Archive for spiritual

Parable of the Talents

The parable of the talents, as depicted in a 1...

The parable of the talents, as depicted in a 1712 woodcut. The lazy servant searches for his buried talent because he was too worried that it would be too risky to try and multiply it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christ’s Parable of the Talents

Matthew Chapter 25:


14. “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.
15. “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
16. “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.
17. “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.
18. “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19. “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

20. “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, `Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’
21. “His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22. “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, `Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’
23. “His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24. “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.
25. `And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

26. “But his master answered and said to him, `You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.
27. `Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
28. `Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’

29. “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.


(Translation version: New American Standard Bible)

Signs for Recognizing Good People

A word of encouragement for those of us parents trying to look for signs on how to recognize good people and whose advice you should listen to. These signs don’t need to be revealed in prayer or through fasting. They are good outward signs and sanctioned by God as how to recognize good people. They also reassure us that these outward signs are in fact worth working hard for. Good people need to hear this encouragement so they don’t let decision making in their personal lives be handed over to people with wild lives. Hang in there, Christian friends!

With regards to signs for finding the right kind of people to lead in the church, and by implication character traits by which we can recognize good people we can trust, this is what the Bible says below. This passage of holy scripture is found in the book of 1 Timothy Chapter 3:
“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
3. not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.
4. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
5. (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),
6. and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
7. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8. Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,
9. but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
10. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.
11. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.
12. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.
13. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
14. I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long;
15. but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God…”

Goody Two-Shoes

Fight the darkness. This is a recurring theme that all of us need to hear regularly.

There is underlying mood in the general public that can seep in under our own doors and basically whisper to us that all of our efforts in the end is for naught. That good or bad, it is all for ashes and it makes no difference if we are wise in our efforts with our children or not. It’s all a crap shoot. But I’m hear to tell you that that is not true.

Here’s why I believe philosophically that it is not true: I use the Bible as my ultimate guiding authority and the Bible tells me explicitly that the actions of righteous people do matter. The choices of godly people and the efforts they make bear fruit, sometimes immediately and sometimes down the line. A false flagellating modesty poisons the confidence of many well-meaning moms and paralyzes them into inaction.

Mothers can start believing that their desires and efforts to do good with their children are ethically and spiritually the same in weight in God’s eyes as those of their drugged-out neighbor or of those of a profligate friend’s feeble attempts to hold her family together. The underlying sneer they hear is “you are a goody two-shoes.” They are told that since there are so many false people out there, then that can only mean they must be false and hypocritical too. And so, good acts are immediately labeled as acts of hidden malice and undiscovered hypocrisy. Good is labeled as evil. Well, that is false and unbiblical.

The correct attitude of the Christian is even though it wasn’t innate goodness that originally made us friends with God (and that of course keeps us humble and we are reminded of that), that God is now pleased to give us confidence that what we do now, once we are His friend, does make a difference in His eyes.

We are told:

“we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

(Ephesians chapter 2)

and “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

(Hebrews chapter 6)

Instead you are instructed to awaken, get busy doing good, so that it can be said of you:

“Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
‘Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.’
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates”.

Proverbs chapter 31


Fear or Prudence – How Do You Run Your Homeschool?

fear or prudence.jpg


How do you run your homeschool?

Is it with fear or with prudence?

There is a difference between the two and the impact on your children will not be the same. Fear will cause you to hunker down and pass up opportunities that you should have taken for your children. Prudence on the other hand will know that it should keep its distance from some dangers, but it will willingly accept other opportunities, even though they also involve risks.

To discern the difference, you have to have a standard by which you can decide what should stop you in your tracks and what you should accept as an acceptable risk.

This is where the power of two people, two parents, the male and the female, really comes to shine. As husband and wife you can together assess the risks and opportunities from different angles and help encourage and re-assure each other as to what course of action to take. This is the proverbial balance between not letting a toddler play in the neighborhood street unsupervised, but allowing boys to climb trees. Bottom line you are important as parents to navigate those risks and opportunities. A hired teacher can not, should not, and will not make those decisions for you. It is your glorious burden.

The other source of knowledge I highly recommend is to be found in the Book of Proverbs, in the Bible. It is shock full of instructions on what to accept as acceptable risks and what risks should be avoided at all costs. It even tells you that whatever you do, you should definitely not accept gifts from the local mafia godfather*! Well okay it doesn’t actually that, but you judge for yourself if that verse would encompass a mafia godfather 🙂

It is also shock full of instructions to be diligent and to not be ruled by fear to the point of paralysis. It teaches you to accept that some risks,should they come to materialize, are outside of your role of responsibility and clearly fall under God’s providential will that a calamity should occur. In that case your conscience would be free of guilt. But without knowing what those good and acceptable boundaries are, you would not know what is reckless and what is acceptable action.

God is good and he teaches us how to recognize those boundaries.


* Proverbs Chapter 23: verses 1-3

When you sit down to dine with a ruler,

Consider carefully what is before you,

And put a knife to your throat

If you are a man of great appetite.

Do not desire his delicacies,

For it is deceptive food.

How to Trust Her with Freedoms in the Teenage Years

trust her.jpg


Guest post by Renee Harris:

I was so encouraged after writing “Philosophy for Five Year Olds.”

That’s because the feedback from several readers was that:

      1. those who recognized the need for laying a foundation of discipline and obedience before jumping into the books had no regrets of starting in this order, and
      2. those who launched their curriculum before having these important steps in place wished they wouldn’t have given in to the pressure of doing school at home.

As promised, I want to suggest a valuable resource that we found very encouraging when our children were young:

Raising Godly Tomatoes by Elizabeth Krueger

We love that book so much we bought ten copies and have shared them with friends over the years.

My favorite concept is what Elizabeth calls “tomato staking.” Have you ever planted a tomato plant but neglected to prop up the vines as the plant started to grow? The plant grows fast and wild, with large, juicy fruit that weighs the branches down. Without structure, the branches grow into a heap and the tomato fruit that should have been round, ripe and delicious instead begins to rot, feeding the local insects instead of your family.

The well-cared for plant is given structure, a nurturing environment, room to grow, with strong supportive stakes to hold up the weight of the heavy branches. This is how you should grow your child. Ideally, start when your child is old enough to communicate to start tomato staking.

How does Tomato Staking work?

From the time your child is an infant, he is within a few feet of you, learning from you, listening to your voice and tone, watching how you interact with those around you, and receiving plenty of love and attention. As your child grows, you still keep him near you, even if it is not within direct eyesight, and expect his behavior and actions to meet your expectations. What happens if you hand over this privilege of molding and guiding to someone else too soon? Your child’s behavior will meet the (probably low) expectations of those around him. Remember how difficult it is to hold another person’s child that you are babysitting to the same level of behavioral accountability as your own, even though your are at least physically responsible for the child’s safety? If not much is expected, not much will be produced. Then as your trust grows in the maturity of your child’s actions, you can gradually give the corresponding freedom.

It looks like this in practice: while they are still earning your trust, your young children are within feet of you. You are there to correct small infractions and prevent bickering conversations. While you may feel like this young person is violating your space, as your child is learning correct behavior, he stops becoming an invader and becomes a joy to be with. Your son will sit at the counter to watch you chop carrots, and your daughter will enjoy small tasks like shucking corn (however long it takes to complete the task!). He learns to respectfully listen while you chat on the telephone, and she’ll find joy in separating the nickels and pennies in the coin jar.

Watch what happens if you hand over parental trust to the general public before your child has earned trust from you:

      • Your five year old surprises you with mildly inappropriate language because he hears it from young children in the neighborhood. (How to avoid this? Limit the amount of random time your child spends with other children. We had a set schedule that our kids could spend with other kids, while on our property and within our view.)
      • Your seven year old says he is finished with a task when in truth, he only half completed it. (How to avoid this? At age five, you gave small tasks and made sure your son completed the job correctly the first time. With any issues of lying, he was disciplined, not ignored.)
      • Your four year old lies about the artwork she has so meticulously created on the wall with a permanent marker. (How to avoid this? When she was two, she already learned that she was not to touch the permanent markers, and for the first few years of her life, she was always with you to learn appropriate behavior until she could be trusted not to get into mischief with the markers)
      • Ignoring your child is taking the easy way out, at least at first – but you will run into problems later.

Have you ever met the family where all the children enjoyed the vegetables that were served to them at the dinner table? Did the parents wait until they were teenagers and then expect them to suddenly like vegetables? No. They were raised on good food and good habits. The same goes with the basics of trust, honesty, respect, finishing a job they started, and making good choices when no one is there to check on them.

Here’s why you need those basic character traits established now:

      • You need your five year old to be able to set up, play with, and clean up his Lego’s in the span of thirty minutes, with the timer set.
      • Your seven year old should have no problem finding sharpened pencils and paper to do his artwork with.
      • Your ten year old should complete his online math lesson and correct his own work, and then report to you to show you his work without your prompting.
      • Your 12 year old should look to you as his mentor, not his killjoy, and he will respect your ideas and suggestions.
      • Your 14 year old can be trusted on the internet to research his work without wandering to inappropriate sites, even though you’re not in the room to double check.
      • Your 16 year old can be counted on to take the car on errands and return with the receipts, purchasing the items on your list.
      • And so on…

If you can’t say that you have the trust you need in your child, you need to go back to tomato staking and build him or her up to that level of trust again…no matter what age your child is. This means even teenagers can be asked to give up their Friday nights with friends and give up their cell phones and their car privileges, if you find you can no longer trust them to handle those resources appropriately. Instead they can spend their time in close proximity with you at home until the trust rebuilds.

When you keep them near you in their younger years, you can trust them with the freedoms you grant them in their teenage years.

For more ideas on tomato staking, including what Elizabeth calls intense tomato staking, occasional tomato staking, loose tomato staking, and lifestyle tomato staking, read Raising Godly Tomatoes.




Can Street Children Use Your Talent ?


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Is my skepticism of college education nullified if it is going to knowingly be used for serving the poor and the weak? And if it is fully understand that the student will not be able to earn a living from it? In other words, it has no value in the marketplace, but the charity value still makes it worthwhile for the student to invest the time and money.

For example: you and your student hope that in her adult life she will be able to help street children in Sao Paulo, Brazil by using her skills as a master violinist.  Clearly, the street children have nothing of real value to offer in exchange that could possibly pay you back for your student’s time and expense. To add to that, the children may often not even understand the value you bring to them that starts the change in their lives until years later.

I will answer that I still maintain skepticism of expensive college degrees, even for charity work. Here’s why.

Putting aside other considerations for the moment, I would still recommend that if a long-term talent is being developed solely to be given away freely to others, then some of the same principles apply for talent applied to charity as to talent that is being developed to bring market value to others. Specifically, the principle still applies that there should be a continuous effort to discover where and how the talent will be applied to bring added-value. Normally, the marketplace recipient would tell you if your music is adding to their quality of life: if they never buy your violin concert tickets or you can’t get others to play your compositions, then clearly you are not meeting their wants and desires.

But in the case of charitable giving, you still have to have a goal you want to accomplish with your talent. If your goal is to change the lives of street children, will your violin playing change their lives? There is one way to find out for sure BEFORE you commit to four or six years of advanced formal training. You test the value by attempting to apply an aspect of your talent to a charitable group already working with orphans.

You may discover, as you attempt to play your violin, that what really brings in the street children is…warm food…or rap music…or loud speakers playing MP3…or staying up through the night to help with detox from drug addiction. It may even be your violin music that brings them in, after all (pardon my extreme doubt here). But there’s the key. You will know for certain as you attempt to gradually work it out. That is why I encourage students to gradually discover their long term talent. If it is not violin playing that really helps street children, but instead raucous loud story telling with a rap bent to it, then all your years of expensive violin training are really doing nothing to change the lives of those you hoped to impact. If it’s loud story telling, are you ready to have your student stop college and instead invest in practicing that skill on the street and in clubs for four years? If you are not ready to have your child do that, you may be trying to justify a fantasy status education. It will turn out to be an education that will neither help your child to earn a living nor help the needy to climb out of their difficult situations.

What about getting a medical degree to help the poor? – this has not only charity value, but true market value.

What about bringing your business degree and experience to help refugees start businesses of their own? – this has not only charity value, but true market value.

What about an engineering degree to help dig wells and build charity hospitals? – again, this has not only charity value, but true market value.

Clearly, some expensive college degrees have straightforward charity value while also having market value. Others are much more dubious. Of course exceptions can be found. But make sure you choose wisely your college degree even if it is for a lifetime of work in charity.

If you could use an approach that gently guides your child over time to developing a talent that is very valuable and useful to other people, I recommend you fill out the worksheets available in my talent guide.


In the Summer Time of Your Life


English: Harvest at Ardgowan While most of the...

There is a season of opportunity for youth that will not normally be repeated – teach your children to seize it! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some Biblical proverbs are listed here below to encourage us to teach our children to be quick about working on the opportunities available so easily and freely to them in their youth – that is, they will reap future rewards far above their peers, if they start acting on them now. The 10,000 hours journey to amazing talent has to start today, before the window to easy opportunities closes.

He that gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely,

but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.

To everything there is a season

and a time to every purpose under heaven.

How long will you lie down, O sluggard?

When will you arise from your sleep?

Your poverty will come in like a vagabond,

and your need like an armed man.

Poor is he who works with a negligent hand,

but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Do you see a man skilled in his work?

He will stand before kings.

He will NOT stand before obscure men.

In all labor there is profit,

but mere talk leads only to poverty.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,

but the soul of the diligent is made fat.

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Proverbs for Steps to Personal Success

Don't Spill the Beans

Saw this at my local coffee shop. It is similar to the Biblical proverb that says: “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter”

As Dad and Mom, we are currently having great discussions with the teenagers in our house on the topic of proverbs (“up a creek without a paddle”, “he who snoozes looses”, “don’t spill the beans”, etc.) How do you stay practical so that you define success in a way you can recognize it in the workplace and in the exercise of your talent? I recommend you download this free e-book entitled “Wisdom and Dominion” written by Gary North about the book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible. Download here:

Excerpts from the introduction:

“In order to persuade His covenant people to become highly motivated to discover, develop, and implement their individual talents in a program of kingdom extension, God offers a comprehensive program of self-improvement. This program is presented in the Book of Proverbs. This book is God’s handbook for self-improvement. There is none like it in the ancient world.”

“There are numerous sub-themes in those proverbs that are devoted to economics.”

“Each of these themes has several proverbs associated with it. All of these themes are important for devising and implementing a lifelong plan of personal success. Among these are:

  • The steps to personal success
  • The standards of personal success
  • Success indicators
  • Failure indicators
  • The function of riches
  • The basis of riches
  • The concept of riches
  • The concept of ownership
  • The nature of economic causation
  • The marks of a biblical economy
  • The purposes of inheritance

The Courage to Make Decisions

Runner on Blue Trail

The growing ability to make his own way, to be decisive, is an enormous side-benefit to the child who is talent focused (Photo credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission)

There is at first only a subtle difference in evidence between the talent-driven child and the traditional curriculum-driven child with regards to that strength of character known as decisiveness. Parents tend to overlook that difference at first as simply a quirk in personalities and only see that both are otherwise hard-working.  But then that trait of decisiveness starts compounding daily and yearly into such amazing strength that it clearly sorts the children between decision-makers and those that wait for work instructions. That character of decisiveness will manifest itself as:

  • the ability to make priorities
  • the ability to be swift to commit to a different course of action when needed
  • the ability to recognize the emotional and physical dangers in a specific field of human talent
  • the ability to act in a comprehensive way that earns respect from others
  • the ability to communicate with others in the language of ownership and responsibility
  • the courage to make decisions in the face of incomplete knowledge.
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Fight the Darkness

English: Solomon and the Plan for the Temple, ...

Solomon knew the different philosophies and the despair they can engender in thoughtful people. But, he says, their logic forgets a key point, that brings hope and meaning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ecclesiastes hits head on the philosophy of despair and the dark brooding that comes from believing that your plans and actions make no difference in the long-run. Solomon, after spinning that dark philosophy every which way, says that, no, when you do make plans, make plans for action, and then rest confidently without guilt in those pleasures that God allows for you today. Full future details are hidden from you, Solomon says, but what you do for good does matter and it is an inheritance to your children. So make homeschooling plans that don’t expect for a lowest acceptable outcome, but make plans based on a belief that God promises to prosper righteous efforts – because He wants to and has rigged the universe for that purpose. For a great “pump-me up” to fight against any feeling of encroaching darkness, read Gary North’s excellent commentary and explanation of the book of Ecclesiastes (it’s actually part of a larger series on the books of the Bible from a uniquely Economic/Business angle).


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Ask God for Wisdom to Develop Talent in Your Child


Pray to ask God that He specifically give you wisdom on how to develop a life of talent in your child. If you want to know, He will tell you. As you pray, you can expect that opportunities will appear that did not appear before. You can also expect that in some instances He will give you personal peace about any fears you may have. In other cases, you can also expect that you will start understanding some connections in your child’s life that you did not understand before. Keep asking for specifics so God can either change your mind to a better thinking or to change the circumstances to get your desired outcome.

Share How to Move Forward Even in the Face of Unknown


Talk specifically to your child about your personal strategy for developing his talent and explain the whys and hows of your thinking. Taking the time to explain out-loud your reasoning is a great way to model for him thinking patterns on how to plan for the future, even in the face of many unknowns. Sometimes talk with a big picture view of things, other times with just the near future in mind. If he is still very young, he will tend to not ask much, but just light up with excitement knowing that you are that interested in the details of his near and distant future. If he is older, you are going to see his commitment and decision making powers rev up because he knows his own father acts and moves forward even in the face of many unknown variables.

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With Fire in Your Belly or Just Sort-of-Wanting It?


Do you sort-of-want it? or do you really want it? We are warned in the Bible about approaching God in matters that require wisdom with a half-baked desire to figure it out. We are told that God wants to give us wisdom, but we are also told that He will just as soon withhold it from us if we are timid about this whole affair of getting understanding. In short, He wants us to want wisdom like we really mean it. So if you are looking for wisdom on how to develop talent in your child’s life, are you REALLY wanting it with fire in your belly?

Curriculum for Character and Talent

Sculpture of Julius Caesar by 17th century Fre...

To make headway with your child’s architecture talent don’t just study Julius Caesar – study instead his power as expressed through architecture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You are doing great if you can turn your character-based Christian curriculum into a curriculum that can also build up your child’s talent like this fictional report from “Practical-Dad:

It was awkward at first to red-pen words out of my son’s character-based curriculum questions and insert instead an aspect of his architecture talent that he wants to develop, but I am growing confident. For example, he had a short writing assignment that asked him to talk about the kind of power that Julius Caesar exercised over Rome. I re-worded the question so that it asked him to talk about how the public buildings were used at that time to exercise the power of Julius Caesar. Amazing! He is now excited about writing his essays and we have had to tell him several times in the last few days to stop and come to the lunch table.

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Acquire a Personality While Acquiring a Talent

Speaker's Society Presentations

If you want your child to attract the attention of others with talent, then make sure your child is also developing a talent. Photo from Speaker’s Society Presentations (Photo credit: MDGovpics)

Your child is acquiring an attractive personality while also acquiring a talent if you can report something similar to fictional “I-got-my-eyes-on-you-Dad”:

“It was clear that our daughter was well-rounded educationally, but she had nothing specifically of her own that she could be proud of to show off to friends and relatives. No wonder she was just wanting to hang-out so much at the YMCA. She gave my wife and I lots of extra ideas on parts of the talent discovery workshop and she completely and enthusiastically bought into the idea of developing a talent of her own. Wow, her conversations with us and other people lately are a lot more intense and focused and she blogs to her passion regularly. She is clearly developing herself into that ‘interesting’ girl that no amount of logo-wearing T-shirts and summer camp activities were doing for her. ”

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