God and COVID-19

The current world health crisis dominates newspapers, television news, radio news, and internet sites. People are on the verge of panic. This is understandable. Nothing like this has happened in our lifetime. We’ve had pandemics and wars and natural disasters, but none quite the same as our current difficulty. So widespread, so many questions, and so few answers.

Churches are closed, hospitals are bursting, and businesses are reeling. What happens next remains to be learned – at least by us. What happens next is already known by God. He didn’t learn about this virus from a news outlet. He is sovereign and all-knowing today just as He was a few months ago. He holds the world in His hands, including COVID-19.

Why God allows such things to happen puzzles us at times. When we don’t understand such things, it’s good to recall what we know to be true about God.

First, God is good and merciful and kind. He has our best interest in mind even amid disaster and severe circumstances.

Second, God is ruling and directing the universe according to His will. Nothing (not even COVID-19) falls outside God’s jurisdiction.

Put these two ideas together. If God was kind but not sovereign, He wouldn’t be able to help us in time of trial. If God was powerful but not kind, He might not show mercy to us in our time of need. Because God is both good and sovereign, we can trust Him through our trials.

Your heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air. (Matthew 6:26)

Your sovereign Lord watching over the lilies of the field. (Matthew 6:28)

Your God knows what you need and will care for you in times of trouble. (Matthew 6:3).

COVID-19 will pass. God remains on His throne. Look to Him each day and trust in Him each minute.

Fast Food Lessons

By David West

*This article originally appeared in the SCOPE Newsletter Volume 27 – Issue 2. It has been slightly edited for re-publication.

As my daughter and I walked into a familiar fast-food restaurant, I sensed something was different. The parking lot was full and it was well after the normal lunch hour. Then upon entering the establishment, we found it packed with people. An overdressed patron occupied almost every table.

Turning to my daughter I said, “Something is happening here. I wonder what it is?” After ordering ice cream for two, I asked the cashier, “What’s going on today?” She informed me that the restaurant was having open interviews for jobs.

Not thinking much more of it, I found an open table and started to enjoy a tasty treat with my daughter. As it turned out, I couldn’t have picked a better seat in order to have a great opportunity to pass on some wisdom.

Our table was situated in just the right place for me to overhear the store manager interview potential employees. I couldn’t resist listening in and commenting to my daughter. We were close enough for me to hear the conversations but far enough away that I could whisper insights to her without being overheard.

“You always do that,” she said after I started talking.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Talk about stuff that’s going on around us,” she reported.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” I said.

“Do you think the manager will hire that person?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“I wouldn’t if I were the boss. Do you know why?”

“No.”

One of the potential employees hadn’t worked in over three years. The manager asked why and the person answered, “Because no one is hiring.” The manager then asked, “How many places have you applied?” The response came back, “Ten.”

I told my daughter, “She lacks initiative. As a store manager, I would hope she had been applying for ten jobs per week, not ten in the last three years while complaining that no one is hiring.” Another potential employee had a hard time keeping his pants up. I mentioned to my daughter that managers don’t like dealing with uniform issues. “If this young man can’t keep his pants up during an interview when he is trying to impress the boss, what will it be like after he is hired.”

And so the conversation continued like this through several interviews. I was enjoying the ice cream, but even more, I was enjoying a chance to share insights with my girl.

I told my daughter, “This would be bold and not many people would do it. But do you know what I would do if I were here waiting to be interviewed? Instead of sitting at a table and waiting for my number to be called, I would be picking up trash under the table and cleaning up after patrons. The manager would be sure to notice and then ask me about this when it was my turn. I would answer, “Since serving the customers and the establishment is what I will be hired to do, why waste time getting started?”

Parents have a great responsibility to train their children. This burden falls especially on the dads. Not only are we to teach them all that God has commanded (see Deuteronomy 6), but many practical things that will help them throughout life. Proverbs is full of this kind of instruction from a father to a son and it is a great example for us.

My young lady may not remember much of this conversation, but as many more just like this pile up over the years, they certainly will shape her thinking. My goal as a dad is not to see my daughter get a job at a fast-food restaurant. The goal is to see her grow up to be a woman who works diligently for the glory of God. The work ethic I was promoting that day is as relevant at school, home, or church. God tells us that whatever our hand finds to do, we should do it with all our might. These are the type of lessons I want my children to learn concerning the workplace. As a dad, it is my responsibility to help my children become productive, work-loving, self-starters. Modeling this is, of course, the best way. Another way is by always talking about “stuff” that’s going on around us.

Home Education Meeting

Monday, January 13th at 7:00 p.m

Introduction to Home Education Meeting Coming Soon!

Thank you for visiting our home school website.  If you are not homeschooling at this time, but are considering the possibility and if you have any questions about how to do so, I would like to personally invite you to join me at the next Introduction to Home Education meeting to be held on Monday, January 13th at 7:00 p.m.

My name is Patty Glaviano.  I am the Chat Director for the Sacramento Christian Organization of Parent Educators (SCOPE).  I will be presenting information about the legalities of homeschooling in California and other pertinent information in order to help you decide whether homeschooling is the right path for you and your family.  

If you are interested, please RSVP me at chatdirector@scopehome.org  I will then send you the location of the meeting and send you a reminder when the meeting time gets close.

Building A Healthy Concept of Work in Your Kids

*This article originally appeared in the SCOPE newsletter, September 2012. It has been lightly edited.

By Karla Worell-Memmott

I recently attended a webinar in which the speaker was addressing statistical evidence of college graduates’ lack of preparation for the labor force. In one of the surveys cited, employers emphasized the lack of work ethic in many college graduates. As I listened to the information presented, I reflected back to a book I read in my early years of parenting entitled, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World. The authors, Glenn and Nelson (1989), voiced their concern with respect to the parenting trend of that time which included entertaining children rather than training children. The author’s apprehension included only the amount of television entertainment to which children were exposed in the late 1980s. I don’t know if there has been a revision to the book, but ponder whether the author’s anxiety has increased in our “entertainment saturated society.” These cares were expressed in the webinar, wherein the speaker cited facts identifying the number of hours spent in entertainment-based activities, which in the webinar’s speaker’s opinion included television, video games, internet, social media, as well as the inclination towards sports and other entertainment-based activities.

            The solution presented in the book and the webinar were somewhat similar. The suggestion addressed the need to target young children with a healthy understanding of work, responsibility, and team membership. The three concepts are interrelated. Now obviously, this is not a suggestion to set up a child-labor based society, nor a suggestion that we have no entertainment whatsoever. The intent is to instill in children a healthy concept of work by giving the child age-appropriate responsibilities that contribute towards the functioning of the family. The idea is to teach a child that he or she is a valuable member of a team, the family. If the child neglects his responsibility, the family will share in that neglect. In my own life, I recall that as a young child of seven or eight, my responsibility on our family vacations was to crank up our tent trailer and set the jacks. I also vividly remember the time when I forgot to set the jacks and my mother went inside the tent-trailer to set up the beds. I learned that when I didn’t uphold my responsibility, others could suffer.

            The responsibilities given to young children will obviously vary based on age, ability, and family circumstances; however, young children should not be denied the reward (Eccl. 5:18-19) that comes from a healthy work ethic. For example, if a family is constructing a fence, younger children can be assigned the responsibility of bringing glasses of water to the family members or perhaps handing nails to the workers. The idea is to practically instruct the child that he is capable of work and can contribute to the success of a team. Through the process of repetitions in varied circumstances with increasing responsibility over the years, this focus will be internalized and will later translate into an adult who is ready to enter the labor force with a solid work ethic.

            We live in a society in which the youth are encouraged not to work, to enjoy their youth and put off work as long as possible. Alex Chediak (2011) notes that the lack of a work ethic is one reason behind the influx of many college graduates returning home to live with their parents. Can you imagine the testimony we send into the business community when a young adult graduates from college prepared to enter into the workplace with a solid, Biblical-based work ethic? This training does not begin during the college years; it begins when a five-year-old proudly boasts to a neighbor, “My family built a fence. My job was to give everyone the nails.” It continues when this event is repeated in many small increments through the developing years.

Works Cited:

Chediak, Alex, (2011). Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the Real World. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

College Plus Webinar (2012). “The Importance of Knowing Your Worldview When You Enter the Market Place” [Webinar]. Spring Branch, Texas

Glenn, H.S. & Nelson, J. (1989). Raising Self-Reliant Children In A Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People. Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing.

The International Inductive Study Bible, (1993). Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers.

Homeschooling Is Not The Promised Land

I won’t name the organization. They probably do good work, but their motto is misguided. I cringe every time I read it. They claim to help Christian families leave government schools for the Promised Land of Christian education or homeschooling.

Really? The Promised Land?

I’m a stalwart advocate for private Christian education. I have many reasons. The government school system is failing our children by every measure. From poor academics, to financial waste, to immorality, the school system gets a failing grade.

So, what are we to do? Leave the system?

Certainly, I’m all for it. But to call the exodus into Christian schooling and homeschooling an entrance into the Promised Land is too much.

Biblical imagery can be taken out of context to such an extent that it becomes unhelpful. For one thing, the Israelites found Canaan filled with idolatry and immorality, arguable worse than existed in Egypt. They were told to rid all idols and foreign gods from the land. They failed. Why? Because they brought wicked hearts with them into the Promised Land. They brought their problem with them. Their problem was sin.

The same thing is true of us. We remove our children from public schools, but our children bring their biggest struggle with them – they bring their sinful hearts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing for leaving children in the public-school system. Neither am I advocating the “salt and light” argument. I’m simply saying this: Christian schools and homeschools aren’t the Savior. Only Christ can save us from our sins. He is the One we need. He is the One our children need.

So, stay out of the public-school system, but, don’t assume you have entered a land of promise. Assume you have work to do, difficult work, gospel work. Raising your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord takes effort and diligence. Getting them out from under humanistic teaching is only one step in the process. Pray that God uses your efforts to save, to turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Our hope must be in Christ alone, not in a Promised Land of our own imagination.

Another Deep Question

I wrote recently about a profound question from my 12-year-old-boy. This post is about my daughter. She’s only eight years old but her mind fastens upon questions much older, ancient questions, questions the great thinkers and theologians have debated. These questions pass through her mind and slip from her mouth, befuddling those around her. Last night she asked another big one, “If God hates sin so much, why didn’t He stop Adam and Eve from sinning?”

Let’s just stop right here. What? You’re eight years old. Don’t you have questions about dolls or bunnies or clouds? Don’t you want to know why the sky is blue or how birds fly? Oh, that’s right, you’ve asked about birds flying, haven’t you? Just the other day you said, “Look at those three birds. They are flying without moving their wings. How do they do that?”

She had seen three vultures circling above. They floated on the wind currents and didn’t flap their wings. So, she asked the question. Is it normal to ask such questions? I don’t know. Her older siblings asked questions as they grew, but I don’t recall them asking the same types of questions.

As bedtime approached, I was working up an answer about why God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from sinning. My mind wrestled with the best explanation to give an eight-year-old (and the best explanation to understand it myself). I lay on my bed as she was in the other room getting into her pajamas. I planned to give her an answer while I tucked her in and prayed with her. But it didn’t happen. The day had been a tiring one for me. My mind was exhausted, my body was spent. As I lay there formulating an answer, my eyes closed, and I fell asleep. When I awoke my daughter, and the rest of the household, were asleep.

I had missed my chance and was angry with myself. In the morning I sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and watched the sun illuminate the morning sky. And then it struck me. A great truth comforted me. I fell asleep last night but God didn’t. I am weak, but He is strong. I fail as a father, but God never fails. The sun rises each day announcing that God is still on His throne. Even though I didn’t give my daughter an answer, things would still be okay. God wouldn’t fail her – even if I did.

She walked into the kitchen just as those thoughts were in my mind. Rubbing her eyes, hair hanging over her face and waving wildly on top of her head, she came to me and hugged me. And then I took a stab at answering her question.

“Honey, last night you asked about sin and why God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from sinning. This is a difficult thing to understand but I’m glad you are asking such important questions. Here’s one answer that might help.”

I gave her the best answer I could about sin and God and how God’s highest priority is not only to stop sin but to glorify Himself. This happened at the cross where sin was dealt a deadly blow. “Did that answer your question, honey?”

“Yes.” She smiled, then opened the back door and went out to play. The sun shone a little brighter (at least it seemed to) as I took another sip of coffee and thanked God for His goodness.

Why We Homeschool

*This article was written by Betsy Robertus

The most important reason we homeschool our children is time. It takes time together to build the important relationships in their lives: with each other, with their parents, and most importantly with God. It takes time to raise them with a Biblical worldview. It takes time to instill the godly values we want to instill in them. With so much to accomplish, I feel it is vitally important to be good stewards of our time and our children’s time.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   Deuteronomy 6:6-7

 I admit when I first heard of the idea of homeschooling – after college but well before children – I thought, “Who would do that?!? That’s insane!

 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.     1 Corinthians 1:25

Slowly the Lord worked on my heart. When my oldest was a baby, I met a woman who only homeschooled her children for middle school. I thought that was a good idea. Those seemed like especially precarious years. I thought, “If I ever homeschool, I’ll do it for those years.”

I still had that plan in mind when my oldest was in kindergarten in our local public school. She wasn’t having a bad experience, but I grew very anxious as I thought about our future: increasing time away from home during her best hours, increasing homework, correcting all the learning and socializing she would be receiving that wasn’t Biblical, participating in an evening Bible program at church, training in serving others, time for disciplining, possibly a sport or extra-curricular activity AND time for building those important relationships?!? Impossible!! We couldn’t do all this during weekends and after-school hours! What would suffer the most? Relationships. The most important thing. It would be impossible to disciple our children without plenty of time together to have the relationship that turns our hearts to them and theirs to us, and then to the Lord.

When I finally took my anxiety to the Lord during quiet time with Him, He immediately answered me. “You need to homeschool.” No! I couldn’t do that! At least not yet. With my son entering preschool, the next school year was going to be the first time my children would both be in school. I told the Lord I planned to make good use of those three mornings each week: I’d do chores, errands, exercise, sew, volunteer in the classrooms and fellowship with friends.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.     Proverbs 19:21

Even though I wasn’t convinced, I started researching homeschooling. I’m so thankful for all the information that is available on the web and in books. I made a list of the pros and cons. The pro list was quite lengthy. The only thing on the con list was my time: for getting things done and having time to myself. Despite the clear message from the Lord and the overwhelming evidence, I still couldn’t commit to homeschooling.

Finally, I said to the Lord, “I am clutching those three mornings to myself. If you really want me to homeschool, please help me let go of those mornings! I cannot do it without your help.” Immediately I felt my grip on those mornings open up, I let go of them, and I could finally see the enormous blessings that would come from homeschooling my daughter those three mornings.

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God  and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 1 John 3: 21-22

Those days working with the Lord to change my heart were a “mountain-top” experience for me. I felt so close to the Lord by hearing His voice, seeing His answers to my prayers, and having the peace that comes from obeying. Those mountain-top moments would sustain me during the coming valley.

Our first few months of homeschooling were difficult. My daughter had some character issues we had to work through at the same time I was doubting all I was doing day-to-day regarding her education. When I felt like quitting, I took strength from remembering the Lord’s clear call to do this. When I cried out to Him regarding the difficult heart issues we were working through, He showed me that if she could not submit when she was 6 years old, what could I expect when she was 16?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.    Hebrews 12:1-3

We stayed the course, drew incredible encouragement and wisdom from experienced homeschooling moms, and worked through those challenging months. The Lord grew us and our relationship in a unique way and I wouldn’t trade those months for anything. I delight in my children, their own personal growth processes, and the time we have for discipling and training. I pray always that we spend our time in a way that glorifies the Lord.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

A Profound Question from a Twelve-Year-Old

Jesus died for our sins. He took the punishment we deserved. God the Father poured out His wrath for sin upon God the Son. Jesus was crushed for our iniquities, bruised for our transgressions. We deserve eternal separation from the infinitely holy God of the universe, but Jesus took our place.

Considering such propositions, my twelve-year-old son asked something profound. At dinner, I queried my children. “Do you have any questions about the Bible?” My son quickly said, “Yes, I do. How did Jesus take our punishment? He was only dead three days? Where did Jesus go when He died? Did He go to heaven or hell?”

Stated differently, my son was asking the following. If the punishment for sin is eternity in hell, how did Jesus, in a grave for three days, count as our punishment? How is three days punishment enough to substitute for the eternal punishment we deserve?

Wow, what a thoughtful question. I’m surprised often by my children. Brain cells fire when I think they aren’t paying attention. Synopses spark, working through philosophical questions and pondering large ideas.

My son’s question reminded me of something: too often I lecture, talk, and teach, when I also need to listen and learn. I need to know what’s going through my children’s minds, what they are asking themselves.

The talk which followed my son’s question was lively. His older siblings jumped in, also his seven-year-old sister. My wife and I offered solutions to the problem (Biblical ones, I hope) and the conversation drifted to other topics. For a few moments, we pondered something huge and important, something with eternal ramifications. Twelve isn’t too young to be asking such big questions.

In fact, I’m reminded of another twelve-year-old boy discussing important things with those older than himself. He was in His Father’s house, a long time ago, talking to the rabbis.

I Can’t Save My Children

The job isn’t easy. It’s glorious, purposeful, and filled with good moments. But it’s not a cakewalk. You don’t win the good parenting prize by walking around and stopping on the winning number. In fact, I wonder if there is such a thing as “winning” as a parent.

It’s not a contest after all. We aren’t in competition with other families, are we? Yes, the devil prowls around. In that sense, we have an enemy and this is a battle. But victory belongs to the Lord, not us. The only thing we can point to as “winning” is our faithfulness. We are called to raise children in the nurture and discipline of the Lord. If we do, we win – whatever the result.

This is difficult to grasp. The most faithful parents might have children who leave the faith. I hate this fact. But it’s true. Unsaved parents have children found by Christ and believing parents have children renounce the faith. Life isn’t fair. And that’s the point. None of us deserve God’s mercy and grace. It’s not fair that He pours out mercy on sinners like us. It’s not fair at all. We receive what we don’t deserve.

What if a child of mine departs from the faith? I can’t stomach the thought. But there it is, a real possibility. I plead with God often, Lord, save my children, let their names be found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Why would God allow a child to be raised in a Christian home and then depart from the truth? I don’t know. One thing I do know – it’s not God’s fault. Each person is responsible for their own rebellion against God. Each is called to account for hearing and obeying (or not obeying) God’s call. If my children (please Lord, don’t let this happen) leave the church, I will not have failed as a parent. They will have failed to obey God’s Word, resisted the convicting work of the Spirit, and scorned the truth.

I must continue to trust in God’s goodness, to throw myself, my emotions, my broken heart upon Him. Lord, save my children. Jesus, please let them turn in repentance to you and confess you as Lord. The hard truth it this – I can’t save my children. The good news is this – God can save my children. Therefore, I will do all in my power to teach my children the things of God, and I will trust God with all my heart, knowing He is good and just and merciful.

Picnic Recap

The annual SCOPE family picnic was held August 24th at Fair Oaks Park. Coming from Sacramento’s surrounding neighborhoods – South Sacramento, Arden, Grass Valley, North Highlands, and many more – families gathered to share food, fun, and fellowship. A couple of families were new to SCOPE, and to homeschooling, and joined us for the first time.

The afternoon began with casual introductions and fellowship, then the members dined on potluck deliciousness. Parents sat at tables shaded by ancient oak trees, children played on the grassy hill nearby. Conversation during dinner allowed families to get to know each other, to continue long acquaintances or to make new homeschool friends.

Next came the Summer Reading Awards. Local libraries, and the SCOPE library, were kept busy this summer by SCOPE families. Many children, and a few adults, participated in our first SCOPE Summer Reading program. We had 23 participants and a total of 79 “bingo” cards completed. Certificates were issued to all participants and prizes were awarded by drawing names from a basket.

A Chat Group Challenge followed. Teams were formed by dividing adults and children alike into four groups. The teams listed ten homeschool field trip ideas and then acted them out while the other teams guessed the field trip. This game brought lots of laughter. And a bonus was the sharing of field trip ideas amongst the members. 

After this, watermelon eating took the stage. Children plunged their faces into slices of sweetness and raced. Red juice dripped from chins and flowed across the table. First and second place eaters were awarded prizes from three different age groups.

The Great Marshmallow Battle came next. Everyone moved to an open space of level grass and formed teams on either side of a dividing line. White globules zipped across the field striking legs, arms, and torsos of opposing players. Team members were injured, or dead, until helped by the “medic”. The white orbs soared back and forth, becoming sticky and losing their shape, until one team was declared the victor. Several battles played out through the afternoon among various age groups. The teens battled the adults, beating them 2 out of 3. The adults felt the sting of losing to their children and felt the soreness in their muscles for several days afterward.

Afternoon traveled into the evening and families headed for home. A few families lingered together in the darkness, parents lost in conversation while children played. The day was a success, the SCOPE Family Picnic was a winner.

One lady, not involved in SCOPE, was heard saying, “I didn’t know homeschoolers did things like this.” Yes, as incredible as it seems, homeschoolers spend much of their time away from home. SCOPE offers many opportunities to meet up with other like-minded homeschoolers throughout the year, the annual picnic is one such opportunity. Look for it on the SCOPE calendar and join us next year.