A Big Bang or a Loving Hand? How Did We Get Here?


Big Bang or Loving Hand | @PoeticLotion & @BrightIdeasTeam

How do you broach the subject of evolution in your homeschool? Have you had to explain the Big Bang Theory in terms that didn’t include Sheldon and Penny?

Christian Kids Explore Biology (by Stephanie Redmond, published by Bright Ideas Press) offers a fabulous hands-on lesson to show children how God’s careful hand was involved in the creation of the Earth and all things in it.  When you see the design of the world – the order within it – how could you believe it was an accident? How could you believe that it just *kaboom* happened?

Isaiah 55:10-11 | @PoeticLotion & @BrightIdeasTeamIf you hold a tiny acorn in your hand and know that it can grow into a huge oak, how can you not believe in God? Any mother who has felt her child turn over in the womb should have no doubt about God. To know that rain falls from the clouds to water the trees and plants and then evaporates to rain again is to know that there is a God.

Need more scientific proof that the Earth was planned and formed by God? Look at the number Phi. No, that’s not a misprint. I don’t mean Pi. I mean Phi. Represented by the symbol φ. Phi is 1.618, in its shortened form. It is referred to as the Golden Number, Golden Ratio, Golden Section, Golden Proportion, Golden Mean… or the Divine Proportion.  Divinity in math? No. More like divinity in the universe. In everything on Earth.

Let me explain. Throughout nature, plants, animals, and humans all have dimensions that display the ratio of Phi to one.   In a seashell, the ratio of each spiral’s diameter to the next is Phi. The seeds in a sunflower head reflect this dimension; each spiral’s diameter compared with the next spiral’s diameter is Phi. Pinecones are the same along with the growth of tree branches, the motion of hurricanes, the shapes of spiral galaxies, and even the proportions of humans.

Have your students measure how tall they are. Then divide that number with the distance from their belly button to the floor. I bet the answer is awfully close to 1.618, or Phi. Next, have them measure from their shoulder to the tips of their fingers then divide by the distance from their elbow to their fingertips. Phi. Hip to floor by knee to floor. Phi. Even the width of your mouth by the width of your eye is Phi. The Divine Proportion. It’s no mystery, nor is it an accident. It’s divinity.

Redmond recommends that students try to create something – anything beyond chaos – by accident. Drop cards or craft sticks on the floor. Did you make something? No? Now TRY to make something. Even then it’s not that easy. God took his time to make us and our world. He took six days to create everything; and after each day, He took the time to see that it was good.

Creation by accident | @PoeticLotion & @BrightIdeasTeam

For teaching my children, we read Genesis 1. We wrote poetry and drew pictures. Then, I asked my children to explain each day of creation however they felt comfortable doing it. Since my kids are really creative on their own, I didn’t assign a specific project. Gauge your own children’s abilities and interests and follow along with Redmond’s hands-on lesson as you see fit. My girls each created projects that made me both proud and impressed! You can see their projects here.

Encourage your children to see God’s work in the world around them every day. In the miracle of a soft breeze or in a dirty earthworm, God is everywhere.

Photo Credit: Rain by Flickr | quapan; Earth by Flickr | DonkeyHotey

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Homeschool Children Can Minister with Operation Christmas Child

When we hit this time of the school year, when the air is overly crisp, when the schoolbooks are no longer new, and when the griping has begun, we need to be reminded of the blessings of homeschooling. One of those blessings is the flexibility to spontaneously participate in life-changing ministry.

I received a late morning phone call from a friend who is the Relay Center Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in our county.

“Melissa? A while back I told Dale Gaertner at radio station WLEN that I would write some PSAs (Public Service Announcements) and do an interview.  It kind of snuck up on me, and I’m headed over there today at 3:00. Would your daughter Bethany be interested in helping us do a PSA?”

Bethany? On the radio? What a fantastic opportunity! Of course she would!

When my friend arrived, we put the schoolwork aside, and my seven-year old and I sat down to rehearse the PSAs. They were 60-second and 30-second dialogues between Bethany and Joel, and it was important they not run long.

Bethany was to begin one script singing, “I’m dreaming of a shoe box Christmas.” I was nervous; it became clear that she had never heard that Christmas song. So I worked to teach her the tune which she finally nailed at almost three o’clock. We jumped in the car and headed to the radio station where we met Jamie and Joel. Jamie did an interview first, so Joel and Bethany had time to practice the scripts together.

After working for about fifteen minutes, it was time to head into the recording studio. The space was small with equipment everywhere. Bethany and Joel sat in front of the microphone and were given instructions to speak clearly and not to wiggle. This is tricky for a nervous seven year old.

They started with the 60 second spot, and she nailed the song. Score!

Joel, at age 13, read like a champ. I wondered how the radio station would handle the couple of odd breaths Bethany added. After re-recording a section, Dale had what he needed. There were a few verbal flaws, but through the magic of modern recording devices, Dale lifted out Bethany’s extra breath. As Jamie said, he literally took my daughter’s breath away!

Once again, I was reminded of the many extra benefits we have when we homeschool. Because our day-time schedule was free, we were able to respond to Jamie’s call, work on the PSAs, and show up at the radio station. Because he homeschools, Joel was able to both write and record the PSAs. Best of all, we were able to support Operation Christmas Child, an outstanding organization that helps needy children around the world by collecting shoe boxes full of gifts and delivering them at Christmas.

Many thanks to 107.9 WLEN and Dale Gaertner for providing the PSAs so you could hear them!

Operation Christmas Child PSA 1 2012
Operation Christmas Child PSA 2 2012
For more information on Operation Christmas Child, visit Samaritan’s Purse and Build a Box online.


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How NOT to Do it All at Christmas

You don’t have to DO stuff to make it Christmas.

Christmas IS Christmas.

Oh, Christmas Tree!
photo credit: Dawn Camp

It is how we celebrate the birth of our Savior that should define Christmas for us. Not how we decorate, bake, shop, entertain, clean, send cards, carol, or whatever our cultural traditions may be. What matters most to you – is it the “doing” of the *required* Christmasy things or is it the BEING in Christ to honor Him?

Not all traditions are worthy of being kept.

Which traditions matter most to you, your husband and/or your children?

Choose just the special traditions. You will be surprised how much more
everyone will enjoy doing the FEW, when not stressed by the MANY.

 Top 5 Things I am NOT Doing This Christmas

(Please note I don’t have children at home so my list will be different from yours.)

1. No tree. This is a downgrade from our table top tree which was a downgrade from our full sized artificial tree which was a downgrade from our humongous fresh tree.

  • Know what? Even when the kids were home, no one especially minded the downgrades. (And even though Tyler says the tabletop tree was a little “tacky” I don’t think he was permanently scarred!

2. No Christmas letter or cards. This is a downgrade from email letters which were a downgrade from my clever and witty Christmas Letter “Game” which was a down grade from store bought cards which were a down grade from handmade cards (starting with pre-made blank cards) which were a down grade from cutting and making each card from scratch.

  • This year I will revive a tradition of sending out a card at an unexpected time of the year instead. Once it was during Epiphany and another time I think it was summer, hehehe.

3. No Christmas baking. This is a HUGE downgrade and I am not entirely sure I can entirely pull it off. But I am definitely not making 40+ Christmas cakes this year. I may even outsource my top-secret recipe to a teen-aged girl to make for me…still thinking on this one.

  • This is a downgrade from the last 25 year’s worth of cake baking and a down grade in that for the last 15 years I have made fewer and fewer and fewer totally scrumptious cookies and fudge. I’m blessing my family and friends with a lot fewer temptations, right?

4.  (Almost) no lights. Ah, here’s the rub. I LOVE lights in the house and outside the house and down the fence line. I love light, period. I love lighting the way to our home and making it look bright and cheery inside, symbolic to me of living the Christian life: in the light. I keep my indoor tiny white lights in the kitchen (wrapped around the open beams) year round. I talk my hubby or son into lighting up much of our front fencing (it’s pretty long!) and then into leaving them up until they burn out sometime in the spring. We live in the country and our little road is pitch black during these winter nights so the lights are very welcome sight. BUT this year –

  • I have to downgrade to no outside lights as we are leaving the day right after Christmas and hubby probably won’t want to put them up since I won’t be here to enjoy them. Still…

5.  No Annual Bright Ideas Press Employee Christmas Party.  Ouch. This is not a tradition I am easily giving up. It is a decision based on where we are today in terms of health and time and also where our employees are in terms of other commitments.

  • This is a huge downgrade from the usual big happy dinner party for all our employees, families, supporters complete with decorations, lots and lots of great food, and gifts for everyone. It was painful for me to rescind all the invitations (hello evite.com!) and cancel a party that I LOVE and look forward to each year. But a wise friend counseled me to consider the costs this year in terms of time, energy, health and to think about cancelling. It hurt to do but it was the right decision, for this year at least. Another year, maybe not.

Top 5 Things I AM doing

1. Spending time with local family (son, daughter-in-law, two little granddaughters and our church family and friends).

2. Calling family and friends far away. (Something I am especially bad about doing during the rest of the year.)

3. Shopping almost entirely on-line and having items delivered directly. No, the boxes don’t come gift-wrapped but they do get delivered timely.

4. Going out to brunch on Christmas Eve day – something my dad started when my oldest sister was a little girl and is one special tradition I have carried on with my own family.

5. Attending Christmas Eve Service. Always.

Lastly, Firstly, and Most Importantly: I am trying to spend my time honoring Christ, in my heart and mind;
by my words and deeds.
This is Christmas to me.

What about you? What might make Christmas
more meaningful and less stressful in your life?
Share it with me!

Maggie Hogan

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Constraining our Freedom

It always amuses me how God uses so many different ways to get a message through to me. Sometimes he practically shouts. I like those times – they’re so much easier to hear than the still small voice.

This week’s theme has been this: in order to get what you really want, you have to give up whatever is getting in the way. If I want to stay healthy, I have to sacrifice my gluttony and laziness. If I want to love my wife more, I have to love myself less. If I want to know God and his word better, I have to sacrifice time elsewhere to spend with him. The list could go on, but the point is made.

None of us can have our cake and eat it too. Just like I can’t serve God and Money, I can’t love health and Oatmeal Cream Pies. I have to choose what is most important, and pursue it. Sacrificing what I like for what I need, oddly enough, does not come naturally. And I’m just beginning to realize how much practice I need.

What about you? Your family? Your homeschool? Are there goals you have not been able to reach because another desire is getting in the way?  What things in your life need to be uprooted so something better can bloom in that space?

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Book: Go Green, $ave Green

I’ve been reading Go Green, Save Green by Nancy Sleeth of late. I’m fairly impressed. This little $15 book is the best book on Christian Stewardship of Finances and the Environment I’ve ever seen. Nancy shares her family’s inspiring story of faith and lifestyle revolution, while managing to offer a plethora of practical advice and plans any family could follow.  She shows how her family cut their electric bill to under $20/month, broke unhealthy habits, and grew closer to God in the process. In eleven chapters, she brings a wealth of great ideas on how to save money and better care for God’s earth in areas such as Home, Lawn & Garden, Work, Transportation, Church, Entertainment, and more.

She also calculates the impact that simple changes can make in your budget. For instance, did you know that adjusting your thermostat by 3 degree can save ou around $200/year? Or that an insulation blanket on your water heater could lower your bill by $120/year?

One of my favorite things about her style is that it’s non-judgemental, and seeks to help you make even small changes. Some of her advice can be taken in 5 minutes, while other hard-core projects need to be done over the course of months. Just do what you can. At the end of each chapter is a check list that breaks down what you can do today, this week, this month, and this year, as well as a table showing your savings and suggested ways of using your extra cash for the Kingdom.

As a new home-owner, I found her advice in the Home and Lawn section to be especially helpful. Making all those necessary “start-up” purchases was a lot more fun as we thought about ways to save money long-term. She even talked me into buying a reel-mower (amish style) for my yard! It makes sense as I have a small yard. It takes me 20 minutes to mow, I get more exercise, it cost 1/2 of a gas mower, it’s quiet, and I’ll never have to buy gas or oil (or store flammable liquids in my garage). Helen and I have both gotten laughs and insight from Nancy, and our wallets are better for it.

Filled with lots of great websites, scripture, personal stories, and practical application, this is a must-read for the frugal family. $14.99 on Amazon!

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This year has had some rough patches. One of my friends is battling Leukemia again. A few friends are wrestling with addictions of various kinds. Some people are struggling with depression or PTSD. Others have been un- or under-employed for a long time. I’ve lost track of how many marriages are in tumult. And don’t get me started on Haiti or Chile. It’s been pretty grueling.

There’s nothing more sobering then someone who tells you the real gunk that’s going on in their life. Everyone has their gunk. My gunk always feels small when I hear about other people’s. The hardest part for me, as a listener, is knowing what to say.

“I’m sorry”?

“Call me if you need anything”?

“God’s doing something here – it’ll all work out for your good and his glory”?


It seems like I never have the right words at the right time. It’s awkward.

I pick up a book this week that’s been on my “I ought to read this” list for a while. It’s by Larry Crabb – a wise and humble Christian psychologist. I read his book Inside Out in college and it tore me apart with it’s profound understanding of my own sinful heart. I could barely even finish it, but it’s one of the best books I ever read. This one is called Connecting, and the basic premise is that much of the work done by professional counselors could – and should – be done by friends. In the first few chapters he lays out the idea that Connecting is more than giving insight, advice, or empathy. Connecting is an event wherein the Holy Spirit brings about healing and conviction. I’m nowhere near done the book yet, but it’s already been both encouraging and challenging to me. Not just in crisis mode, but in all kinds of everyday interactions.

Simple reminders like “see people as Christ does – with delight in their uniqueness and hope for their future” are huge for me. I don’t tend to see people that way, and thus my words tend to be far from encouraging. Or “remember that you and your brothers in Christ have been given new hearts with new desires that need to be nurtured and drawn out.” I’m big on remembering how sinful people are, but don’t spend much time with the doctrine of regeneration – remembering that our deepest desires, given to us by the Spirit, are good. In conflict with our old nature, to be sure, but there’s good nonetheless. Wow. If I remembered that and practiced speaking as if I believed it, then perhaps when the crisis conversations come I wouldn’t have to worry about what to say. Speaking words of love and encouragement might be natural.

Like I said, I’m not done with it yet, but it’s worth the price of admission for the first three chapters alone. I can’t wait to find out what else is there.

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