Wednesday, August 7, 2013

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien: Occultic or Not?

Recently I had an opportunity to hear a portion of a speech made by a man named John Todd, a former occult member who became a Christian in the 1970s and whose speeches and ideas greatly influenced Christian thought at that time.  The speech, found here, heavily criticized the writers J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis by stating that these authors were involved in the occult and thus their works should not be owned by Christians.  These statements disturbed me greatly so I proceeded to perform research into Todd’s arguments.  Here is what I found.

Todd gives several arguments on why he believes Tolkien and Lewis are involved in the occult and therefore their works should not be owned by Christians.  Here are his arguments, as best I can determine from his speech:

1. Every book purported to be written by J.R.R. Tolkien, including the Silmarillion (compiled by his son Christopher Tolkien) was not written by him.  
2. Certain things in _The Hobbit_ were not available to the general public until Tolkien used them in his book.
3. Tolkien and Lewis were members of the "Golden Dawn", the “Rothschild church in London” and the oldest coven in the world (Presumably the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn).
4. Tolkien got permission from leaders of the Golden Dawn to print things from the Book of Shadows (the witchcraft bible).
5. The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillion are, according to witches, the "gospel" and things that "really did take place".
6. You would not own a complete witchcraft bible in your home, so why would you own part of the witchcraft bible?
7. You can go to witchcraft bookstores and pick up books that came out after the Hobbit that bear the "Runes" -- the witchcraft alphabet.
8. The Runes were secret, upon penalty of death, until _The Hobbit_ came out.
9. Nobody could have written the Runes unless they had been in witchcraft.
10. Books by C.S. Lewis are required study before one can enter a coven.
11. Todd attempts to quote from Lewis's book _Mere Christianity_ and states it says the following:  "The pathway to God is like a hall with many doors.  They all lead to God."

Let us take these arguments individually.

#1. There is no reason to suspect that Tolkien did not write the works he is said to have written.  However, if the argument that Todd is making is that Tolkien did not write the works because he got them from other sources and compiled them, then we will address this issue.

It is well known that Tolkien derived much of the material found in _The Hobbit_ from ancient and more contemporary sources.  He enjoyed the works of William Morris and many of the ideas in _The Hobbit_ reflect the writing style and motifs of this author.  He based the villain in _The Hobbit_, Sauron, on a villain from a book written by another author he admired (Samuel Rutherford Crockett's historical novel _The Black Douglas_).  His treatment of creatures called goblins in _The Hobbit_ was based on the goblin found in a well-known Christian author’s writings (George MacDonald's _The Princess and the Goblin_).

Tolkien was an academic and as such had a passion for writings from multiple ancient sources, including Old English Literature, Norse Mythology and Germanic Languages, and thus these ancient works influence the writing of _The Hobbit_ rather heavily.  In fact, often descriptions of specific events or characters seem to be lifted directly from these sources.  Tolkien, had, for example, an especially strong affinity for the Old English poem _Beowulf_ and is well-known for a groundbreaking essay on this poem that is still read in many English classes.  As a result of this affinity, many of the details of _The Hobbit_ are borrowed from this poem.  Additionally, Tolkien derives many of the names of the book’s characters from old fairy tales as compiled by the Brothers Grimm.

It is Tolkien’s personal study of Germanic Languages and the extension of such languages into Old English writing styles that is particularly germane to Todd's arguments.  This we will get to later.  Suffice now to say that it is true that Tolkien derived much of his writing from external sources that he would have been exposed to in due course during his academic life.

(above material derived largely from

#2, 8. Todd seemed to vaguely point out that there are certain aspects of writing in _The Hobbit_ that were not available to the general public until that book was written.  Point 8 explains what these are: Todd is saying that the “Runes” found in _The Hobbit_ were not available to the general public until _The Hobbit_ was published.

These “Runes” in question that were used by Tolkien in _The Hobbit_ were Anglo-Saxon Runes, or futhorc, that were used to write Old English, the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons in England from between the 5th Century through the 12th Century.  The runes were used to write this language between the 5th Century until around the 9th century when the writing style changed in response to Irish Christian missionaries.  The futhorc runes were derived from an even older runic language, the Elder Furthak which was a language used by Germanic tribes between the 2nd through 8th centuries.  As previously described, Tolkien was an academic especially interested in Germanic Languages.  It does not require an enormous imagination to think that he would have, in the course of his academic study, thoroughly examined ancient Germanic and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts that were likely available to academics (and not just to those practicing the occult) and learned a great deal about their history and use.  It does not take an enormous imagination to think that the interest he had in these writings would spill over into his writing of fiction.

So, for Todd to say that the “Runes” were not available to the general public until _The Hobbit_ is a true statement but for reasons that Todd could not have fathomed.  Academics could have accessed the documents where the runes were found, but the public would not have been aware of them due to the public not being involved with the academic study of these manuscripts.  For Todd to imply that only elite occult-minded individuals could have had access to the ancient manuscripts for any reason, including academic study, is patently absurd.

#3. Todd says that Tolkien and Lewis were members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  This occultic organization did exist between the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  One can speculate whether Lewis and Tolkien were members of this organization.  However, the Wikipedia entry for Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn does in fact include a list of “known or alleged members” of this organization and neither Tolkien nor Lewis appears on this list.  It should be noted, however, that one of Lewis’s closest friends, which he wrote much praise about, was Charles Williams whose name does appear on the list of known members of this organization.  Notably also Lewis, Tolkien and Williams belonged to a literary club known as the Inklings which met in association with the University of Oxford, England between the early 1930s and late 1949.  This group was comprised of both Christians and nonChristians, and it was here where many of Lewis’s fictional ideas were honed.  One could in fact argue that Lewis allowed himself to be too closely associated with a man such as Williams who was evidently a likeable, charismatic person.  However, such an association does not necessarily imply that Lewis was also a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn nor does it prove that Lewis’ writings, or those of Tolkien, are of such a quality to be put out of Christian homes and/or destroyed.

#4. Todd argues that Tolkien got permission from those in authority in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn to print things from the Book of Shadows (the witchcraft bible).  Several problems exist with this line of reasoning.  First, according to Wikipedia, “the first Book of Shadows was created by the pioneering Wiccan Gerald Gardner sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s”. The Hobbit_ was first published September 21, 1937, which is approimately ten years prior to the publishing of the first Book of Shadows.  So to say that Tolkien asked permission to print things from the Book of Shadows is impossible, since the Book of Shadows did not exist at the time of the writing of _The Hobbit_.

But for argument’s sake let us assume that Todd is referring to the material that would eventually make its way into the Book of Shadows -- so in essence, Tolkien would be requesting to publish material that would eventually be incorporated into said book.  But if the material is in fact kept a secret upon penalty of death (#8), it makes no logical sense for the leaders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn to allow an academic to print information that they had spent so much time and effort keeping secret before their own documents compiling occultic information had even been published.  Why would Tolkien be exempt in this instance and allowed to publish _The Hobbit_ if the information therein was so sacred to those in the Order?  Much more information is needed before the logic of these ideas can be untangled, and without such information significant doubt as to the truth of such a statement prevails.

#5.  Todd says, in essence, that the fiction generated by Tolkien in creating _The Hobbit_, _The Lord of the Rings_ and _The Silmarillion_ are all things that actually happened and are, to witches, truth.  The absurdity of such a statement cannot be underestimated.  Was Beowulf truth?  Did the Norse legends really happen?  Did the fairy tales compiled by the Brothers Grimm really occur?  More to the point, did the bits and pieces of all of these stories and legends that Tolkien used to create his novel really happen in the way that Tolkien laid out in his story?  If this is the case then Tolkien should be considered not a human being but a deity in his own right, as apparently he is able to create a novel of his own design and cause it to become actual history.  Amazing.

#6,7.  Now Todd comes to the crux of his argument: the Runes.  He is saying that the Runes used by Tolkien in _The Hobbit_ are in essence what he is worried most about in that book and the reason, evidently, that he thinks it should not be in Christian homes.  What he fails to take into account is that the runes -- which, as we have previously discussed -- are actually Anglo-saxon runes that were used in the 5th through 9th centuries to write Old English and not in and of themselves an evil language.  Such a statement about runes being an evil language is tantamount to saying that since Hitler spoke and wrote German, German is an evil language and should be abolished.  Additionally, Todd fails to even consider the fact that the runes are a miniscule part of _The Hobbit_ and are scarcely mentioned at all -- and certainly not often enough for a coven of occultists to find such writings vitally important for any fathomable reason.

#9.  As we have explored earlier, this statement is false.  Tolkien could have easily acquired manuscripts of Anglo-saxon runes in his academic study and would have been well-versed in them from an intellectual, not an occultic, mindset.

#10. Here Todd now attacks C.S. Lewis instead of Tolkien.  He does not provide much information concerning exactly why he dislikes Lewis other than his last point which I mention below.  However, it should be again noted as described earlier that Lewis was good friends with a known member of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn named Charles Williams and likely did have some of Williams’ ideas influence his writing style and content.  While the wisdom of such a relationship might be questionable, a choice to completely disregard the works of Lewis due to the possible negative influence of one person robs children and adults of what has been for decades considered a beautiful allegory of the person and actions of Jesus Christ in the world (_The Chronicles of Narnia_), not to mention many other books written by a man who has himself influenced thousands in a positive way towards Christianity.

#11. Lastly, Todd offers his final straw man argument against Lewis.  He tries to quote from Lewis's book _Mere Christianity_ and states it says the following: "The pathway to God is like a hall with many doors.  They all lead to God."  He then critiques this statement by saying Lewis says that there are many ways to God and that this is a false teaching in an attempt to discredit him.

However, not only is Todd taking the meaning of the quote completely out of context, but the quote he claims he got from Lewis's book is a complete fabrication.  Here is the actual quote:

It (Christianity) is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in…And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper? - (Quote taken from

In this quote Lewis is clearly describing choices individuals make when choosing denominations of Christianity and not a choice between Christianity and other religions as a means of reaching God.

In this treatment of Lewis, Todd should also acknowledge that Lewis was, in fact, an atheist prior to becoming a Christian.  Just as Todd was involved in the occult before following Christ, and thus has a certain sort of bent in his thought processes regarding Christianity, so also Lewis had a certain mindset when describing both his own walk with Christ as well as describing Christianity to others in his books.  Lewis actually addressed -- through a series of BBC radio broadcasts -- a number of atheists during the 1940s and thus his writing and speaking style was geared towards that group of individuals.  Therefore his books where he discusses his understanding of Christianity will have a certain flavor to them that will be tailored towards someone who has struggled through the arguments that an atheistic intellectual would have against the idea of Jesus Christ.  Many Christians over the past decades have lauded Lewis’s works, and while no man should be considered perfect, using straw man tactics to discredit a man’s works in such a way as Todd has done is at best disingenuous and at worst an attempt by Todd at self-aggrandization.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Thoughts about soldiers in the Civil War and Classical Education

Recently our children have been enrolled in a start-up Classical Education school -- Redeemer Classical Academy.  We are very excited about the opportunity our children have to be taught by outstanding teachers in the intimate environment that Redeemer provides.  So when I have a moment to myself (not very often!) I have thought a little about the history of Classical Education in our country and wondered what it would be like if everyone had the opportunity of getting a Classical Education -- as obviously the Classical model is no longer followed with the vast majority of schools in our nation.

Then I came across this article.  In this piece, there is a distinction drawn between the psychology of those men who fought in the Civil War and those who fought in subsequent wars (namely, World War I and World War II).  For example, terms used to describe how the soldiers felt about the situation they were facing showed that (quoting the article) "...many were motivated by the sense that they were living up to some high moral ideal. Words like 'gallant,''valor' and 'chivalric' dot their descriptions of each other’s behavior. Upon being taken prisoner, one Union soldier shook his captors’ hands and congratulated them on the 'most splendid charge of the war.'"  Private letters sent by the soldiers to their loved ones "...ring with 'patriotism, ideology, concepts of duty, honor, manhood and community.'"  Additionally, the "soldiers were intensely political. Newspapers were desperately sought after in camp. Between battles, several regiments held formal debates on subjects like the constitutional issues raised by the war."  And the letters written by the soldiers show a "feeling of indebtedness to the past" and a sense of appreciation for the efforts of those who came before them.

The article then describes, very briefly, the sentiments related by letters from World War II soldiers to their loved ones: "Studies of letters sent home by soldiers in World War II suggest that grand ideas were remote from their daily concerns."

That struck me as odd.  Not getting into the specifics of both wars, but it seems to me -- just on the surface alone -- that the "rightness" and necessity of World War II far exceeds that of the Civil War.  So why would the Civil War soldiers be so patriotic in their feelings about what they were doing while the World War II soldiers (certainly exceptions occur) apparently were -- on the whole -- not that way?

As I was wondering this, I recalled an article quoted by those who are starting Redeemer Classical School.  Take a look at this article, about 3/4 of the way down the page:  and look under "Myth #2: My child is not intelligent enough to attend a classical school."  I haven't done my own research into the history of Classical Education in our country (yet!) but a sentence in this section struck me: "If you were educated in Western society prior to 1850, you were classically educated."

1850.  Hmmm.  That was right around the time of the Civil War, wasn't it?  I know my own thoughts of the Civil War -- aside from the horrific battles, I have visions of young soldiers with no socks and no shoes trudging through mud, barely staying alive with threadbare clothing and a few blankets to keep them warm.  So could it be that the Classical Education that many of those Civil War soldiers had experienced (and I realize not all of them had an education) at least partially led them to have these high ideals in mind even during such a horrible, bloody conflict?  Could it be that their Classical Education led them to hold "formal debates" about the merits of "Constitutional issues raised by the war" while those of us living today would be much more likely to skip such events and concentrate more on staying alive??


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hospitality please.

Over the years in the Scott household, we have had many visitors. Relatives , friends, children... you name it. While others are still chipping ice off their windshields, we are getting our tans started here poolside. Come one, come all.

Hospitality is a lost thing nowadays. Its not enough to want to have people over, to want to be a beacon of hospitality. You have to do it. I have friends who I have known for many years who’s homes I have never seen. Meeting up for coffee, or having lunch at a restaurant to catch up rather than sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee and talking for hours seems to be the new thing.

I blame HGTV. Everyone thinks their home has to be perfectly clean or lavishly decorated so that their friends don’t think they are total slobs. We are all slobs who make messes in our houses.

We recently moved in to a new home. It is (in my mind) the perfect home for entertaining. (Thank you Lord Jesus for this wonderful blessing!!!) We have been here almost 2 years and have had several people come and go through our front doors. We have had 7 extended period guests... and so many over for meals I've lost count.  I'm not saying that we are great hosts, we are not. It’s just to say that if you open your home to others, regardless of its size, appointments and cleanliness, people respond. People, I have found, are hungry for real hospitality. People are hungry for relationships... for realness.

All the credit for my sense of hospitality goes to my mother. She has always been the ultimate hostess! Not because she is “Martha Stewart." In fact, she has a sign that use to hang in her kitchen that read, "Martha Stewart doesn't live here."

Once my sisters and I started in school, you could almost always count on extra dinner guests. Our house was the “hang-out” house. It was where all of our friends wanted to come. Not because it was the biggest, nicest or had the best toys, but because they felt loved and accepted. And also because my mom always fed them. Teenagers of both genders can be won over easily with food.

So I encourage you, dear readers (all two of you) to be hospitable. Let others see the pile of unfolded laundry on your couch. It will make them feel better about theirs. Let them see the crumbs under your kitchen table. They will know you actually eat there. Let them see the little finger smudges on your doors. They will know that kids are allowed to be kids in your home.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Imagine being this child.

Imagine for just a moment…

You have a hard life. It's not comfortable or predictable. You wake each morning and go to bed each night feeling empty... sometimes emotionally, sometimes physically. You have a few familiarities in your life... a smoke cloud from cigarettes usually fills the room each morning. Sometimes your mom will have something for breakfast... a cold bottle of milk, maybe a soft drink, chips, dry cereal. She leaves you and your siblings each day, dropping you off with someone else who doesn't like it when you jump around or talk to much. Mama says she loves you when she leaves. You want to go with her... but you know that no matter how much you beg, the answer is always the same. You wonder where she goes.

You watch cartoons... for hours. A few familiar faces enter throughout the day. No one acknowledges you... or your siblings. Sometimes, the visitors will take you to their home. You don't like it, but you have stopped fighting it after so long. You have no choice. You never know if you are just going to watch another TV or if someone wants to lay down with you and touch you all over. You feel scared.

Your mom returns. She has a bag of food and it smells so good. You tug at her for some french fries but she keeps telling you to wait. She is being yelled at for leaving you and your siblings for so long. We must be a problem. They must be mad at her because of us.

You eat. She smokes while texting on her cell phone. More visitors come throughout the night and you see or hear them hurting your Mama. You want to cry, but you are too afraid to make a noise.

The next morning you wake up. You stare at the ceiling for a few minutes. You lay there looking at your hands. They are dirty and sticky. You have been wearing the same clothes for several days.

A nice woman comes to your house. She brings you food and it tastes so good. She also brings a bag of clothes for you and your siblings. You wonder who she is. She always tells you that you are sweet and that Jesus loves you. You see this woman every few days. She has friends with her who are also nice. Once, you get the courage to ask her if you can come home with her, but she just responds with a pitiful face. You know she is always nice. She always has food. She smells so good.

One day, she agrees that you can come with her. Mama cries and wants a hug. You hug her and she squeezes extra hard. You wonder why she is upset. She tells you that she loves you in a way that makes you really believe it. You sense that something is wrong. Your are buckled into a car seat. What is happening? You arrive a a house. Everything here looks different. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the dry cereal. You wonder if someone told her that you like plain Cheerios.

Days pass. You cry sometimes for your siblings. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over how different everything feels. The woman tries to comfort you. You appreciate her attempts, but she doesn't speak your language emotionally. She doesn't seem to realize the terrible things that have happened to you.

You find it difficult to sleep. The new woman tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid her, preferring to sleep alone, away from her and any intimate words or contact. Sometimes, her husband will ask you if you want to read a book when he gets home from work. You sit next to him. This feels strange.

You still ache for your siblings, but gradually you are learning to trust this new woman. Although you still don't understand her bedtime songs, you like the lilt of her voice and take some comfort in it. You wish your Mama would have held you this way.

More time passes. You try to ask her about it, but she just takes you by the hand and answers you with words you don't really comprehend. You drive and drive and drive. New people ask you questions about your birth Mama and your old life when you sit on their couch. They tell you it is OK to tell the truth. You are not sure.

Weeks pass and this woman keeps asking you questions about how you like her home. Would you want to live there forever? Would you like to call her Mama? You shake your head yes and smile before you realize what you have agreed to. She starts referring to herself in 3rd person. "Mama needs you to pick up your puzzle." You like her being your Mama.

More time passes and new Mama and Daddy lead you into a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried. There are dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new Mama takes you to another woman who hugs you. Who is this? You smile at her. Then you are taken to another couple who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.

Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks.

You find it nearly impossible to sleep at night. Sometimes you lay in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your self for things you have been through. Loss of your old self feels so confusing. The new Mama checks on you. She seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a cup of milk. You turn away, pretending to go to sleep. Daddy comes in and tucks you in.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new Mama's hand. She pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.

Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.

Each morning, the new Mama hands you a cup of milk and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your old life is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new Mama to yelp in pain. She just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly sit with her. You give her a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Lessons from a big bag of ruined food

Having some sweet time with God this morning as I cleaned out my freezer of ruined food. Thomas woke me up at 5 with a sore throat this morning and when I went to get him ice water, the light was flashing on the freezer door. It was cracked open. (like not shut all the way)

So, I just spent the last 1/2 hour cleaning out the entire freezer worth of soft food. Soft broccoli and partially thawed out chicken are on the stove for a casserole. The rest sits by the fridge in a jumbo black trash bag that is too heavy for me to lift.

So many nights, I've been out in my community- serving the poor, bringing them food. I had way more in that freezer than most have. I know that full well. This experience just humbled me--- and I love staring my day with a thankful heart... not just an attitude of gratefulness... but really understanding the undeserved favor (grace) that God has placed on my family.

Here is the truth....

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

 The Lord upholds all who are falling
    and raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.

You open your hand;
    you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and kind in all his works.

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
    he also hears their cry and saves them.

The Lord preserves all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
    and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. 

 Psalm 145:8-9,Psalm 145:14-21 (emphasis mine)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Swim lessons

 I'm so proud of my sweet son, Matthew. He jumped in with Mrs. Jill (swim instructor extraordinaire).
... and he flapped those sweet little feet!
... and Thomas decided to be brave! He lunged- and off the side he went.

The, the Princess took a turn. She surprised us all!!!
 She hung on and waiting for her cue to "blast off!"
 She gave a push and flapped her feet.
 She came up for breath with a huge smile!
 ... and couldn't get enough.
She is a little fish.

All of my little lovies made me so proud!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ethiopia: part 1

I've only been home from Ethiopia for less than 48 hours. Physically, I feel a little tired, but emotionally, I am still in shock. I'm quite and still... waiting for this to all make sense.

My cousin, Tracy, invited me to go with her only days after we got back from China with Matthew in November. The trip was through Visiting Orphans and I never turn down a new experience. We had a great flight over and were anxious to get started "loving the least!!!"




Within minutes of landing, I could feel my heart racing. The air was thin and a faint smell of wood-burning greeted me as I stepped off of the plane.

We went through customs and made our way to the parking lot of the airport where our buses and translators waited for us. Our team of 18 watched in amazement as one of the translators, Sammi, lifted our 50 lb. luggage bags and tossed them effortlessly to the top of the van where the smaller translator, AB, caught each piece and placed it strategically before tying them all down for our ride.

By the time we made it to the guest house, my head was spinning. I was nauseated and weak. I medicated myself and laid down. It was hard to form words or even sit up. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia is at 8,200 ft. elevation and many people suffer from altitude sickness.... I was no exception.

I woke the next morning feeling much better. We drove 5 hours to Shashamane, stopping for breakfast. The workers started a coffee ceremony while we were there, burning incense and filling the place with smoke and a strong scent. It was hard to breath and even harder to eat. We returned to the van and hit the road for more driving.

Driving is much different in Ethiopia. All type of cattle, goats, horses, etc.... make their way across the street without notice. The drivers seem to have free reign over both sides of the road.








We passed sights I had only seen online or on TV, typical Africa. There were ant hills up to 6 ft. high scattered throughout the African plains.

We reached Shashamane and the boarding school where many children from Korah attended, if they were lucky enough to have sponsors. (If you watch the video attached, I spent the whole week with Sammy, the guy introducing Korah.)

We loved on them.






We told them that they are loved and valued.



We loved them like Jesus would.





... and they loved us back. Serving us....










Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thomas Learns to Ride!

We hit a milestone yesterday!

Thomas has been riding his bike with training wheels for the past year or so.  Using his wishes as guidance, we've tried adjusting his training wheels and even taking his training wheels off a couple of times over the past few months to allow him to learn how to ride, and each time he has gotten frustrated and wanted them back on.  I had resigned myself to the expectation that one of his uncles or a friend of mine was going to have to teach him how to ride his bicycle.

That is, until yesterday.

Thomas's school, Providence Christian Academy, had basically a "play day" for the preschoolers where everybody brought their bikes to school and rode around in the parking lot.  I watched Thomas as he rode his own bike for a few minutes, and watched him as he looked at the other kids, some of whom were still using training wheels and some of whom were not.

One of his friends (named Josh) was not using his bike at the time.  I watched my son get on his friend's bike and start to ride.  This bike was the exact same model as Thomas's -- a Huffy, probably purchased at Wal-Mart like Thomas's -- but this one didn't have training wheels on it.  I watched my son start to pedal that bike, wobbly at first, but quickly gaining momentum.  My eyes filled with tears as I watched him take off on that bike and begin to ride it with no problems whatsoever.

I turned to one of the dads who was there watching his daughter and told him, "The training wheels are coming off!"  I grabbed a wrench from my father-in-law who came to watch as well, and quickly took the training wheels off Thomas's bike.

I called out encouragement to Thomas.  I ran after him, trying to video him using Sarah's cellphone (mine had died).  He knocked into someone and fell off, and his friend Josh came over and reclaimed his bike.  I asked Thomas if he wanted to ride his own bike now.  He didn't.  "I fell off mine," he reminded me, as if to say his own bike was tainted with failure.  "I want one like Josh's."

I knelt down and had Thomas look me in the eyes.  "Thomas," I said, "Your bike is the same as his."

Sometimes my son doesn't believe me when I tell him things like this.  This time, he did.

His eyes got as big as saucers.  He stepped over to his own bike, hopped on, and began to pedal away just like he did with Josh's.  "It is like his!" he shouted.  "I can balance it!"

Something snapped in my son's mind that day.  Something switched in his heart.  And many changes keep happening in my own heart, too, as I engage my family and watch them grow.  I can't help but think if I had pestered Thomas about riding his bike and tried to get him to do it on my terms, in my timing, I would have missed watching him jump on a bike and learn to ride it without his dad's help.  I'm so glad I didn't miss that.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Late night flight...

Pilot, Gabe Henkel

Dad (moral support), Ashley, Brittany & Caki


Joe, Ashley, Matthew, Caki, Matthew, Mom, and Brittany

Matthew checking it out

the innards

the safety speech

Caki boarding

Brittany boarding

Caki- ready to go