Smoke filled the house. Josiah came to me saying that something was burning, but he didn’t know the source. I was too preoccupied to come and help him locate what was burning. But when I came to dinner, there was no mistaking that a cloud filled the house. Still I didn’t do anything. There was a small exhaust fan running in the kitchen, and I reasoned that was enough. I opened no windows to let fresh air in and drive the smoke out. I didn’t even look for the source, which turned out to be the microwave. At some point in the meal preparation, Josiah had inadvertently turned on the microwave instead of just the timer. He scorched a plastic bag and its contents.
The next day the smell of stale smoke lay heavy in every room. My clothes reeked as though I had been sitting in the smoke of a campfire. It was the strongest smoke smell I ever recalled in a house and would require the cleaning of every surface.
The thought came to mind that like the burning incident, I have been negligent in dealing with sin and the foul spirits that follow in the lives of those around me. How many times have I been prompted to rise up and take action, to seek out that which was burning, but I offered no help, no rescue? And when something was clearly amiss, real as the smoke invading every room and touching every thing, did I open the windows that the wind of the Spirit could come in to drive out all things noxious before they settle?
When we couldn’t see the smoke anymore, the reek betrayed its presence clinging to the walls, sitting on the furniture, engulfing the curtains and clothing. While the offense was still fresh, it would be our focus; but before long our sense of smell adapted to current conditions, lying to us that all was well because only familiar scents remain. We could be content until we encountered something truly clean.
God is the Focus
Many years ago God gave a man named Joshua the strategy for taking the Promised Land. It began with God Himself, who not only gave the strategy, and the strength, but offered His very presence. But God would have to be number one. God must be the only focus, the One who directs, at any given moment, who or what is to be a priority in our lives. Anything else that orders our plans rather than the Eternal is an idol—and so it is with us as we homeschool. God is number one, and we should listen to His direction.
Be Strong and Courageous
And this God commanded Joshua, not once, but repeatedly to be strong and courageous, not because Joshua couldn’t be strong and courageous but for the very reason that he could and must be. For you to enable your children to take the land, that is their very lives, to run after the promises of God, to boldly go where no one in their neighborhood has gone, to live passionate lives full of purpose and joy, you must and can be strong and courageous. This is not for the fainthearted. And it is not without strategy. But the strategy is simple; God is number one. The steps toward that were to meditate on His Word, which is to value it enough to read and ponder it, and to obey Him, which is to take Him seriously enough to do what He says to do. Children learn to love and fear God by being in His word and by spending time alone with Him. Since my children were little, we would pray together, sing together, memorize verses together, talk about the Bible together and draw pictures of what we heard or read. Ironically, those stick figures brought the stories to life for us, connecting Bible adventures with our own. Math didn’t always get done. There were days when reading and writing didn’t get done. But I was determined that we would pursue God together. Today my little ones are sixteen through twenty-five years old! The verses they sang as children still hang as weapons on their belt and come as comforts in the night. And those Bible times of their childhood have developed into the deep discussions of today and the faith that propels them forward.
Step out in faith
But for Joshua, the centrality of God’s Word was only the beginning. There was still one thing between Israel and their Promised Land and that was the Jordan River at flood stage. It had filled the ravine in which it flowed, reaching well into the trees and undergrowth along the banks. Only by swimming, and even then it was risky, could the river be crossed. Joshua couldn’t take the nation over that river. What made him think that it was possible? What made you think it was possible homeschool? Who are you to overcome the obstacles in your way? Who am I?
When I came to western North Carolina sixteen years ago, most of my friends assumed that I would put my children in the state schools and get a full-time job to support them. After all, there would be no money coming from their dad. We had just fled that situation. And I certainly didn’t have any money, or a house, or a car or furniture or anything really—anything except my five precious children and a call from God to homeschool them. What should I do? What would you do?
For Israel, it meant stepping into the water. “Then the priests, who carried the ark of Yahweh, the Lord of all the earth, approached the Jordan River.” And when they came to the edge, carrying the manifest presence of God, they put their feet down into the water, and God intervened! The water flowing down from above suddenly rose up in a heap some distance away and the ground became dry. And the priests carried that ark into the middle of the Jordan River and stood there on dry ground while the whole nation of Israel crossed over to the other side. But they had to step into the water before the miracle happened. Had they been immobilized by fear, had they not stepped into the rushing waters of the Jordan, then the waters would not have parted. First Peter talks about us as believers in Jesus Christ as being a holy priesthood. We are the intercessors for those around us. We carry the presence of God. We set the tone in our families—fear or faith. Do you want to see the waters part? You have to step in. Hebrews tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Did you think homeschooling was any different?
That act of faith on my part, indeed, every act of faith on my part, has been met by the miraculous power of the living God. And my children watched this for sixteen years. Then they began to look for the Jordan River at flood stage, eager to step right in, believing God for provision in lack, wisdom with problems, power for the impossible. He brought money for college, made missions trips happen and piled the proverbial water up in heap.
These are the testimonies that we tell each other over and over again. Just as Joshua was directed to gather stones from the middle of the Jordan and build two memorials, so we collect the memories of mighty works of our God that the next generation would know that God is number one; “He rocks!”
Respond rather than ignore
Finally, as you consider strategies for success, take sin seriously and respond rather than ignore when things happen. Attitudes of the heart matter. Achan may have been looking out for himself when he took plunder after the victory at Jericho. Perhaps he had been especially valiant when the walls fell and felt entitled, or had unusual financial burdens, or didn’t get the memo about the devoted things. It doesn’t matter. When they came to fight Ai, his sin made cowards of the victors and cost Israel dearly. The nation had to repent before they could move forward. It is the same with us and our children but not always so clear-cut. Is it possible that the rude comments coming out of your teen are covering up pain? Is the two-year-old acting up again because she doesn’t know what else to do with the rising stress level of fearful parents? This interconnectedness between us and our baggage is what drives us to our knees as a family to deal with our sin, our lack of love and compassion, our unbelief and anxiety, our fear of failure and outbursts of anger. More than once, when I intended to confront a child with a bad attitude, the Spirit of God redirected me to speak life instead, reminding her of her worth and identity as a daughter of the Most High God. And then the tears would flow, bringing repentance and healing as we got to the root of the issue.
Because God is our life, we are courageous; we remember His works: and we step into the flood. We also move in His agenda of forgiveness and restoration, remembering that “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Someone we love may need our help, now.