at dinner, and maybe I pray before bed. If there's church activities during the week I go to those. On Sunday, I go to Sunday school and worship, I give, I sing/pray/listen, and I go home. My prayers follow the same pattern each time: a little thanks, a little request, and "in Jesus name, Amen." When a new week starts again, I'm at the same place where I was a week ago, except more dry, brittle, hollow, parched. But I'm doing everything right, aren't I? I mean, that's what the Bible says to do doesn't it?

No. That's not all that the Bible says to do. The Bible says that Jesus accomplished His work here on Earth, then returned victorious to His Father. (Queue Bob Barker ...) But that's not all! Jesus sent us His Spirit, the Holy Ghost, to complete us when we abide in Him. Now abide is an old-fashioned word. In fact, in some of the more recent distortions of the scripture, it's been completely left out. Abide, as John used it, means to dwell, rest, remain, or continue. Are you dwelling with the Lord? Is the Lord dwelling with you? Does He walk the hallways of your home? Does He sit next to you at work? Are you aware that He can be continually present in you? That's right: in you! Listen to what John says:  "And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." The Holy Ghost's presence in our lives, His abiding in us, is God's seal upon us! (Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30) 

You see, my Christian friend, even though Jesus' work is finished, you are not. You are incomplete. You are inadequate. You are unable. You are needy. This is because you are still burdened with what you were and earnestly hoping for what you will become. (Colossians 1:5) Your flesh is weak. Your spirit is willing. (Matthew 26:41) The Helper, the Comforter, fills the gaps. Jesus said that it was "expedient" that He go away so that the Holy Spirit might come. (John 16:7). Jesus, our Lord and Savior, sent the Holy Ghost to us from the Father. And therefore, we must abide in Him as He abides in us. We must dwell with Him and allow Him to make His abode with us. These are not difficult things, but they are not ordinary, they are extraordinary. The Holy Ghost will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all things that Jesus said. (John 14:26) His task here with us in not small. All things is all things, after all.

So, you might say to me: "Kurt, that's all well and good. I understand that the Holy Ghost is here with me. I know what the Bible says about the Holy Ghost. Every good Christian does." And I, in return, might say to you: "But is it just in your head? Or is it in your heart? Are you truly aware of Him abiding with you, on a spiritual level? Do you feel Him? Do you hear His voice? Does His presence pierce your soul? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are spirit, but it's so easy to see them only in black in white,  contained within words on the printed pages of your Bible. Oh, brother (or sister), They are so much more than that. Why can't you see?"

May God bless you and bring you closer to Him, through His Son and His Spirit. 

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. (1 John 2:28)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Love, waffles, paper, and being in the world, not of it.

First things first: We wish you all a very joyous fall season. This is definitely my favorite time of year and it is especially beautiful here in Tennessee, where the leaves are prolific and beginning their radical shift to autumn colors. Come and visit us, friends and family. We want to share God's glory with you!

I am writing partially because an update to this blog was requested by a person we love very much, and also because the subject herein has been heavy upon me for a while. The post you're about to read (or suffer through, if you will) is actually two excerpts from my personal journal. I hope you enjoy it and perhaps it will make you think a bit about our world and how we interact with it.

"I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Luke 17:15-16

(Originally written 9/13/2008)

I wonder, here in the U.S., with our focus on new technology, whether we're losing our contact with our ability to grasp the aesthetic of touch, sound, and earthly beauty. We desire to create social networks online, and reclusively wait behind our computer screens for someone to notice us. We try to electronically meet our determined efforts at research, and while we know information should be free, our minds quickly become overwhelmed with all of the resources available. The days of digging through encyclopedias, dictionaries, and atlases one at a time have been replaced by frenetic hyperlinking from site to site. Attention deficit is a national plague, pronouncing mental and psychological prison sentences on our youth, our government, and our churches.

I am no Luddite. No, far from it. I have a Facebook, a Flickr, a LinkedIn, a Twitter, a Jaiku, a Plaxo, and other "social network" accounts. I use email and instant messenger. I'm a technical trainer, working with cutting-edge technology. I am not afraid of the Internet, cellular phones, wireless signals, or any of the latest trends. But, I keep a hand-written journal, a daily work log in a paper planner, and want to instill the same appreciation in my family and friends. I love paper, walks through museums, live music, live sports, paperback books, and intimate one-on-one communications.

If we lose touch with these things, we lose touch with who God created us to be: in and experiencing his creation, but not of this world.

(Originally written 9/14/2008)

Samuel is sitting across the table from me, enjoying his second waffle. It is a toaster waffle, of course. And I'm thinking about what he's missing by not having a homemade/handmade breakfast in front of him. Everything he's consuming has come from a package and is missing one key ingredient: love. Love changes the nature of things. You can tell by the taste, the touch, the look, and the spirit of the thing.

Anji has surrounded us, in our home, with handmade items that Ken (my father-in-law) has produced over the years: many things that embody what I'm writing about. Many of them are imperfect, rough around the edges, just like me. But they're made with love, and it shows, just like me.

Thy mercy, o Lord, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgements are a great deep:
O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.
How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, o God!
Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.
Psalm 36:5-7

God bless you all.