Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sabbath Sentiments

Tomorrow, September 1, marks the beginning of the month of Ramadan in the Muslim world. Join many Christians in praying for Muslims during this important month of fasting and feasting by checking out this site. They offer prayer items for the 30 days, along with many other resources. May God be pleased to turn many hearts towards Himself during this time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Book notes

I am slowly working my way through a little reading, though my brain is a bit fuzzy and I fall asleep easily. Here are my thoughts on a few recently finished or currently underway...

Scott Card's "Shadow" series sort of petered out for me. I enjoyed Ender's Shadow, and Shadow of the Hegemon, but in Shadow Puppets, I got very weary of the long passages exposing Card's Mormon misunderstandings about children and procreation. I must say this is the only major place where this has bothered me in the whole series, apart from his obvious misunderstanding of Christianity throughout. Still, I'm glad I finished it off. Now to return to Xenocide, and finish the series.

Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsy and Harriet Vane mysteries are just plain fun. And the most fun of them all is Busman's Honeymoon, though it is best enjoyed when one has completed the other Peter and Harriet novels. It is funny, warm, erudite and charming. It was my best reread of the summer!

I have enjoyed rereading Pilgrimn's Progress so far, and am finding that what was true the last (and first) time I read it is still true for me: I find the first part, as we follow Christian on his journey, compelling and endearing. But when we get to Part 2, when we return to follow Christiana, I get bogged down and have a harder time plowing on. But I am committed to finishing it off sooner or later.

I have recently been surprised by Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I have heard good things about it, but I guess I expected a cute little feminine mystery. What I am getting instead is a nicely written account of life in Botswana through the eyes of a lady detective-in-the-making. It has been delightful so far, and along with the light and interesting mysteries she encounters, our protagonist introduces us to life in the South African diamond mines, the dark side of witchcraft in Africa, and a multitude of other fascinating details.

I am also in the middle of The Night Journal, which was given to me by my parents. It takes place in nearby New Mexico locations (Pecos and Las Vegas)and is simultaneously a tale of pioneers and their descendants. Some of the historical background is fascinating, but it's not great writing, and I'm afraid some of it is a little sketchy for me (and perhaps will grow more so.) I'll let you know what I think when I've finished.

Most of my serious reading is just resting on my nightstand, awaiting the time when my brain can again function a little better. But I am really enjoying reading Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Each chapter has its own theological and practical gems that seem to apply to life right now, and help me gain perspective. If you want an accessible, practical book on suffering, this is an excellent choice. (Of course, my favorite book on suffering is The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston, but I am not up to those Puritan prose right now. And while we're on suffering titles, if you have never read R. C. Sproul's book, Surprised by Suffering, it is also excellent, as is the video series by the same title.)

I hope you are all finishing off the summer with some good books, gentle readers. Let me know what you have been enjoying!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Weary to the bone

Today I have been tired to the bone. I didn't sleep well, probably because I didn't rest enough yesterday. Don't get me wrong: I didn't actually accomplish anything yesterday, but I didn't really lay down and sleep. Then last night I was tender and ached all over, couldn't get comfortable, had nasty dreams when I did sleep, and got up this morning more tired than when I went to bed last night. So I conducted a forced march for 45 minutes this morning without enjoying it. I listened to good music with uplifting words, and read scripture, and tried to get my focus where it needed to be, despite how tired of the struggle I was feeling. I showered, and headed off to treatment especially thankful that My Gal Thursday was driving so I could rest to Santa Fe and back. And after lunch, I headed to my comfy chair with a book, ready to fall asleep reading.

The book I took with me to my comfy chair was Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. David Powlison, in his chapter, "God's Grace and Your Suffering", said this profound thing:
How does God's grace meet you in your suffering? We can make the right answer sound old hat, but I guarantee this: God will surprise you. He will make you stop. You will struggle. he will bring you up short. You will hurt. He will take his time. You will grow in faith and in love. He will deeply delight you. Yu will find the process harder than you ever imagined--and better. Goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life (Psalm 23:6). No matter how many times you've heard it, no matter how long you've known it, no matter how well you can say it, God's answer will come to mean something better than you could ever imagine.

As I dozed off to sleep contemplating this, I kept coming back to the idea of delighting in God. And it occurred to me in a flash that as God makes us more and more into the image of His Son through our suffering, He not only gives us delight in Him, but He delights in us. This Sovereign God not only allows me to delight in Him, but He chooses to delight in me. So when I am bone tired and dragging, the Sovereign of the universe delights in me, not because I deserve it, or because I've gotten anything at all done (or nothing at all done) but because He chose to make me into the likeness of His Son, and he chose me to delight in me. That is soothing salve for my weary bones.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sabbath Sentiments

“...though it may be from a comparatively higher and purer class of motives that we may be induced to disobey the Lord, no sooner are we committed to an act or course of disobedience, than motives far less high and far less pure, may immediately assert a most humiliating mastery over us...The enemy at first may have needed to draw upon his more subtle devices, in order to waylay, deceive, delude, disarm you; but once you are disarmed, he can dispense with any refined style of dealing. Coarser methods now will suffice.”
- Hugh Martin, Jonah, p.58

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Writing as craft

Earlier this week I held a meeting for parents and students who are enrolling in my composition and worldviews classes this year. I guess it confirms my calling as a teacher when I get really excited about diagramming sentences and analyzing the prose of Washington Irving, and just the whole planning, interacting, and discipling of students. Though I am still too tired to be starting (and I'm not starting until October) I am definitely looking forward to starting. I become downright enthusiastic about classical education when I stop and think about it!

As I pulled together thoughts about my composition class, I was struck anew with how right the classical approach to writing seems to be. The ancients approached writing as a craft. Not everyone will become an artist with words, but everyone should be given the tools of language, and taught how to use them to become efficient craftsmen with words. Add to this the Christian perspective that writing, like so much of the Christian life, is tied to dying to yourself and writing for your readers, and I think it is exciting to come alongside young writers and watch their minds (and vocabularies) expand!

The best way to learn a craft is to apprentice yourself to a master craftsman: and here, I don't mean the teacher, but a great writer. The legacy for hundreds of years in the West has been to sit at the feet of those who write well by reading carefully and analyzing what they have done, and then imitating it yourself. Just because somewhere around 1900 they tossed out the tried-and-true in favor of the new-and-experimental, doesn't mean that we have to continue following in the same lock-step way. Contemporary writing curriculum, especially in the pre-college years, is very student-centered, either overly formulaic or entirely self-expression oriented. I reject this approach. So with my students, and the help of wiser authors like Fr. Francis Donnelly, Frank D'Angelo, Edward Corbett, and Aphthonius, we sit at the feet of Washington Irving for our first semester. He was a master of sentence construction, and he has much to teach us still. And after that, we return to the progymnasmata.

I don't teach anything new in my composition class. I teach only what I have borrowed or stolen from others. But what wisdom! Why are we so quick to think that something new must be better, when there was a wealth of wisdom and experience to be found in those who came before us-- but the answer to that would be a worldview question, and I'll have to write about that another day.

If you are interested in how I approach composition, you can see more here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ben's New Venture

These are my kids in Indiana. Aren't they cute? They are smart and love the Lord, too. What parent could ask for anything more?!

Ben is beginning a new venture... or at least checking to see if he can start a new venture: offering online tutoring in his beloved classics! Below is a summary of what he's doing, and how to get in touch with him if you are interested. I think he is making a fine teacher!

My name is Ben Finnegan. I am a former homeschooler (all through elementary, middle, and high school), and, having finished my Master's degree, I am currently working for my PhD in Classical Studies at Indiana University. I'm looking for more teaching experience in an environment that I know and enjoy, so I thought I would offer Greek, Latin, and Classical Culture classes or tutoring to members of the homeschool community.

I would be willing to do a larger cooperative class or smaller tutoring sessions in any of these subjects. I must say that, given the difficulty of the material and my expectations as a teacher, these classes are generally limited to those of high school age, though if a student is well developed enough and has a good work ethic I would be willing to accept younger children as well.

--Beginning Latin
Using the venerable and exacting Wheelock's Latin Course, this course of study would introduce students to learning foreign language in general by close grammatical study, and would provide the same amount of Latin as one semester of College language study.

--Intermediate Latin
With this offering, I would ask for a diagnostic meeting with any prospective students in order to ascertain at what level their Latin is. This course would work towards greater reading comprehension and analytical grasp of the Latin language.

--Advanced Latin
As with the above, a diagnostic meeting would be required. I would give students an overview of several types of Latin literature (poetry, history, drama, oratory), and then move on to intensive translation and study of particular authors and works, dependent on the interests of the student. Books for this class would likely be more expensive than any of the other offerings, given the high price of original language texts.

--Beginning Classical Greek
The study of Greek is a difficult but rewarding enterprise. This class would be at a much slower pace than any of my Latin classes, as the material is much more demanding. The textbook used would be Chase and Phillips' course for Classical Greek

--Beginning Koine (New Testament) Greek
For those who do not wish to embroil themselves in Ancient Greek literature, but would like to approach the Bible and other Late Classical and Patriarchal authors. Koine is a slimmed-down, simplified form of Greek. The text used would be the beginning text written by the great J. Gresham Machen.

--Greek Literature in Translation
This class avoids the problems of a second language altogether, but still gives a larger cultural and historical grasp of Ancient Greece. With this class, I would read at least one work by all the major authors, and at least one work of each literary genre. The emphasis here would be on religious, political, historical, and cultural ideas viewed through the lens of beginning literary criticism and a good understanding of the Greek world-view. A word of warning, though: much of Greek literature deals with troubling themes of violence and sexuality. While I will avoid the lewd and obscene, these currents are too strong for any class in Greek literature to avoid completely. So please consider this offering only for those spiritually and emotionally mature enough to discuss these subjects from a Biblical world and life view

--Latin Literature in Translation
Like the above class, this will deal with English translations of the great works of Latin literature. Again, the emphasis in this class would be on developing a good understanding of the Roman world-view through literary-critical reading and involving discussions of the Roman religious, political, historical, and literary world. As with Greek literature, much of Latin literature is filled with themes of violence and sexuality. Again, I would avoid the more lascivious of the works, but the history of Rome is filled with too much corruption and deviance for any course to completely avoid the actions of immoral men and women.

These classes would be offered twice a week beginning in September and continuing through early December for the first term, and beginning in February and ending in May. The exact schedule of the classes will depend on interest and enrollment. I can accept a maximum of 18 students per session because of the software that I will be using.

At this point, I do not want to settle on a price, as that will depend on demand and the number of students. Books for each course should be readily available at an online bookseller, and would average about $40-60 per class, depending on the class. My rates for each class will be negotiable, but as a ball-park idea, in the past I have been paid $15-20 per hour of one-on-one tutoring, $12-18 per hour of class with less than five students, and $8-15 per hour of class with more than five students. However, I am perfectly willing to work with anyone who wants to come to a reasonable price that they find more appropriate for the services rendered.

If you are interested in any of these classes please either e-mail me at: or call 505-690-8936.

References available upon request.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sabbath Sentiments

Teach me, O God, so to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin.

Let me use disappointment as material for patience:
Let me use success as material for thankfulness:
Let me use suspense as material for perseverance:
Let me use danger as material for courage:
Let me use reproach as material for longsuffering:
Let me use praise as material for humility:
Let me use pleasures as material for temperance:
Let me use pains as material for endurance.

~John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


On Saturday, I attended the memorial service of a child. A baby, really. Just over nine months old, she had begun her life prematurely, with a myriad of medical problems, but the image of God stamped upon her. In her short life on this earth, she touched the lives of others in ways they will never forget.

As heart-breaking as the death of a child is, there was something more heart-wrenching at that service: the brokenness of her family. Her parents are estranged and with other people. Her grandparents are divorced. One of her grandparents saw her for the first time at her memorial service. I could feel the tension and division in the air, and because I love each of them, I wept. I wept for their pain, and the scars they have accumulated and given one another. I wept for the way God created things to be, and the distance between that and the reality of all of our lives.

It made me think of Romans 8:18-25:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

I could hear the groaning of the creation at that service. I could feel the groaning of my own spirit, and it's longing for things to be made whole again. I long for healing for me and for the family of this dear little baby. But that patience part, that's the rub. I am growing impatient for the promises of God to be fulfilled. I am so longing for the brokenness of our fallen world to be made right, for healing to flow, to find rest in God's arms. What precious promises these are! And I guess, after all, they are worth waiting for, and I can wait expectantly for their fulfillment. But oh, what longing...