Feature Article – Family Reunions by Douglas Wilson
Educational Helps – by Ned Bustard
On the Wilson side, our extended family has what we call a “quinquennial.” Every five years, members of our clan wend their way to some assigned spot, and we all have a really good time together. My father was one of six boys, and so the number of my cousins on that side is, ahem, significant. So last year at around this time, my wife and I had the pleasure of driving across most of Idaho and most of Utah in order to gather with the family near Zion National Park (located in Washington and Utah).
Now to some this may seem an arbitrary and very weird pilgrimage. Why do we do this? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to stay right where you are, and make friends with the neighbors? I was closer to some friends in the third grade than I am to some of my cousins, and I don’t drive across the country every five years to get together for the old third grade reunion. So what is with this? Why is it valuable? Is it valuable?
It is nice to pick a place that is worth seeing in its own right (like Zion), but that is just killing two birds with one stone. The reunion would still happen (and has happened) in some places that were not worth seeing in their own right at all. The place where we were staying was out in the country, at a high elevation, and the stars there were displayed in such a way that you could knock them down with a stick. But that is not why we were there. One day during the reunion, my wife and I took a quick jaunt to see the Grand Canyon (which neither of us had ever seen), and that was a glorious trip—and I am not talking about the canyon itself (which is beyond description), but rather the hour drive just before it, approaching the north rim. I have not taken in that much natural beauty in one day before, and yet even that was not why we were there. We were there for the uncles, and aunts, and cousins, and second cousins once removed. We were there for all those who were dear to us, and for those who were still connected to us, but whose names we had trouble keeping straight.
We were there for family. During these times of postmodern fragmentation, and as the idolatrous encouragement of selfish individualism continues apace, those Christians who have family connections ought not to surrender them easily. There have been times in history where family has been an idolatrous competitor to Christ, but we do not really live in such a time. The prophet Malachi taught us that in the time of the Messiah, the hearts of the fathers would be turned to the children, and the hearts of the children would be turned to the fathers. As this happens, it creates a climate in which children find and embrace and obey the first commandment with a promise—honor your father and mother, that your life may be long on the earth. This is a promise from God, and it is a promise from the Decalogue that the apostle Paul saw fit to reapply and reinforce while addressing a bunch of Gentile kids at Ephesus. This is a commandment with a promise . . . a promise for all ages.
Now it seems to me that in some way, shape or form, this commandment will necessitate family reunions. I recall a number of years ago (at a reunion in Nebraska), when my grandma was still alive, watching her sons honor her. It was remarkable. She was in her eighties, and most of her sons were in their sixties. And all she had to do, sitting there on the porch, was to express a mild wish about something or other, and every son within earshot would scramble to make it happen.
But there was no real practical way for her sons to honor her without coming to visit her, and there was no real way to do that without coming together. And when they came together, the cousins would come together. And then somebody said, at some point, “what do you say, let’s organize this.” In short, there is no command in the Bible that requires what we call “family reunions.” But I do believe that if we are careful to pursue the commandment with a promise, one of the natural outgrowths of that desire will be a strong sense of family. And a strong sense of family will necessitate family reunions.
One of the blessings of modern technology is that it is increasingly easy to make this sort of good thing happen. Those who lament how “technology” is driving us apart are blaming the machinery for what we sinful men can choose to do with the machinery. After all, a car can drive down the road in two directions—toward your mom’s house or away from it. A cell phone can be used to isolate a teenager from her family, or be used by a close family to keep in touch all day long. For example, my wife might be shopping in a near-by city, see something one of the kids might need, and give her a call. Email can create impersonal distance for cyber-people living in gnosticville or a husband and wife can email one another mash notes all day. For some people (who travel a lot) airplanes have effectively turned different cities in America into different rooms of a house. I have noticed that I have developed some friendships with people I see only at conferences that are tighter than friendships I have with people in the town where I live. All this means is that technology should be considered as a tool.
God’s Word gives us the principles. The tools we have at our disposal are methods, and if we use the methods available to us in order to apply God’s principles, the ancient promises still pertain. In many ways, we have great opportunities with some of the methods open to us, and we need to take care that we do not turn these opportunities into excuses. Think for a moment. What tools do we have today to organize a family reunion? Tools we did not have twenty years ago?
Rev. Wilson is the pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, and author of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, the quintessential apologetic for classical Christian education, and a host of other books that have benefited those seeking to raise godly children.
When we decided to talk about family reunions we called our graphic designer Ned Bustard and asked him to put something together that would help you celebrate your family reunion. Well what we got back from him was much more than that. This is a project that cannot only be used at a family reunion, but also used to study family history. When you download the file make sure to pay special attention to the photograph: this is Ned’s grandmother, father and aunt.
Click here to go to the page where you can download this wonderful project.
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Free talk by Peter Leithart
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Two Williams Teaser, Release III
You may be familiar with the Monroe Family Chronicles series by Douglas Wilson that tracks the history of America. The first two volumes, Blackthorn Winter and Susan Creek covering piracy in the early 1700’s and The First Great Awakening, respectively, are in print and available from us. The manuscript for the third installment, Two Williams, covering the War for Independence, is complete, and the artist has begun illustrating it. We expect the book to be available in September. We are herewith releasing installments of the book, a couple chapters at a time for you as an epistula reader. Click here to view the next installment. But be warned: we may not release the whole book in this format.
Q. What are the plans after Omnibus III?
A. Omnibus III is the completion of the first time cycle of studying the Great Books. Omnibus I features ancient works, Omnibus II features medieval works and Omnibus III features modern works. This first cycle emphasizes the disciplines of history, theology and literature. Omnibus IV, V & VI will follow the same time cycle but will be more comprehensive. We anticipate a fall planning retreat with the editors to build on the first three books and anticipate broadening the approach to include additional disciplines such as art, economics, math, music and science. Don’t hold us to this list but the idea is to broaden the rhetoric student’s ability to know, understand and be able to articulate a position. In other words to create true liberal arts students—students that are free to pursue anything and excel in it.
Q. It seems time consuming to memorize the Bible and history events from the cards. Is it really worth the time to do this?
A. We know that memorizing the timeline is time consuming each week, but it can also be a fun part of your work. Consider throwing the tapes in your car and listening to them as you drive from place to place. Set fun goals for the children and when they reach them, reward with a special treat. For example, “If you get all your history events and dates this week, Dad will take you for an ice cream cone Friday night.” There are also lots of games in the back of the teacher’s manual that can be played in order to reinforce the timeline.
It really is important to do this memory work. How often have you been reading your Bible and had no idea where this person belongs in history? Did the Persian War come before the Peloponnesian War? When your children start reading the great books, what a difference it makes when they can think back to their chronology and place people and events. If we really are to understand the world into which God placed us, we need to understand those that stood before us, and part of that understanding is realizing how they relate one to another.
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On line classes in Omnibus I (Primary Books) and Greek I are being offered. Omnibus I is full and a waiting list has been created anticipating enough demand for a second class. Space is still available for Greek I. Check out the information on our home page.
Veritas Academy Teacher Training
July 19–21, 2006, Lancaster, Pa. Douglas and Nancy Wilson will be the keynote speakers. Find more information at www.veritasacademy.com.
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