Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Living With An Adult With Disabilities

I spent several years both during and after college working with adults with disabilities in a variety of settings - classroom, residential and workshop. I loved my work, viewing it as a challenge, a ministry and a blessing. The folks we worked with had a range of physical, mental and emotional limitations. Some were healthy and agile, while others were fragile and weak. Some were mentally sharp, while others possessed little power over their minds. Some were garrulous, while others rarely or never spoke. Some were sweet and timid, while others daily lashed out at themselves or others.

Two of the guiding principles which my teachers and employers branded into the very core of my being, were the importance of offering choices and the necessity of individual dignity. Looking back, I can see how these two might have conflicted with one another, but at the time, they functioned neatly together for me. Even though I loved - truly loved - these people, I felt able to make objective decisions in their best interest without great emotional angst.

I am not finding the same to be true as primary caretaker for my aunt. There are a couple of recurring conflicts which stir up great uncertainty for me. In some respects, they seem like small issues that should have simple solutions, but because of my emotional involvement, I remain unsure.

When we have a day at home, I let Riesa pick out her clothes. She can wear whatever she pleases. She can mix and match styles, seasons, colors, layers...whatever! I figure she is making herself comfortable and happy and that's perfectly fine.

However, when we are going out, I want her to look "normal" as possible. (Now, those of you who see her every week may think her wardrobe isn't "normal" but it reflects the tastes of her 85-year-old mother who has always purchased her clothes for her.) I want her to be dressed appropriately for the weather and the occasion. The problem is that sometimes she doesn't want to wear what I have picked out for her, and is determined to wear what SHE wants.

Here's how the conflict between those guiding principles of choice and dignity play out in my head:

1. She is a grown woman, not a child. Give her the respect of having her own opinion and let her wear what she wants!

2. She may be 50 years old, but she doesn't possess the discernment of an adult...she needs help making decisions. Just like a young child who is not left to choose his own diet, sleeping hours, or wardrobe, she needs guidance. It would be wrong not to offer that guidance.

3. But is it more than guidance I should be offering? Do I have any responsibility at this late stage in her life to "train" her? Should I try to teach her that you don't wear jeans to Sunday morning church, or a Cardinal ball-cap to a banquet? Or that a purple turtleneck doesn't match under a red cardinal t-shirt?

4. If I let her choose, she may choose that which detracts from her personal dignity, because its lack of appropriateness makes her stand out in the crowd even more than she already does.

5. What statement am I making to the "public" about the dignity, respect and value of persons with disabilities if I don't help her look presentable? Am I communicating that she is less important than myself if I'm dressed appropriately and she isn't? Dressing her well is one way of stating that she matters as much as my children do...whom, by the way, I also "force" to wear certain types of clothing on certain occasions!

6. Afterall, am I really concerned about HER dignity or MINE? Do I really care if people wonder why she's wearing THAT, or do I care that it might reflect badly on ME as her caretaker? So, as in other situations in life, the two become inseparably intertwined. The way my children look, act and treat others is a reflection of my mothering...whether or not it is consistent with my mothering, it is perceived as such! So, am I acting out of pride because someone might judge me, or am I acting in her best interest?

7. At this late stage in her life, shouldn't I just allow her to do what makes her happy (as long as it isn't immoral, of course!)? What few joys does she have? If wearing a certain shirt on a certain day pleases her, why not let her wear it?

8. Finally, is it worth making her UNhappy to preserve her dignity or my reputation? When I force my will on her she is reduced to anger, frustration and tears. In matters of greater import - such as bathing, eating, bedtime - issues of health and well-being are at stake and I find it easier to justify imposing my will on her...not easy, by any means...I don't like it when she's unhappy or mad at me, but justifiable.

By the way, there is one simple solution that occasionally works: I offer her a choice of 2-3 appropriate shirts or outfits, and she chooses one. When that happens, it's the perfect compromise. She's happier and her dignity and my reputation are preserved, but there are times when none of my choices suit her...thus the conflict.

I don't know if anyone has experience or answers for me, but there you have it...the guiding principles of dignity and choice conflicting with one another on a regular basis. It's not the end of the world, but some days it weighs on me. Other days I just do what needs to be done and move on without much angst.

But it does this: it keeps me seeking the Lord for patience, understanding, wisdom, joy and a servant's heart. That can't be all bad, eh?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Leithart Lite

So, here is my oversimplified, though I hope not wildly inaccurate, summary of Peter Leithart's Deep Comedy.

Citing examples from antiquity - Hesiod, Ovid, Virgil, Homer, etc - all the way to modernity - Descartes, Derrida, Kant, Freud, etc. - Mr. Leithart demonstrates that all non-Christian views of history and metaphysics, as well as the literature which proceeds from these views are ultimately and inescapably tragic.

A pagan view of history is embodied in its longing for the past - the Golden Age or Utopia to which all desperately desire to return. Alternatively, a truly Christian view knows that the best is yet to come (btw, listen to Stacey Kent's version of that song! :-). Not only will there be simple resurrection, restoration or return, but the new will surpass the former in every way. That which began in a very good Garden culminates in a glorified Garden-City. This eschatology of hope is unique to the Christian view.

A pagan view of metaphysics, which precedes and instructs a pagan view of history, assumes that any expression of being, thought, word or action that is either derivative from or supplemental to the original is necessarily inferior. All movement or change from the original is a descent toward decay and death. Conversely, a Christian Trinitarian theology rescues us from this tragic descent, recognizing that "the 'Second' is fully equal to and is in fact the glory of the 'First.'" Motion, change, and supplementation are not inherently tragic, but a reflection and expression of the Creator who transforms us and the world around us from one degree of glory to a greater glory.

Because pagan literature is the creative spawn of tragic views of history and metaphysics, it too results in inevitably tragic ends. Leithart asserts that even those works which end somewhat happily, never achieve the level of deep comedy which can only spring from a view of history and theology that allows an end infinitely more glorious than the glorious original or beginning. The very possibility of deep comedy is exclusive to a Gospel-laden eschatology of hope and a Christian Trinitarian view of God.

There you go. Deep Comedy for dummies...or at least my version of it!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Poetry for 5th Graders

One of the hallmarks of classical methodology is the use of songs, chants and sound-offs to cement important factual information in the minds of young students (2 to 12 years old). Last year, I gave my students a "break" between literature books and we studied poetry for 1-2 weeks before taking up the next book. Initially, I read a wide variety of poetry to them so they could begin to enjoy the sound and feel of it. Next, the students were required to memorize a number of poems, mostly of my choosing. Then we spent time studying some of the terminology and "rules" of poetry.

The sound-off below was written for a public performance, so the first half is designed to entertain and inform the audience, while the second incorporates the foundational information which I wanted the students to retain and on which future teachers can build.

Poetry Sound-Off
By: Lori Shaffer

TEACHER: Poetry, like prose, is designed to move, inspire, teach and delight. Give a child - especially a boy of 10 years and older - sappy, sentimental, feminized love poetry, and instead of inspiration and delight, he will probably harbor a distaste for poetry. He won't call it distaste (that might be too poetic), he will call it hatred.

GIRL STUDENT: (with all the sweetness she can muster!)

Her heart is like her garden
Old-fashioned, quaint and sweet
With here a wealth of blossoms
And there a still retreat.
Sweet violets are hiding
We know as we pass by
And lilies pure as angel thoughts
Are opening somewhere nigh.

BOYS: (looking distressed and ill) Yuck!!

TEACHER: However, if we give our boys (and girls) the right poetry...well....judge for yourself...

2 STUDENTS: (taking the roles of father and son)

Father William
by Lewis Carroll

"You are old, Father William," the young man said
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head,
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything other than suet;
Yet you finished the bird with the bones and the beak;
Pray how did you manage to do it?"
"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law
And argued each case with my wife.
And the muscular strength it gave to my jaw
Has lasted the rest of my life!"

TEACHER: Now, this kind of poetry definitely appeals to 5th graders, but if we want them to move beyond the nonsense, we must introduce poems like this:

BOY STUDENT: (in low, mysterious voice)

The Cremation of Sam McGee
by Robert Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold.
The Artic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold.
The Northern Lights have seen strange sights
But the strangest they ever did see,
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

TEACHER: That was just the first verse of a gruesome, yet comical tale about two men's adventure during the Gold-rush. Most young men find tales of heros and battles irresistible...especially this classic:

STUDENT: (nobly and majestically)

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end, each clan on the outlying coasts
beyond the whale-road had to yeild to him
and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.

TEACHER: In case you didn't recognize it, that was from a contemporary translation of Beowulf by an Irish poet named Seamus Heaney.

Good poetry can also make profound theological statements, such as this Holy Sonnet # 10 by John Donne, in which he rebukes Death for overestimating his own power:


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so!
For, those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke! Why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die!

TEACHER: So...the right poetry can make all the difference! This year we have read some good poetry and we have learned some of the grammar of poetry - that is, its terminology and the rules that govern it. We will share those with you now.

(For this second half, all questions are asked by the teacher, while students take turns answering or illustrating the answer)

What is poetry?

Poetry is the language of pictures and music.

What are the pictures in poetry called?

The pictures in poetry are called "tropes" or "figures of speech." They utilize descriptive language to create an image in the mind.

Name, define, and illustrate some figures of speech:

A SIMILE is a figure of speech which compares two dissimilar objects, events, or ideas, using "like" "as" or "than."

Her hands were as cold as ice.

He was madder than an old wet hen.

His hair stood up like a corncob tassel.

A METAPHOR is a figure of speech which compares two object, events or ideas by stating that one IS the other.

Her hands were ice cubes.

My mother is a bear in the mornings.

PERSONIFICATION is a figure of speech which assigns human qualities to a non-human entity.

The wind crept through the open window.

The waves pounded the shore.

A RHETORICAL QUESTION is a figure of speech which asks a question whose answer is obvious, in order to remind someone of a truth.

Who do you think you are, young man?

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who determined its measurements?

If figures of speech are the word-pictures of poetry, what are its musical elements?

The musical elements of poetry are rhyme and meter.

What is rhyme?

Rhyme is an echo of sound.

Name, define and illustrate two types of rhyme:

Full Rhyme occurs when the final sound of two or more words precisely echo one another - such as "shed, bread, fed, lead & dead"

Slant Rhyme occurs wehn the final sound of two or more words closely approximate one another - such as "stood, look, hoof, & soot"

Does all poetry rhyme?

No, some poetry does not rhyme and is referred to as Blank Verse.

What is meter?

Meter is the rhythm of poetry...the beat, if you will.

How is meter measured?

Meter is measured by identifying syllables as either stressed or unstressed.

What is a syllable?

A syllable is a unit of pronunciation consisting of a single sound.

What is meant by stressed and unstressed syllables?

A stressed syllable is pronounced with emphasis - it is a hard beat.

An unstressed syllable is pronounced withless emphasis - it is a soft beat.

What is scansion?

Scansion is thename for the process of identifying and marking the meter of a poem.

First, identify stressed syllables and mark them with an accent mark.

Next, mark all unstressed syllables with a breve.

Then, divide each line into feet.

What are feet in poetry?

Patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables create "feet" in poetry adn are equivalent to the "measure" in music.

Name, define and illustrate some common poetic feet:

Iambic Foot is comprised of 1 unstressed, then 1 stressed syllable (-'-'-'-')

Whose woods these are I think I know, His house is in the village though... (students should illustrate the meter by overemphasizing the stressed and unstressed syllables with their voices and with handclaps)

Trochaic Foot is comprised of 1 stressed, then 1 unstressed ('-'-'-'-)

Chip the glasses, crack the plates, That's what Bilbo Baggins hates...

Anapestic Foot uses 2 unstressed, then 1 stressed (--'--'--'--')

In my youth said his father I took to the law and argued each case with my wife...

Dactylic Foot uses 1 stressed, then 2 unstressed ('--'--'--'--)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...

This is the Grammar of Poetry as we know it in 5th Grade!

Real men love poetry! We do! Do YOU?!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Dose of Humility

Most of the time I assume that I am a relatively intelligent human being. Then I go and do something stupid like try to read Peter Leithart's Deep Comedy.

You know, it's one thing for me to admit that there are things I don't KNOW. All of us are aware that there is knowledge to which we have not yet been exposed, or to which our exposure has been so slight that we haven't retained any measurable data. There are manifold times, places and ideas with which I am wholly unfamiliar. That's one thing.

But, to attempt to access new knowledge which is beyond my ability to COMPREHEND, now that's humbling! I find myself delighting when there are at least one or two sentences per page that actually make sense to me! I do think I am catching the overall idea for which Mr. Leithart is arguing, but will probably be incapable of articulating it 2 months from now, since I neither grasp many of his comparisons nor understand much of his defense.

Of course, that lack of comprehension won't keep me from attempting to summarize the big idea....when I finish the book, that is.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Binding of the Blade


A N D U N I N cradled the head of his son, his only son, in his lap. Slowly his fingers brushed back the dark hair from the boy’s eyes. The blood on his own fingertips left damp smears on the smooth skin of Tarlin’s forehead. A wind like Andunin had never felt before sliced through his soggy cloak as the rain fell cold and hard. Water slipped down his face under the curls of his thick grey beard and fell from his chin upon Tarlin’s face and neck. His hands, trembling from the cold, brushed Tarlin’s eyelids closed.

In the distance a group of armed men stood around a pile of bodies, slowly but steadily dragging more and more of the slain to the growing mound, but Andunin hardly noticed them. What did he care who else had died? The plight of some foolish merchant or farmer, or even one of the Novaana who had joined in a band of like fools to oppose his army, was no longer of any consequence to him. His son was dead.

Thus opens the first book of 5 in The Binding of the Blade series, by author L.B. Graham. I finished book 1 today, Beyond the Summerland. All in all, it's very well done and I'm quite anxious to begin book 2. Even though the symbolism is potentially too obvious at times (maybe not...the jury is still out), Mr. Graham's world, plot and characters are compelling and, for me, more easily accessible than Tolkien's revered Middle Earth. Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that what he has created surpasses Tolkien, only that I connected with Graham's world more readily. His parallels were more ideologically consistent than most fantasy I've read.

In spite of its nearly 600 pages, this was a quick read and the somewhat shocking ending left me wanting more...NOW!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bottled Poetry

Occasionally I taste a wine that I just can't wait to have again; one that I am willing to search for online or trek around town to find. Last night's dinner guests brought a bottle of Faust Cabernet 2004, and it turned out to be one of those rare finds!

The technical reviews offered on their website sound like every other wine description and do not do justice to the rich, full-bodied flavor of this wine. Try it, if you can. If you're like me, you won't taste black currant, orange, creme-brulee or plum, but you'll taste a truly fabulous wine!

"Wine is bottled poetry."

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Friday, April 18, 2008

All Shook Up

I'm used to rattling windows. Here in St. Louis, we are the regular recipients of thunderstorms, strong winds, and tornado warnings which can arise unexpectedly in the middle of the night. So, when the sound of rattling windows awakened me around 4:30 this morning, it took a few seconds for me to become fully awake and certain that my bed really was shaking, as was the whole house!

Are we having an earthquake, I wondered? No, no...this is St. must be really strong winds....but that roar...and the must be really close! I went upstairs to check on and awaken my boys to send them to the basement, but they were already awake. Whatever it was, it had startled them as well. Even as I sent them downstairs, I was uncertain about what was happening. I looked out the windows and saw no signs of significant winds...I ran to the basement to check the internet to see what might be happening...nothing. Could this actually be an earthquake? I know we are sitting on a huge fault, but what the heck am I supposed to do? I don't even know, but going to the basement would definitely be the wrong move! Where is that native Californian husband of mine when I need him? He'd know what to do!

The rattling of the windows finally ceased, but oddly, the dishes in my old wardrobe continued to vibrate noisily. Then I knew. This IS indeed an earthquake! It could be nothing else. From the time I awakened, the tremors lasted well over a minute and varied from moment to moment in intensity.

Long after the earthly tremors ceased, the physical effect of waking to an unknown, and the ensuing adrenaline rush, meant that my bodily tremors continued for quite some time. Go back to bed? Sleep? I don't think so.

As I sent the boys back to bed, I turned on KMOX. They were taking calls from person after person who had felt the same as we had. 5 minutes later, it was official. The earthquake's epicenter was 127 miles east of St. Louis in Illinois and registered 5.4 on the Richter scale and was felt as far away as Chicago, Milwaukee and Cincinnati!

Did you feel this morning's earthquake? Report it here.

Well, that's enough excitement for one day. Now that I know what happened and know it's over, I think I'll try to go back to sleep.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wonder Woman of Domesticity

I had a dream. Or perhaps it was the hallucinogenic effects of my "migraine-cocktail," but for some reason, early last week I perceived momentarily that I was the new and improved Linda Carter...the Wonder Woman of Domesticity. This was not the first delusion of grandeur that I have ever experienced, but the difference this time was that I PUBLICIZED my idiocy.

Alas, I can't. The rooms that I did complete (4/4 BR, 1/3 Baths, 1/1 LR, 1/1 DR, 1/3 Hallways with closets) look and smell fabulous, but the rest....well, I'm not sure when I'll get to them! I'll be happy to finish the rest of the first floor this week! Kitchen...Bath...2 Hallways...and Family Room. And the basement? Oi-vay. Maybe when school's out. Then again, maybe not!

I never did look very good in tights and a bodysuit anyway.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Asleep in Christ

It is a sad, sad day in the Shaffer house.

My husband's co-worker and close friend passed away this morning. On February 29, he went to the doctor because he couldn't shake a 3-week headache. In spite of a "clean-bill-of-health" that he had been given in October, the doctors found that his melanoma from a year earlier had metastasized. His brain and lungs were full of small tumors.

3 weeks of treatment, consisting of both radiation and chemo, began on March 1. On March 17, St. Patty's Day, Steve and some buddies traveled to Buffalo to see him. He was weakened, but they all left there hopeful.

One week later he was in a wheelchair because he couldn't walk. They discovered another tumor on his spine. That was one week ago today.

Shaun, a fun-loving, exuberant, New York-Irish-Catholic - and the best storyteller around - would have turned 51 on Sunday. He leaves behind a wife and daughter.

Many of you from church have prayed for Shaun over the last few weeks. Thank you. Please continue prayers for his family.

Death, Be Not Proud
By: John Donne

DEATH, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For, those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better then thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Busy Little Bee

I may not blog much this week.

I am busy with one of my favorite jobs in the world...Spring Cleaning! Really! I love it. There is nothing more satisfying than cleaning every inch of every room, ceiling to, blinds, windows, wall hangings, stuffed animals, shelves, knick-knacks, mattress pads, sheets, blankets, comforters, quilts, curtains, rugs, drawers, closets, baseboards...CLEAN! All at once! Another part of the process is paring down...getting rid of unused "stuff"! Most satisfying of all, is to do this to the WHOLE HOUSE in a matter of 2-3 days and to know every single thing is CLEAN! Aaaah. (interpret as contented sigh)

I am also busy with one of my other favorite tasks...Gardening! Today I completely revamped one bed and will get to the others in the next week or two. Maybe I'll post some before & after pictures in the coming weeks.

Happy Spring Cleaning and Gardening to me.

Oh, and GO CARDINALS!!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Epitaphs of Saints

It seems we have abandoned the tradition of inscribing thoughtful epitaphs, which illumine the life of the deceased. In days gone by, tombstones contained more biographical than geneological information; they might highlight accomplishments, interests, beliefs or bear witness to a life well-lived. More often than not, they expressed testimony to the grace of God.

Here are a couple of my favorites, which have caused me to consider "What would other people say about me if I would they sum up my life?" OR "How do I WANT to be remembered?" I've toyed with the idea of composing my own (as Ben Franklin did), but haven't done it yet...we'll see.


John Newton, Clerk,
once an infidel and libertine,
a servant of slaves in Africa,
was, by the rich mercy
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
preserved, restored, pardoned,
and appointed to preach the faith
he had long labored to destroy.


to the memory of
Amos Fortune
who was born free in Africa,
a slave in America
he purchased liberty
professed Christianity
lived reputably
and died hopefully


The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

You Tell Me...

Does this latest toy of my husband's smack of Mid-Life Crisis, or Peter Pan Syndrome?

Whatever it is, it makes him smile and strut. Yeah...even more than usual!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Leithart on Austen

The new about-to-be-released book, Writer of Fancy, by Peter Leithart, is not his first on Jane Austen and her literary works, but will surely be a welcome addition to the "Leaders in Action" series of biographies on exemplary Christian men and women.

Thank God for Leithart's intelligent Christian evaluation of literature. He has provided much-needed resources for Christian teachers, as well as lovers of good literature. Check out his other works:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Right Again? Who Me?

I'm not sure whether my compulsion to write this post stems from my insecurity or my vanity...I possess a healthy dose of each. All I know is that I took some serious flack about my choice for Opening Day line-up and especially the pitcher I chose. In fact, the ridicule was so severe that I began to wonder if I had any business blogging about baseball in the first place.

All I'm gonna say is: Brad Thompson, 1-0, 6 2/3 shut-out innings, low pitch count, 6 SO, RBI base hit, pick-off at 1st....maybe I'M not the wanna-be afterall! Or maybe I just got lucky...

On Teaching Bible Stories

Following is an excerpt from an essay written in the early 80's by David Chilton, a biblical scholar whose views became very controversial before his death in 1997. Some viewed him as having abandoned orthodoxy altogether, while others disagree with that assessment. I have only read portions of his works, so I offer no sweeping judgment of his theology here; but whether or not I would grant full assent to all his perspectives, I believe this essay provides significant truth and insight for all of us who are involved in teaching the Scriptures, especially to children.

I listened with my four-year-old son to a cassette tape that had been loaned to him the other day. It claimed to be an historical synopsis of the early chapters of Genesis on a child's level. Within a few minutes, the narrator had reached the creation of Adam, and this is what he said, "Do you know why God made Adam? So He could have someone to talk to."

I shut off the tape. I asked Nathan, "Is that really why God made Adam?"

"No," he replied, "God made Adam for His own glory." He thought a minute and continued, "That man on the tape doesn't know very much about the Bible, does he? Why is he a teacher?"

One might respond that the tape was designed for children, not a seminary class. It doesn't have to be theologically correct. That innocent -looking sentence contains the fundamental basis of all false doctrines and apostate religions: the notion that God needs man. It presents in reality a false god, a "God" who is lonely without man. Consider what the Scripture tells us about the true God. "All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity." Isaiah 40:17. Could there be a greater contrast?

But the taped Bible stories contained another error which was just as serious, as far as the child's understanding of the Bible and nature of salvation is concerned. I suppose one way to state my objection is that the stories are just stories. They do not truly reveal Christ. The stories in the Bible are components of one history. They are not moralistic fables about the adventures of certain individuals who lived long ago. The Bible is about Jesus Christ. It is the history of the revelation of his redemptive plan and its fulfillment in him.

God didn't take the trouble to record the story of Jacob's ladder simply to give us an enjoyable children's ditty. The revelation of the ladder took place in the context of the Abrahamic covenant, and was the revelation of the Son of God (John 1:51). If a story is ripped out of its biblical context and turned into an adventure story that centers on the individual who receives the revelation, its content as revelation is lost.

How then should you teach Bible stories? The best way to learn is by seeing how a really excellent teacher does it. One such teacher is S.G. DeGraaf, the Dutch theologian who authored Promise and Deliverance. He wrote this book specifically for Sunday School and Christian school teachers. It is a masterpiece, and yet, it is written in a very simple, easy-to-understand manner.

DeGraaf observes in his introduction: "Our aim in telling Bible history ought to be the same as God's purpose in recording it for us in his word. God had the stories recorded 'in order that we might believe.' Accordingly, even in grade school, this aim must be kept in mind when imparting knowledge. It makes no difference at all that the children in your classroom already believe. In their case, too, the story is told to evoke faith, to deepen and broaden it."

DeGraaf points out three requirements that we must keep in mind whenever we tell Bible stories. First, "we are to view the entire Holy Scripture as nothing more or less than the self-revelation of God." This means that when we tell the story of Joseph, for instance, we must not focus on Joseph himself as the main figure in the story. The story is, instead, the story of God's revelation to and preservation of his people. "Such an emphasis," says DeGraaf, "teaches children to fear the Lord instead of looking to Joseph as a moral example."

Second, God reveals himself as the Mediator. DeGraaf says, "We will always have a great deal of trouble explaining the history in Scripture if we do not proceed from the Mediator's eager efforts to reveal himself." The point is not that we should desregard the various individuals in the particular stories. It is that we are to see these people in their proper context: their stories are told in God's Word, and God's Word is God's Word - not man's - in which God reveals Christ.

Third, too often the emphasis in our teaching falls on God's saving this or that individual, rather than on God's relationship to his people as a whole. AS DeGraaf says about the story of Joseph, "The main point of that story is not what God meant for Joseph, but what he meant to his people through Joseph, a people whose development was just beginning in the tents of Jacob. God always draws near to his people as a whole - never just to individuals."

Now, having said all that is not to have said everything there is to say about teaching Bible stories. The basic perspectives given here must be fleshed-out in terms of the particulars of the stories we are teaching. Nothing I have said is meant to imply that we should treat our teaching of the stories as lectures in theology. If anything, lectures in theology ought to resemble a storytime! As the Dutch storyteller reminds us, "As we tell a story, it should come alive; it shoud draw the children in and get them involved. The children should get wrapped up not just in the adventures of certain people but especially in the historical unfolding of God's self-revelation and man's response to it. We must tell the children of God's great deeds."

The first 3 verses of hymn #301 in the blue Trinity Hymnal say it this way:

My people, give ear, attend to My Word,
In parables new deep truths shall be heard;
The wonderful story our fathers made known
To children succeeding by us must be shown.

Instructing our sons we gladly record
The praises, the works, the might of the Lord,
For He hath commanded that what He hath done
Be passed in tradition from father to son.

Let children thus learn from history’s light
To hope in our God and walk in His sight,
The God of their fathers to fear and obey,
And ne’er like their fathers to turn from His way.

See Cyberhymnal for all 21 verses...and you thought The Lorica was long!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Says Who? II

O-K...there weren't many guesses, but here are the answers to "Says Who?"

1. Do not panic! Do not panic! - Bug's Life

2.!! Three Musketeers

3. You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity. Toy Story

4. They come. They eat. They leave. Bug's Life

5. You first. Three Musketeers

6. Now go away! Veggie Tales

7. You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! A Few Good Men

8. Do I.....look you?! Bug's Life

9. That's our lot in life. It's not a lot, but it's our life! Bug's Life

10. All by me onesy... Pirates of the Carribean

So, Jandy wins! Which, if you know her or read her blog, should come as no surprise!

A Bug's Life is our most quoted movie. That's comical because, for some unknown reason, when I first saw it in the theater with my boys, I disliked it...thought there was too much "potty humor." It's actually quite innocent and clever and a must-see!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Says Who?

Our family, probably like many others, has some movie one-liners that we repeat over and over again, ad nauseum.

Can you identify the movie, character and/or actor for the following frequently-quoted-lines in the Shaffer household? You'll find that we have a most-frequently-quoted-movie as well! I have no cool prizes to offer...just the prestige of being right and winning. For some of us, that's enough!

Now, no cheating. Do not google the phrases to find their origin!

1. Do not panic! Do not panic!


3. You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity.

4. They come. They eat. They leave.

5. You first.

6. Now go away!

7. You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

8. Do I.....look you?!

9. That's our lot in life. It's not a lot, but it's our life!

10. All by me onesy...