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Last week, while we were in St. Louis, Ray got a call from Terry Shelburne, a homeschooling dad we met several years ago. Now that he is teaching Exploring America to a homeschool group, he asked Ray if he could come and speak to his class sometime. Since Terry’s class meets on Mondays in Middle Tennessee, we decided “no time like the present” and scheduled to meet with them on our way home.

We had arrived in Clarksville, Tennessee, on Sunday night in time to spend a sweet evening visiting with my brother and his family, which included haircuts by my niece Ashley. She’s a professional hairstylist who works at a beautiful salon, but she is so kind to let us come to her house at odd hours that fit into our wacky schedule — she uses a tall stool for me and a regular chair for Ray. As I sat for my cut, my brother kept walking across the room to show me photos from our childhood he has put on his computer.

As we neared Steve’s house at dusk, the pink sky cast a beautiful light over the lush spring green of the Tennessee hills. As it turns out, the homeschool history class meets at a retreat center in my home county. The drive there was beautiful, too. I’m not sure I have ever seen the water sparkle prettier on the Cumberland River.

Though I have been in that part of the county before, I don’t remember ever visiting Bethany Hills camp where the history classes are held. When we arrived, we parked by this lake.

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In addition to the seven students in his class, Terry had invited other classes and several mamas to join them. He had told us that he might have a reception afterward. It was certainly more than a reception.

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Ray and me with our friend Terry

Terry personally had bought decorations with an American theme, . . .

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purchased a beautiful cake, . . .

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and provided a wonderful lunch for everyone.

As Terry had requested, Ray and I talked to the students and mamas about how to write and publish a book. Then, Ray spoke to them about the reason it is important to study history. Though Ray has been giving this lecture at conventions this spring and I had listened to one of those on CD, this was my first time to get the chance to hear him give it in person. Ray gave eight reasons:

8. Because a lot of history we only think we know. There is much we don’t know and so much to learn.

7. Because studying history helps us realize that we’re all imperfect and we need to admit it.

6. Because people and events are generally more complex than we want to think they are, and studying history helps us realize this.

5. Because studying history helps us understand that what people believe drives what they do.

4. Because not knowing history can cost us.

3. Because we can see how people created in God’s image do amazing things.

2. Because we can be proud of our country’s place in history.

1. Because history–and life–are at root spiritual matters.

One of the questions asked after Ray’s talk came from a grandmother. She asked how we can prepare our grandchildren for a world with values so different from the ones we have been used to. Ray gave her a three word answer:

Stay the course.

He talked about the terrible values that existed in the world in which the first Christians lived and said that the world now may be more like the first century than any century since then. He encouraged us not to blend in with the culture, stating that it is only by being salt and light that Christians can survive and make a difference.

The early Christians changed the world because they were salt that refused to lose its saltiness and light that refused to be placed under a bushel. The God Who empowered them, empowers us. The God Who was powerful enough to work through them is powerful enough to work through us. The God Who loved the world enough to send His Son to die for it loves us and every other person in the world still.

From my chair in the audience, I could see this pretty mantle above the fireplace. See how the light streams through the trees and brightens the scene of the painting. God is counting on us to be bright lights and to train our children to be bright lights, too.

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But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,
so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him
who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God;
you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers
to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles,
so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers,
they may because of your good deeds,
as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
1 Peter 2:9-12

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  1. You’ve had some real goodies lately, but today’s blog was just what I needed to hear and helped give me clarity to a situation that has been heavy on my mind lately. Love you, Charlene!

  2. Ray has such a wonderful way of condensing big truths into little bites. His reasons for studying history reflect this perfectly! Thanks for the work all of you do to communicate God’s message through history.

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