The Habit of Curveballs

My angel of a sister-in-law recently underwent a bilateral mastectomy.  It came as a total, unexpected shock, more for my brother and his family, than for us, of course.  A shock, nonetheless.

Life has a habit of throwing curveballs.  A few days after hearing about my sister-in-law’s illness,  Charis complained about “something painful” on the side of her neck. For a few days, she’d been saying she was tired, which is so unlike her.  Now, this “something painful” was worrying her.  Iain felt it and said it was a lump.  I ran my fingers over it.  It was the size of a large mothball.

That night, she slept with me, seeking shelter and reassurance in my embrace.   She was too scared to name her fear, she confessed.  If she named it, it could become real.  All she said was that she wanted to live, and get married someday, and have children.   I could not sleep.  I didn’t know how to pray, let alone breathe. 

Fear tracked its muddy footprints through my mind.  The next morning, I was rostered for worship at church, and, as I was singing the song, Blessed Be the Name of the Lord, I had to restrain tears at the words of the song: “Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering, when there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your Name.”  This is the sacrifice of praise, I realised.  “You give and take away.  You give and take away.  My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name!”   How can we serve Him and love Him only in good times and not bad?

Many of us sleepwalk through life, so caught up with the business of surviving, that we don’t really realise what’s important until it’s too late.  For God to show us, through trouble, what is truly important, well, even in this, is God gracious.  

Life can change at the snap of a finger!  Just yesterday, I heard about a woman who, when the February earthquake struck, rushed back into her office building to grab her handbag.  She never came out.  All they found of her later was a severed arm with a handbag.  That was how they managed to identify her.  How can something so normal, so “every day” end so catastrophically?

First thing this morning, I rang the clinic to book an appointment for Charis.  The doctor checked her out and diagnosed a viral infection that led to enlarged lymph nodes.  If the two swollen lymph nodes subside into normality by next week, Charis won’t need any treatment.  The relief that washed over us was so great, I wanted to hug Dr. Mann.  Praise God for this good news!

With so much changing in the world today: the freedom rallies and revolutions in the Middle East and Africa; the earthquakes along the Pacific tectonic plate; the tsunamis, etc.  I find myself thinking End Times all too frequently. 🙂  I suppose that it’s not a bad thing to be eternity-minded.  It’s just that all of these events put mortality at the forefront of my mind. 

I can’t get over how the thought of eternity puts everything into perspective…the way adjusting binoculars yields a clear sharp focus.  Things that I considered minor catastrophes have turned out to be mere inconveniences. 🙂 And oh, the endless abundance of things to be grateful for!  Terror and Trouble sure get one thinking!

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A New Day in Education

It’s ever so easy to get lost in Cyberspace!  🙂  Especially once I venture into the world of books and education.  There is so much that is new, fantastic, and revolutionary that I get sooo excited, I forget to clean the house!

Here are a few  FINDS that are just THRILLING!!! 

Have you heard of the KHAN Academy?  No?  Then watch this TED Talks clip of Salman Khan  right now, and see how much hope there is for your kids to be able to grasp math and science concepts that have eluded them thus far! http://www.khanacademy.org/#browse

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organisation that, in its own words, “offers a  free world-class education for anyone anywhere”.  All of the site’s resources are available to anyone – adult or child.  What a boon to someone who never got to finish his education because he had to support his family, or because school just wasn’t a safe place to be in!  What a blessing to a child who was dubbed “slow” just because he could not grasp the concepts being taught in a style not sympathetic to his own!  The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to everyone completely free of charge.  And they are even being utilised in public schools in the Los Altos school district in California.

Then there is Open Culture http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks  where one can download FREE audiobooks and podcasts on a wide range of topics from music, science, technology, and travel, to ideas and culture.

And for budding artists, there is a wealth of great websites like Art Graphica http://www.artgraphica.net/ which offers free online art lessons to artists of various abilities,  and this site, which I like because it  compiles  information on the best sites on art history and history of art  http://www.squidoo.com/arthistory-resources.  It’s a monster site with loads of information!!!

When you come to think of it, the only true education is self-education, because motivation is the factor that greases the wheels of study.  You are most motivated to learn what you want.  My daughter is currently reading The Story of the World, and when she got to the part about Mary Queen of Scots, her interest was so piqued by this woman that she immediately went to the library and borrowed three adult books about Mary, and one book on King  James.  The librarians thought she was borrowing these for me, but I quickly straightened them out. 🙂

I LOVE learning.  And I truly enjoy being a conduit for learning.  It is a shame that, in most schools today, teachers are hamstrung by bureaucracy and political correctness to the extent that they are unable to freely teach!  This is why I’m a big fan of home-education!  It keeps alive that flame of interest and excitement in learning that characterised childhood learning in the toddler years when everything was new and waiting to be discovered!  When I watched the 20/20 video by John Stossel, called Stupid in America, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx4pN-aiofw,  my heart broke for all that childhood potential that will never be realised, and for all the children who will go through life thinking they are dumb when it is the system that has failed them.

How wonderful to know that the Internet has opened up an entire world of possibilities for the motivated seeker/learner, and, that it, in many cases, makes knowledge available for free!  Talk about adding social value!  I am not a big fan of technology and how it is surely and steadily taking over our lives to the detriment of certain values.  But, I have to say that, when technology empowers, educates, and contributes to the GOOD and FOR the good of the world, it gets two thumbs up from me!