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Why classical music is important

Thursday, 27. August 2015 by Melanie Ellison

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I (Renee’s 24 yr. old daughter) recently had two friends separately ask me why classical music is so important to me, so I decided to take the time to write a thorough response. I thought you might like to read what I wrote, so here it is with a lot of links to peruse if they catch your interest…

I was raised on classical music. It started in utero, and then as a baby, my folks moved my arms and legs in ballet positions in time to classical music. By age three, I was playing the piano (video at that link). In my high school years, I was blessed to be able to solo on cello with two youth orchestras (these moments were some of the highlights of my life), playing Kol Nidrei and Prayer. Then in my one year of college (before leaving and writing the book Chucking College: Achieving Success Without Corruption) I pursued a music major, practicing I pursued a music major, practicing 3–5 hours every day and studying under a teacher who had attended Julliard. My parents didn’t accidentally raise me to love classical music. It was a deliberate move.

As believers, we cannot in good conscience let our mere preferences be the only guide in choosing the music to which we listen. Lucifer was the music director in Heaven (this assumption is based on Ezekiel 28:13, where the words that are translated “settings and sockets” mean “timbrels and flutes” in the Hebrew). This tells us two things: 1) the field of the arts can be a slippery one morally, and 2) if Lucifer had his hand in music before the angels rebelled and fell, there’s substantive reason to think he still inspires some composers and wields some types of music for his purposes.

As an example, look at Rock ‘n’ Roll. The very term is a sexual one (no further explanation necessary, I hope). Some believers will claim that there can be a Christianized form of rock music, but regardless of the lyrics, the beat appeals to the flesh (how does your body want to move when you are “worshipping” to such music?). Conversely, classical music invigorates the brain. It is very mathematical and ordered. The strong beats on 1 and 3 align with the human heart beat: ONE two THREE four; whereas in rock music, the strong beats are emphasized on the off beats 2 and 4: one TWO three FOUR (causing chaos within the body’s natural rhythm).

Not only does classical music appeal more to the brain than the flesh, it also requires extensive mental effort to play. Researchers say that it is only after 10,000 hours that a musician reaches the level of expert fluency on a classical instrument. The mental rigor required to play or understand classical music is a large part of what appeals to me about it. It’s not so much just the music but the culture of discipline that permeates the whole life of one associated with such music. There is an understanding that it might take years to master a piece of music, and that disciplined application toward goals carries over into other areas of life as well.

Homeschool convention speaker Andrew Pudewa has an excellent talk on The Profound Effects of Music on Life (I highly recommend it). As one of his points, he talks about a music study that was done on mice. The study was conducted with three groups of mice. One group listened to rock music for 24 hours, another group listened to Mozart for 24 hours, and the control group had silence. At the end of the 24 hours, each group was sent through a maze and timed. The rock group stumbled into the walls and retraced their steps confusedly; the classical group made it to the end of the maze in record time; and the control group was mediocre. This proves that music actually has an effect on ordering or disordering the brain. And also, it is to be noted, listening to classical music is even better than not listening to anything at all.

Choice of music carries over into worship as well. Hymns are much deeper in content and musicality than much modern praise music. It has been said that the repetition of some modern praise songs is the equivalent of singing “Mary, the cows are in the corn. Mary, Mary, Mary, the brown cows, the brown dairy cows are in the corn. They are in the tall, tall corn. And I feel good about the cows. I just want to go lay my head on the cow…” (Otherwise described in the classic and hilarious Youtube video: How to Write a Worship Song in 5 Minutes or Less—946,000 views). Compare that to the theological progression of depth in a four-verse hymn. Also, in hymns, if the words are serious about our Messiah on the cross, for instance, the music will deliver the same message and not be flippant. Admittedly, there are a few wonderful modern praise songs (including this one that I recorded merged with a hymn), but in general, hymns are preferable.

In composer Ben Botkin’s talk The Power and Importance of Music, he asks the pointed question: “What kind of music do you want to be the sound track for your life?” It may take a choice of the will to start listening to a different type of music, but soon you will grow to love it. It is especially helpful to attend a concert in person where you can watch the choreographed dance of the orchestra and the intrigue of each person’s unique approach to the whole. One tip is to find out when the dress rehearsal is for your city’s symphony and attend that for free. It can be very engaging to watch the process of how a concert is put together. There is less pressure on families with small children to be absolutely still and quiet during a rehearsal (I have fond memories of growing up dancing down the aisles and writing letters to penpals during symphony rehearsals).

I highly recommend watching this presentation by master conductor Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music.

As far as composers that I recommend listening to, Bach is at the top of the list. Since he was a believer, at the beginning of each composition he wrote at the top of the page J.J. (for “Jesu Juva”—Latin for “Jesus help me”), and when he had finished, he marked the music S.D.G. (“Soli Deo Gloria”—to God alone be the glory). Renowned musicians say they can practice his music all their lives and still discover something new (not true of more modern composers). Mozart and Beethoven are also excellent choices.  We have an engaging CD of the biography of Bach available.

in case you want a listening list to go through during meals or housecleaning, here are some of my all-time favorites (many of which I have personal connections to—either having played them or known someone who did),

Theme from Schlinder’s List by the great violinist Itzhak Perlman
Dvorak, Silent Woods, Yo-Yo Ma on cello
Bach Harpsichord Concerto in D Major
Bach Violin Partita in E Major
Chopin Nocturne transcribed for cello
Bach French Suite No 5 for piano
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
Mendelssohn Octet
CPE Bach Cello Concerto
Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy
Handel’s Messiah (all 2 hours)
Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

Fun videos for the children:
Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee (Beethoven) flashmob!
The William Tell Overture (with movements!!!)
Flight of the Bumblebee performed on piano by an amazing boy
3 year old Jonathan conducting
Victor Borge Classical comedian: Hungarian Rhapsody
              The Minute Waltz for two pianos
Blue Danube Waltz by the Vienna Philharmonic, with stunning ballet
Almost Angels — a 1962 movie about the Vienna Choir Boys

And this is just the start! Each of these videos will link you to many other good ones.

The grown daughter/aging mother dynamic

Friday, 21. August 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Having taken back spiritual territory from the culture, many Christian grown daughters, who haven’t married yet, are currently living in their birth home, under their parents.  In previous generations, this was not the case.  Generally, the grown daughter got married and was gone, or she moved out while still single, and was gone.  In both cases, she was gone.  But recently, as a result of our shift in thinking as believers, we now have a very different dynamic to deal with, as aging homeschooling mothers.  We solved the problem of how to protect our daughter from severe temptations during her tender years (scores of temptations that could have ruin the remainder of her life), but now we have a very different kind of challenge to deal with.  Now we have two matured women, capable of running households apart from each other—the mother AND the daughter, presently reigning over ONE domestic domain.  Because of the strong nesting instinct in both women and the territorial preferences of each one, there can be friction.

Because of our wide exposure to hundreds and hundreds of homeschooling families through state convention work, we have seen examples of this older mother/daughter duo that work out well and conversely, examples of this duo that are relational disasters—and everything in between.  Here is some clarity about why this dynamic may not work out well sometimes, and how to fix it.

In every case, where the grown daughter/aging mother relationship is under severe stress it is due to unspoken engulfing expectations, each of the other.  Because it is a living situation and not a job situation, there is no way to get away from the chronic pain 24/7 of unspoken, brooding expectations on both parts, taking place in one of the closest relationships on earth—with one’s own mother or one’s own daughter, who have hardly taken a breath apart from each other for 18 long years.  Because women are feelers and have social antenna out 100 yards from themselves, there can be deep anguish going on that is never spoken about, and a feeling on both parts of being trapped.

So let’s get up and out of the morass and clarify some issues that are true in every case of this duo.  There is blue sky up ahead, if we’ll understand these issues and talk about them. The sooner we do it, the better.

Re: the daughter:
If one plays this chapter right, not only the spiritual advantages, but the fiscal advantages of continuing to live at home can be real and can be very significant, particularly if one doesn’t go to college.  (For more on that, read Chucking College to see inside the college loan debt nightmare.)  Never again will a grown daughter have a chance to earn money to build a nest egg for her future, at this exponential speed.  By not having to pay rent and in some cases food and gas bills, as well, the daughter can contribute to building up her own future home, whether she remains single or marries.  Just because she may marry, doesn’t mean these short-lived, rare, fiscal opportunities are to be squandered.  Who doesn’t need more money, while building a young family or when one’s parents age and/or die?  The young man, if he is smart, will be using his early years to save up for these eventualities, as well.  Just because he will bear the lion’s share of this job, doesn’t mean the young woman can’t contribute to doubly bless their lives together.  Every stable future individual fiscal mini-empire is built with a nest egg as the starter rung on the ladder.  Without a nest egg, there is nothing to lay as a foundation that is strong enough to stabilize growing fiscal pressures.  Such a chance to build sure future fiscal growth for the future, by aggressive savings now, doesn’t come around again in one’s lifetime.

Now, here’s the rub.  In exchange for this chance to partake in rapid savings, mothers, often without verbalizing it, expect a return of shared domestic output to run the home.  The problem is that in many cases, the expectation becomes infinite.  This greatly frustrates the grown daughter.  She eventually, comes to desperately realize that no time is her own.  She is always “on duty”—always “on call”—because she knows that her parents are due an infinite debt of gratitude for this fiscal arrangement.

Re: the mother:
If the mother sees that the daughter is not using her hours for either domestic output or to earn a living, this gnaws on the mother and is taken out upon the daughter through disparaging looks, withholding affirmation, smoldering silences, etc.  This becomes torture for the daughter who is oblivious to the problem she is creating by her laziness.

To compound the problem, both mother and daughter define laziness/free-time differently—everyone does, even after young gals marry and run their own households.  Many a mother-in-law and/or mother look upon even their married daughters with what they think is bull’s eye accuracy, which manifests in condescension, and withholding affirmation for anything else that is going on that is good in the emerging daughter’s life.

Thus, in this mother/daughter duo there often exists this crisis of expectations that must be talked through.  At first, we may shrink back, thinking this is far too fragile a dynamic to openly talk about—that “mother-love”, or “daughter-love” wouldn’t do it.  But if the duo don’t talk about it, and it exists, it may ruin the relationship for the rest of their lives.  Any way you slice it, this is a long-term, life-time relationship that one must work upon to get it right.  One can’t take back the feelings and impressions this chapter of “tight” living situation produces, if it is deteriorating in the hearts of one or both women.  Either talk about it, or watch it crash and burn, to your own, far deeper sorrow, than merely that the dishes didn’t get washed today.

So, here is what you talk about:
Since the mother and the daughter both have both domestic burdens and fiscal burdens they need to talk about the boundaries of these individual challenges and pursuits

—have the daughter clearly estimate how much money she will make in a month and how she will make it—given the gift of this free living situation.

—have the mother clearly define what must be done domestically in the home, and who is ideally responsible for what

—thirdly, talk about space issues—what space belongs to the mother and what space may belong totally to the daughter (to either be fastidiously neat in, or looser than her mother organizationally—depending upon her individual wiring).  If this space separation is not achievable in the home, then consider an addition of an RV in the driveway or backyard.  This accommodation must be made for mature people; every adult has a large private life going on inside her head.  There is to be no uninvited reading of each other’s mail, email, diaries, etc.  Privacy is an adult right of passage.  The mother must treat the single daughter psychologically the same as she would regard her grown married daughter, as if she has already moved out and now has her own life to express and live.  Micro-managing must cease.

Because both women are mature, their work/domestic preferences will be pronounced and strong and will, in most cases, be different.  As the daughter becomes more and more developed and differentiated, she will express herself in both of these domains differently from the mother, so achieving mutuality in these spheres of work is a delusion.  Both the fiscal pursuits and the domestic pursuits must be given space to be individually pursued in one’s own way—i.e., give each other space to do jobs differently without the invasion of the opinions of the other.   The more work fusion, the more emotional confusion there will be.  This may even require that the other adult woman gives the kitchen over to the other one—does not interfere with suggestions, opinions, etc.—and is nowhere around as the other one is working.  Defer and be polite, here. 

—if there is tension over any of these issues, stop and reach agreement on paper about them.  Talk about it some more, until there is mutual consensus about expectations coming from both directions.

then talk about taking domestic “turns of duty”, and what that looks like—so that the mother is fully “on cooking duty” for one day and the daughter is fully “on cooking duty” for the next day—alternating back and forth (or if you prefer you can alternative weeks)—both a mother and a daughter need to be fully off duty to maintain sanity and longevity in the midst of this ongoing living arrangement.  Otherwise, chronic long-term grey areas will produce emotional fog and heaviness and stressful private mental gymnastics and escapisms.

—and mothers, be sure that you don’t view your grown daughters as “go-fers”—as personal appendages to yourself to get things done for you.  Live your life as if your daughter is not in your home; find your own solutions.  Your married children are free of you, and so it must be in your mind regarding your at-home grown child.  If your daughter volunteers to help you, or if you pay her, that is acceptable, but no adult can have a private butler/maid on call for any instance or time without compensation.  If such a dynamic exists it will boomerang on you.  The adult child will flee away from you— if not physically, she will run away mentally.  This is a stiff loss, reaping deep sorrow, for lack of a mother’s wisdom in this area.

View yourself as coming up under your daughter to enlarge and serve and strengthen her future life—which will all too soon, in the majority of cases, not be under your domain anymore.  The only thing that will live on are the memories of that grown time with you—so see to it that they are good ones.

If your at-home daughter is not earning money, or doing domestic work that amounts to the same (figured by tabulating her hours and duties on paper and valuing that work commensurate with sustaining her life as a single person, living alone); if she is, in fact, freeloading, then you must go back to the drawing board and point out that this existence is not possible in the real world and that if the income or domestic output doesn’t increase, she must leave.  By the way, this is an absolute must for any emerging son in your home; where there isn’t the domestic compensations complication in tabulating what exists.  Don’t allow your son to freeload for one day.  It could ruin his manhood.

Teaching our children how to wisely relate to peers

Wednesday, 12. August 2015 by Renee Ellison

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One of the great pressures of peer relationships often takes the form of “wowing” each other with trivia.  In the world we see it with body tattoos, hair dyed green, sharing some shocking DVD, movie, or byte from a CD, and wowing our friends with tricks and crude jokes.  It can further descend into DARING one’s peers…yes, all the way to gang activity and murder as an initiation rite.  Not only does the fear of men give rise to temptations to fit in with them, at any cost just to please them, but to have this edge of wowing them.  For Christians, of course, these peer temptations are far more subtle, but they still exist. 

Friends who seek to “serve” their friends, relatives, elders, guests instead of to “wow” them wind up endearing themselves to those people at a very deep level. Such a friend’s focus is upon meeting the other person’s needs, not satisfying his own need to be applauded or revered.  It is a choice between a temporary high (receiving the transient praise of men, quickly now) and gaining a friend who would die for them, the love runs so deep.

Carrying heavy luggage, serving a meal, washing a visitor’s car, mowing someone’s lawn unexpectedly, privately fixing something, etc.—these are the kinds of things that are the weightier jaw-droppers in feeding a friendship.

Wowing, on the other hand, rather than serving, has a deep downside.  I once knew a ballet/modern dancer who was addicted to having people praise her.  She said it was awful; the praise was never enough.  When some activity has the potential for invoking praise, it can be engulfing.  As another example, a young man in our town was quarterback on the football team in high school.  Every time he “breathed” he was written up as “something” in the local newspaper.  When he was suddenly finally taken off the field in an ambulance due to a football injury, never to play again, his purpose in life vanished and he sank into a deep depression for years; he just couldn’t get going in a normal world.

As parents (or grandparents, for that matter), we can be sensitively training children in this primary attribute of friendship: death to self. God’s will for us, as completed, mature believers is a totally flexible, supple will.  The Heavenly Father even required it of the Messiah.  “Not my will but Thine” was His Son’s evidence of a hard won personal maturity.  The ability to self-soothe, to subdue one’s own will, IS what maturity IS.  The ability to say “down boy” to our weaker, darker side at every turn is evidence of a refined personal self-management.  The possibility of such a state is assumed in the creation of a final judgement: men ARE ultimately accountable for their own wills.

So, the focus of our parenting/grandparenting needs to be upon training a totally flexible, supple will in our offspring.  That means crossing self-indulgence at every turn.  “Anything is fine with me for the good of others”... is the goal.  As it incrementally grows, via good parenting, it will beget the offspring’s ultimate happiest state.  Sin is spelled with an “i” in the middle.  Hell is endless “me”.

Why the KEY issue with the elderly is avoiding falls

Tuesday, 14. July 2015 by Renee Ellison

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With over ten thousand baby-boomers entering the retirement ranks per day, the care of THEIR elderly parents becomes their nearly full-time second job. This is an eyes-open bit of insight for all.  Take your confidence off from your elderly parents’ dubious bone-strengthening drugs (they don’t work anyway) and put your energy into ensuring that they AVOID the falls in the first place.  How?  Exercise your elderly parent; tighter muscles make for less falls.  And fall-proof the home.

Recent studies are telling us that one in three seniors, age 65 and older, fall each year.  70 percent of the trauma calls in the region where I live are for elderly people who have sustained a broken hip or head injury.  And that doesn’t even include the numbers of people who have fallen and, while not injured, can’t get up without help; our local district saw a 26 percent increase in those calls during the first quarter of 2015.

My 96-year old aunt has fallen perhaps ten times in her old age—most of that in the last six years—and each time the aftermath was a veritable nightmare.  The reason? besides the obvious results of 1) having physically harmed herself and 2) having entered the engulfing quagmire of expense and management of those time-consuming emergency hospital bills, is that, not only does the elderly parent have to cope with the injury but now, with even less personal resourcefulness, they have to cope with the greatly exacerbated decline in overall health because of the injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers seniors falling a public-health problem that is “largely preventable,” it says in its Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries program. An injury from a senior’s fall can have long-term effects, such as disability, dependence on others and reduced quality of life, the CDC said.  Loss of muscle tone and balance; vision problems; medication interactions; bad lighting; and hazards in the home top the list of causes of this problem.

Elderly persons who have suffered from a fall cease to exercise.  This means congestion may set in throughout the body, especially in the colon, due to poor circulation.  Digestion suffers.  Lungs and heart suffer.  Muscle-tone deteriorates severely and rapidly, making the person prone to more falls.  Thus, the health challenges are compounded.  Amy Allen, executive director of the Southwest Regional Emergency and Trauma Advisory Council, observed that “Seniors worry so much about falling, they restrict themselves from moving, which makes it worse and stops them from doing daily things, like going for the mail.”  [Source]

All of this translates to double the work for the caretaker—adding to the already overwhelming load of total care of another adult human being.  The “adult” part matters, because the person’s “will” is interposed in everything, unlike what a caretaker of a baby experiences.  This accelerates the caretaker’s burnout.  The conclusion?  Minimize the likelihood of falls happening in the first place.  Guard this preventative territory like a patrolling alley dog.

Fall-proof EVERYTHING, including the elderly person’s environment and routines.  No throw rugs, anywhere.  Cork on the bathroom floor, if you have to.  TWO grip bars in the bathtub.  A portable plastic seat set there, in the tub to pull forward, nearer the faucet when in use.  A long loose hose on the tub faucet.  (No water coming from above, which can disorient the elderly and cause them to lose their balance.)  How to bathe them?  Either you or they, scrub up the top of the body, WHILE they sit, rinse.  Scrub the lower half, while they sit, rinse.  To do the crotch area, have your parent rise only a few inches, so that if they fall their body weight goes right back onto the plastic seat.  Never allow them to stand fully upright where the weight changes forward, WHILE showering/bathing.

Wash hair, as a separate task, in the kitchen, later.  Lean their body up against the kitchen sink.  Install a tall faucet there, if you don’t have one.  This fully leaning position, anchoring their weight against the lower cupboard, holds them clear up to their waist.  Do all of this even WHILE THEY ARE “STRONG” and in relatively good vigor, but OLDER.  They will resist, but you insist smile

When walking them outdoors, assist them over all curbs, even if they are fully capable of managing them themselves; don’t leave it to chance.  Our 3D eyesight grows foggier and foggier as we age.

Furthermore, exercise them daily with whatever part of their body still moves.  When health is far gone, exercise their appendages while their back (thus backbone) is fully supported, lying flat on the bed.  But before that hour, walk them all you can, before the disabilities multiply.

If you’ll guard their fall potential, this will translate to an easier job for you.

Filed Under: Home management tips

The limitations of war in the hands of men

Sunday, 05. July 2015 by Renee Ellison

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(Thoughts on the 4th of July of 2015)

How strange it is that since the dawn of man we have thought we could advance ideologies through technical means.  Superior aim, brute force, bulls-eyes, bayonets, chariots, dynamite, and atomic fusion have been our means to change thought—or so we imagined.  Our focus has been upon military brass.  We’ve ignored the fact that the earth has a soul.

If war is in the hands of good men, benevolent men, we see that war can be a means for stopping further war, at least for the moment.  But have we ultimately gained anything, in the long run, if we haven’t changed the heart?  Don’t the contrary ideologies live on in the ashes—smoldering away, gathering combustion for the next outbreak of force?

Furthermore, if war is in the hands of evil men, what then?  If they gain the technical advantage, wild with desire to advance barbaric ideologies, having the upper hand, do they really advance even their own ideologies?  Or do they, so equipped with artillery, tactics and intrigue, descend into irrationality—becoming so engorged with greed, that power itself becomes their ultimate ideology?  After their wars, they are apt to see their victories descend into rejected persuasions that implode as the masses break out against their insistences.  Just give it time.  Resting on their laurels, the evil warriors (some masquerading as refined elites) will be delivered from personal angst for a few hours, perhaps, but will afterwards become vaguely aware of increasing restlessness in the hearts of the conquered.  This is experienced, in spades, by any monarch, who the day he ascends his throne begins to note whispers from relatives who would love to usurp him.

Ultimately, all that war does is muzzle opposition and silence dissent for an hour or two. War, in the hands of mere men, does absolutely nothing to change the heart—or enlighten humanity.  The results generally won’t last; just wait a half hour.  (A few hundred years is but an hour or so, in the overall framework of history.)  The American War of Independence was followed by the War of 1812 and then the Civil War, where Americans killed themselves, more comprehensively than all the American men lost in wars with our outside enemies.  Our war to fix political problems (including states’ rights and slavery) meant we maimed and killed far more in the process: a staggering 620,000 (recent studies move it to 850,000).  The racial issue festers still, and the battle for states’ rights vs. federal rights emerged again, just days ago!  World War I (“the war to end all wars”) was followed by World War II.  Even when a war must be waged to stop immediate wild aggressions, amassing ammunition is no avenue to achieving lasting conflict resolution if we don’t afterwards tend to the hearts of men.  Our world today is peppered with wars in every direction—and massive conflagrations are flaring in the wings.

One has to ask, what did the Visigoths and the Huns, who overran Rome, grow in Rome’s ruins?  How was this an advance—even for themselves?  Is living among carnage and weeping stone better?  When ISIS has killed the last Jew, what then will they live for?

Napoleon had it right when he meekly observed that “Jesus Christ was the greatest military leader of all time, because He conquered men by love, not force.”

In scripture we find the head-turning verse for a yet future time: “Neither shall they learn war anymore.”  Why? Because war, in the hands of mere men, ultimately advances nothing.  Thus, in the kingdom, God will see to it that we will cease to learn it, or to teach it to our sons.

On the other hand, war in the hands of God will in the end advance everything.  We were born into a red hot war, begun long before laying the foundation of the earth, and we shall see its end.  The unequaled power of “almightiness” is the last trump card, when men won’t be persuaded by their own military exploits.  When man descends into a slug-fest, God takes on his irrationality and kills it by almighty means.  By eternal muscle.  By lightning and trumpets and plagues, and hail, and hurling meteorites and planets in the cosmos—slamming them even into the earth.  If man won’t be persuaded in the tender recesses of his heart, by the most divine of humble sacrifices, spilling righteous blood, every such man, bent on evil, will at last be conquered by a parade of Armageddons of another sort.

The hour is late.  Let us advance the cause of Christ by prayer, by persuasion, by increased ardor, by unabashed boldness.  Let us “kiss the Son” while He may yet be found, believing that war for the hearts of the sons of men is the greater and final battleground.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

The main thing in home education

Wednesday, 01. July 2015 by Renee Ellison

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The key ingredient in all education is personal investment—i.e. one-on-one time—man-power—attentiveness.  A child can really be educated using any materials, even old encyclopedias, or just the Bible, if the attentiveness factor from another adult is maximized.

If your student is little, any book you buy, no matter how expensive or wonderful, will fall flat unless you (or some other adult) are personally sitting next to your child through the process.  Children learn internal discipline by many experiences of external discipline with someone.  If you can’t afford to hire additional help, then rotate through your children with undivided attention from you and/or your husband for each subject, for each session—and you will find that both you and your children will be far less frustrated and will accomplish more.  Give it all you’ve got.  Table other outside involvements for several years, until you have conquered the academic basics solidly.  Also, do any of your media/email/i-Phone stuff after you have superintended your children’s schooling for the day.  Otherwise, those other activities will eat up your day and you will observe, sadly, that you have given the prime time of your day to relationships that have far less depth for you.  Your children and your husband are it for depth smile.

Investing in your children is your most rewarding and glorious investment; all others pale in comparison.  One day you will hear the Lord will tell you: “Well done, good and faithful servant” when it is all done.

The reason I focus so much upon getting as much of it up and running with the A.C.E. curriculum is to eventually free the mother from having to carry, personally, so many academic details for each of her children for 12 long years.  The more she carries, the more potential for “mama-burnout.”  Feel free to use all of your current homeschooling materials, if you like, but as you may already realize, the sheer quantity and varying types of them will bog down your day.

The key idea is to eventually get schooling functioning without you—so that you can maintain the discipline, dinner, and desire for your hubby smile—and dive into a good book for yourself, now and then.  Eventually, when it is all running smoothly, you can still personally teach your offspring the academic topics that you are personally passionate about—but only when you want to—not have to.

Two academic principles

Tuesday, 23. June 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Two general academic principles:

One:
Always reduce emotional resistance by doing everything FOR the child, initially, and as long as he needs it—i.e. all he has to do it repeat orally or copy (writing).  Just going through the process IS education.  (In later years, that may even occasionally mean seeing the answer first, to provide the “aha” and then working backwards from it.)

The mere fact that the child is interfacing with materials produces education, at least on some level.  It always must begin with familiarity, as in,“I’ve done this before, step by step with an adult, and now I’m confident enough to do it myself.”  A child learns internal discipline by many experiences of external discipline provided by the tutor.

Two:
Always reduce the visual field—the amount that you are directly working with, by covering up the rest of the page.  This way, the child doesn’t subliminally carry the whole larger task, and is able to have many little mini-successes continually. Providing bite-sized-tasks is the name of the game throughout all of childhood, in every area.

Parental perspectives on the complexities of living with grown unmarried children

Monday, 18. May 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Living with grown children is not the same ball game as raising small children.  An entirely different set of “parenting” skills is needed to make this further chapter successful and happy for all involved.  Furthermore, it requires different parenting for different personalities.  You will live differently with the conscientious young adult than you do with the lazy one. 

Homeschooling families in this generation are doing something that the secular culture has largely abandoned for several generations now: godly grown children are voluntarily choosing to continue to live with their parents until marriage, and their parents are in agreement about this.  Many believing families are opting to do this for spiritual reasons, because they see this pattern in the Bible, with good results.  Abraham chose a mate for his grown son Isaac when Isaac was well advanced in years, deep into adulthood, still living at home.  The lives of Ruth and Esther are set in stark contrast to the loud wandering, worldly woman spoken of in Proverbs who is seldom at home.  When Dinah left home to see what the daughters of the land were doing in Shechem, she left the protection afforded by a godly home and got into terrible trouble. 

The advantages of this living arrangement with adult children are many, both relationally and financially.  This arrangement spares the single adult from the severe temptations of shack-up situations and possible mincing forays into homosexuality—or the appearance of evil through the set-up of supposedly “platonic” guy-girl roommate relationships, and from any number of additional devastatingly dysfunctional roommate situations whenever someone lives with anyone who is not part of one’s extended family. 

In addition, living with one’s parents until one is married provides an opportunity for the young adult to amass an economic nest egg that will make a huge financial difference for them.  Earning money while living under their parents’ roof with minimal expenses may even afford them the possibility of paying for a house or land with cash and never having to pay rent.  Having disciplined goals during these transition years affords the young adult the possibility of further unimaginable savings over a lifetime, and relieves a young marriage of many financial stresses.  (Many houses bought with mortgages end up costing three times as much over the lifetime of the mortgage.  This money is siphoned from the earnings of each person; it is given over to a bank instead of building his or her own estate.) 

However, as with any relational set-up, there are pitfalls and blind spots that must be avoided for this arrangement to work well.  For this living arrangement to be successful it must be done with mature relational savvy on the part of the parents, otherwise the experience can result in lifetime scarring, destroyed relationships, adult tensions galore, and lifelong regrets for all parties of those lifetime relationships.  [Note: because of the limitations of the English language, we will refer to the grown single child as “he”, but this applies just as much to a daughter as to a son, albeit in a slightly different manner, given the different biblical standards for men providing for themselves and their families.]

Motivational speakers for years now have identified what makes people continue to produce and live invigorated lives.  People tend to stay in marriages, businesses and living situations where they continue to grow.  An affirming positive loving atmosphere will keep a person in such a relationship.  If this climate is not present, the tendency (or at least the lure) is to jump ship.

The key shift in parents’ thinking with regard to sharing their home with grown children has to be the realization that they are launching their young adult’s life, doing everything possible to gladden and enrich that emerging life, rather than viewing him as an appendage and a support for their own lives.  In other words, the parents must learn to do life by themselves, while also finding ways to procure advantages for their son’s life.  This involves choosing to carry their own load, even though the adult son continues to live in their home.  Conversely, if parents are leaning upon their grown child, using him, micromanaging him, demanding of him, and/or shaming him into doing their bidding or adopting their perspectives on everything, they will find an unexpected kickback that they may regret as time passes.

Many adult children grow to be quite capable in a variety of areas and thus can potentially become a real boost to their parents’ lives.  This is fine, so long as it is volunteered by the emerging adult as he thinks of it, rather than his parents extracting it from him.  Otherwise, he may grow to feel “used.”  Many parents unknowingly take advantage of their grown children’s capabilities (without compensating them for them, i.e. liberally and gladly paying them or returning some trade in the rent agreement, etc.) for their own parental benefit, and this may become increasingly oppressive for the young adult.

If the parents are using their adult son for their own benefit, he may at first turn away from them inwardly, and as time progresses may turn away bitterly in actuality and finally may eventually bolt because the relationship has become irreparable.  Parents’ relational salvation with their grown children is to think long-term and big picture.  What do you want your grown child to think of you when you at last rest in your grave?  Does he perceive the relationship as enlarging and enriching for himself?  Does he flock to be with you?  If given a choice, is he drawn to you, or do you observe him avoiding you, living in tension because of you, skirting interfacing with you over any matter?  These are alarms and bells and whistles that will only intensify, if you do not reverse them.  You are fashioning your own reputation with him.  What is that reputation?  Are you, perhaps, winning the battle (his compliance for the moment) but losing the war of winning his lifetime permanent affection for you?  These are deep waters.

As with any adult living situation, clean lines must be drawn and understood by both sides.  Clean lines must be drawn regarding finances and regarding responsibilities.  Otherwise, the grown child will find himself buried in a jungle of implied expectations, both expressed and naggingly felt.  He may sink into depression and hopelessness, wanting to escape but not knowing how.  No adult can stand doing another adult’s bidding unendingly.  All such relationships end in destruction.  Expectations kill relationships, unless the expectations are clearly stated, are reciprocal, and are mutually advantageous.  Living in a continual win/win situation with your adult child will tie him in loving bonds with you for a lifetime.  Is home a place he loves to be?  Strive to see your life together through his eyes.

When living with a conscientious young adult instead of correcting him broadside, try some humor.  Also, strive to posit your opinions in questions instead of edicts, fashioning your sentences more like this:  “Might you find this way more advantageous to yourself?”  Tell them that you are available to pray with them, if they should want that at any time for direction, and to clarify certain ambiguities for them.  Brainstorm with them.  Get other mature adults to brainstorm with them.  Encourage them that in a multitude of counselors there is victory, as it says in Proverbs.  This has an entirely different feel than ordering them around as adults. 

All of this is advice for living with conscientious adult children.  If, conversely, you live with a lazy, irresponsible adult child, you must put the screws to them to enforce specific expectations, in order for him to have the privilege of continuing to benefit from the advantages of living at home.  Otherwise he must learn by having his cheek on the pavement of some street somewhere.  Draw the expectations firmly, and perhaps do so on paper, together, not signing anything as a formal contract, but providing “paper” objectivity upon what you both are coming to agree to together.  After that, the young adult, by then crossing those agreed upon ideas, willfully puts himself out of the home.  It was not you that did it, but he.  The aimless young adult must be made to draw up his own goals and ambitions.  He must be growing old skills and learning new skills by apprenticing with others further along in those fields or studying.  He must be drawing income from somewhere, or he can’t live at home.  This living situation is to advance him in life, not to coddle him by providing hours for more sports and video games and other entertainments.

For young unmarried gals it is best to define their life as a full complete single life now, and the probability of a full married life later.  They are to live equally well in both conditions, steadily making a difference in God’s kingdom.  Get them out of the “waiting game.”  Get them fulfilled now with both meaningful income-producing work and kingdom work.  No one does well with a sloppy, ill-defined, meaning to life.  Get them fulfilled working steadily year round with meaning; there should be no intermittent dragging months.  See to it that they wake up to a day with purpose, continually.

So, what do clean lines in living arrangements look like?
Separate your finances and financial obligations from his or hers.  Does your son/daughter pay rent?  Or, does he/she work for that rent for you by doing specifically X, Y, and Z, or by working for someone else to earn that rent?  This area alone will destroy a relationship if not clearly spelled out.  His/her obligation to you (as regards paying a fixed amount for rent) cannot be unending and open-ended; it has to be settled by fixed tasks or established payment amounts, where there is a measurable end to them and the young adult is freed from any further parental expectations.  Are the household’s meal preparation and cleanup responsibilities clearly delineated?  Who is responsible for what?  Do you give each other space, if so desired, by leaving the kitchen when he or she enters; or vice versa?  Are both of you working at what you would both have to do full-time if you were living in two separate households?  Meal planning and preparations are a given in every living situation, at least some of the time.

Does the emerging adult have some space all to himself?  Does he have the potential of privacy?  Does he clearly own his own things and have his own bank account?

Your grown child needs space that can be organized by his own design and kept neatly or in a mess, given his personality—just as married couples have with each other.  If all space is shared, the relationship will collapse.  Private property is one of the first gifts even God gives to His bride (children) by allotting land by tribe to the children of Israel.

Do you give your grown child his own time, and opportunity to do his own home-based business(es)  or to work for others without being clobbered by your own random, unexpected sudden requests, to get you out of a bind, that claim his time for your own ends?  Are you frequently invading his time?  Even if you see him doing nothing, that is his right if his bills are paid.  Further, have you determined to make it financially advantageous to him to live with you, or are you eager for his financial contribution only for your own sake?  A grown adult knows his parents’ motives.  He observes them when you are not on dress parade.

Often remind yourself that if he were married and out of your home, he would ipso facto be using his time as he sees fit and thinking his thoughts as he thinks them, just as you did when you reached adult autonomy.  Just as you do not have access to your married children 24/7, it is not your right to have such access to the unmarried, even though he is still in your own home.  Adulthood is adulthood, and that includes having a separate psyche—even a private diary and private letters, just as you have.  If you did not finish the job of raising him during his growing years when you were authorized by God to do it, (and who of us parents ever does finish it?) you have to make your peace with the fact that that your “formation” job assignment has ended.  Your grown son will never be perfect; he will never totally “arrive”—just as you and your spouse haven’t, even yet.  You have to shift gears, from constant correction to living with forgiveness and adapting to all the uncomfortable, unpolished behaviors of any adult human being.  Other factors (we learn from experiences, too) and influences from other people now will have their say, not the least of which is God’s input, Himself, directly into his adult soul. 

Make sure that your grown at-home son/daughter knows that you are building his kingdom and not your own, and you will find that his heart will be with you to the end.  If you do not do this kind of self-sacrifice and adaptation when he becomes an adult, he may flee at his earliest chance.  Home has to continually be the best place on earth or another will be found, at any cost, if even only in the section of the heart that privately “longs” for such a place, substituting someone else in his/her affections.  Build relational capital with your grown children for a lifetime, by never losing sight of the prospect of the last ten years of your own life.  What have you relationally earned from your son by being as supportive and loving as possible?  That may even involve joining the “zipped-lip” club that many seniors have found they had to join ahead of you.  You have a chance to create a heaven on earth for your offspring as long as you live. 

See our booklets/e-books Daughters in Waiting and Young Men Preparing for Marriage for further details.

Filed Under: Home management tips

The world is past fixing

Monday, 11. May 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Just like when the Egyptians pleaded with Pharaoh, “Do you not yet see that the land is ruined”—when he remained transfixed in his own illusions of continued world power (despite what he was experiencing), so, too, we, as a world have reached the point of no return.  This IS the last chapter.  Vain is the hope that the world systems are going anywhere but down, despite the best of human efforts from this day forward.

Even if we were to start today in earnest, able to clean up the world morally by having massive revivals, the best we could hope for would be scores of individual salvations.  For the systems/ economies/ ecologies/ anarchies of the world, however, this is D-day.  As in the days of Noah, this current world is beyond fixing; we are in a free-fall over the cliff.  We hurl headlong to the bottom for a number of individual reasons, each of which, in isolation, will be taking us down and is taking us down.  In combination, the synergistic effect of all those individual causes will bring us down, overwhelmingly and irrevocably.

Morally
In our defiance against God, at first we looked for idols made of stone but then we eventually found ourselves to be the better idol still.  We tinker with combining the DNAs of animals with plants, of humans with animals, and as a result our bio-ethics problems will be huge.  We sit on Mt. Zion, re-writing origins.  Sexual orientation and marriage have been re-defined by human oligarchs, whose assertions result in utter confusion for the “children” of those origins, who now ache past repair. And the blood of our millions of abortions now moan and howl over the years like a restless wind that cannot be hushed in the conscience of a nation.

The debt load
At a debt load currently sitting at 20 trillion, just for the USA, even if we stopped our borrowing habit today, stopped the Fed printing presses and began paying back debt in earnest—just our own USA debt exceeds the entire global GDP.  That means that if we were able to buy/ acquire/ conquer every country of the world and harness their combined manufacturing output, it would not touch the debt of just the USA.  This figure does not include our outrageous unfunded future liabilities: continued entitlements to the non-worker but also, other necessary things like promised social security checks to an army of now retiring baby boomers, swelling by the second, that came at our economic troughs like a swarm of locusts.  Nor does this debt include the vast worldwide derivatives bubble/ cauldron that is corroding every dollar with nothing but rust and mildew.  And because the economies of the world are hopelessly intertwined, as the USA goes (or Europe, or Japan—take your pick), so goes the world.  It is all beyond human fixing.

What the powers that be will attempt to do to fix it, soon, is to crash the old system and revamp the future world economy into a one-world banking system with a new cashless currency.  In the conversion they’ll ipso-facto wipe out individual wealth and private property—but the fix will be short.  It, too, will topple.  Its termination will be swift; its final window withdrawal will be met with by the “teller” at the top of the Mt. of Olives.

The nuke situation
Any number of rogue nations with messianic illusions of their own importance could finger the kill switch, on a godlike day.  North Korea sits next to that switch 24/7 now—and who knows how many minions in other nations sit with her.  We are in bondage to nuclear fissions and fusions.  Our toys have turned on us like an unforeseeable emergence of Frankenstein.  Most of the world’s continued existence is very iffy.

The EMP switch
Electronically, we are at the mercy of the use of wireless waves—oceans of them—coming from every direction.  We’re hopelessly dependent upon this new hidden, noiseless fuel for our every transaction.  Cut off our electronic fuel via a quiet neighborly EMP attack and that is the end of going anywhere.  The day a bum cannot get his EMT card to work in his ATM machine, will be the day that he comes to your house for dinner, and assuredly, he will eat before you will.

The Fukushima situation
In the book of Revelation it says that 1/3rd of the world’s oceans will be ruined.  When the Tsunami hit Japan, it broke open this prophecy.  Fukushima’s nuclear spills have not been able to be contained since then, and at this very hour that situation (never before seen or experienced), remains out of control, continuously belching additional copious quantities of alarmingly high levels of radiation.  Anything we could do would be a mere Band-Aid on this universal oozing gash.  Currently, the volume of dead sea animals washing up on the Western shores of the US because of interfacing with this radiation is unprecedented.  These animals maroon on our shores with gaping open wounds, burns, sunken eyeballs, endless repositories of radiation damage beyond belief strewn upon our shorelines.  The sea life was our first line of defense.  Those animals took it on the chin.  Our own thyroids are next, and our babies after that.

Conclusion
Let us get beyond looking for better days.  No day will ever again be better, on the corporate, worldly level. Let us saddle in for worse days, and darker nights, for this season of our lives.  But individually, if we proceed with humbly bowed head and contrite heart, under the blood of the only Savior the world has ever known, we can look forward to an individual spiritual bonanza, in the midst of it all.  Read most any chapter of the book of Isaiah to see the judgments and end time cataclysms juxtaposed against the Almighty’s secure protection of His loved ones.  We can look forward to gathering the spiritual spoils of a world in a catastrophic death-throw.  Our booty will be as large as our prayers and our union with the Almighty.  Let us not forget that there are TWO stories going on here.  One is going down; the other is going up.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Relating to a dysfunctional husband

Friday, 24. April 2015 by Renee Ellison

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When we express extreme anguish over a spouse’s disappointing or even bad behavior, the underling belief we have—which we don’t know that we have—is that our personal anguish will somehow touch the other person.  However, if the person lacks the ability to have empathy (a clinical condition; can’t conjure it up, can’t imagine it, lacks the ability to produce it) we have to look at that condition as if a piece of that other person’s DNA is missing, and change our own behaviors in relation to that immovable situation.  It is like dealing with any other handicap in any other person: the person can’t walk because they can’t.  They are in a wheelchair.  Likewise, we must view this emotional disorder as a mental wheelchair.

Our illusion is that if we could just explain it better, if he were to read the right material or get under the influence of the right person, this could be fixed.  Chances are that these hopes are ill-founded if it wasn’t fixed after reading the first book or having the first discussion.  Habit can clobber sane rationality/courage any day, if we one is dealing with a lifetime chronic situation.

Therefore, when we personally have anguish we need to come to see that we are wasting our own emotional capital, only ruining our own day.  It wears us out, but does nothing to the other person.  He may be having a fine day—oblivious to us.  When we figure out that this is in fact the dynamic we are living with, our wise, better course would be to conserve our own emotional energy via self-talk that goes something like this: “This isn’t fazing him a bit, so why should it faze me?” and get busy doing something very engaging that you love to do on you own.  Simply learn to unhook from the cause of the devastation.  Don’t GO there.  If HE is not feeling anything, why should YOU be?  If you remain a victim of chronic dashed expectations, you will forever be miserable.  If someone’s devious or underhanded behavior always takes our breath away, we will always be reeling.  If, on the other hand, we note the underhanded behavior and unhook, check-out, and expect it, then we can move past it and have a life of our own.

It might be quite life-giving to learn how to live in the moment better.  When things are going well, act like the big picture is good.  Pretend.  For your own sake, enjoy all of the gusto you can get out of the relationship while it is going well.  It would be similar to relating to someone who has periodic memory loss and doesn’t even know who you are.  You would simply learn to relate to him (or her) fully for those moments when his memory returns and he does know who you are.  Aim to obtain from the relationship your own momentary joys—and unhook from the rest.  Die to any and all expectations that it will ever be otherwise.  Live a life beside him for all of those moments when it is obvious that he is not in the relationship and doesn’t have a clue about how to get there.  Carve out of life your own quiet joys next to him.  This will revive your own emotional reserves and give you zest for living life wherever there is life—with other relationships and pursuits, for example.  And of course you always have a secret cathedraled life with God that you can retreat to for the most trustworthy, satisfying nurture a human being could ever want.  Go there and mental healing will ever flow.

Remember that the goal of this life is not personal happiness.  It is wanting to be conformed to the image of Christ, no matter what it takes.  It is submitting to whatever surgery is necessary to take on yet more of His nature.  We have this promise: “When we see Him, we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).  Saddle up.

Filed Under: Home management tips