Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Dogma IS the Drama

I'm re-reading a collection of essays by Dorothy Sayers compiled under the title, Letters to a Diminished Church. I am reminded again of how much she had to say about matters other than the Trivium!

Upon the distribution and performance of her play, The Zeal of Thy House, Sayers was accused by some of enhancing the teaching of Christianity. They found her dramatization infinitely more interesting than they had imagined the teaching of the gospel to be. "It was felt that if there were anything attractive in Christian philosophy I must have put it there myself," says Sayers. She then surmises how the following questions might have been answered by a culture who largely misunderstands what it is that the Scriptures and the church teach:

He is omnipotent and holy. He created the world and imposed on man conditions impossible of fulfillment; he is very angry if these are not carried out. He sometimes interferes by means of arbitrary judgments and miracles, distributed with a good deal of favoritism. He likes to be truckled to and is always ready to pounce on anybody who trips up over a difficulty in the law or is having a bit of fun. He is rather like a dictator, only larger and more arbitrary.

He is in some way to be identified with Jesus of Nazareth. It was not his fault that the world was made like this, and, unlike God the Father, he is friendly to man and did his best to reconcile man to God. He has a good deal of influence with God, and if you want anything done, it is best to apply to him.

I don't know exactly. He was never seen or heard of until Whitsunday. There is a sin against him that damns you for ever, but nobody knows what it is.

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the whole thing incomprehensible. Something put in by theologians to make it more difficult - nothing to do with daily life or ethics.

He was a good man - so good as to be called the Son of God. He is to be identified in some way with God the Son. He was meek and mild and preached a simple religion of love and pacifism. He had no sense of humor. Anything in the Bible that suggests another side to his character must be an interpolation, or a paradox invented by G.K. Chesterton. If we try to live like him, God the Father will let us off being damned hereafter and only have us tortured in this life instead.

God wanted to damn everybody, but his vindictive sadism was sated by the crucifixion of his own Son, who was quite innocent, and therefore a particularly attractive victim. He now only damns people who don't follow Christ or who never heard of him.

God made it necessary to the machinery of the world, and tolerates it, provided the parties (a) are married, and (b) get no pleasure out of it.

Sex; getting drunk; saying "damn"; murder; cruelty to dumb animals; not going to church; most kinds of amusement. "Original sin" means that everything we enjoy doing is wrong.

Resolutely shutting your eyes to scientific fact.

Respectability, childishness, mental timidity, dullness, sentimentality, censoriousness, and depression of spirits.

Sayers attributes this popular view of Christian doctrine to our paltry, timid lives and our lazy thinking. "Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore."

"Let us, in heaven's name, drag out the divine drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much worse for the pious. If all men are offended because of Christ, let them be offended; but where is the sense of their being offended at something that is not Christ and is nothing like him? We do him singularly little honor by watering down his personality till it could not offend a fly. Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ.

"It is the dogma that is the drama - not beautiful phrases, comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to lovingkindness, not the promise of something nice after death - but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe."

Thursday, May 29, 2008


As you may have noticed already, I'm not finding a lot of time to blog since school let out. It may remain that way for a while...I don't know. Don't give up on me forever, I just don't have chunks of time to think and write...but I'm having fun!

Friday, May 23, 2008

School's Out!!

No more papers to grade...YAHOO!

Uniforms have been pitched...YAY!

School books and binders piled in my office...YUCK!

Trying to establish summer routines...HMMM.

Too busy to blog this week...BOO!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prince Caspian

Yes, I reviewed the movie in the previous post, but I also read the book for the first time earlier this week and wanted to record some of my favorite lines/passages from it. No profound commentary or anything, just quotes. I wasn't totally crazy about A Horse and His Boy, so I wasn't sure what I would think about Prince Caspian, but it rates right up there with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!


The dwarf Nikabrik is very suspicious of Caspian when they find him injured in the woods, because he doesn't trust humans. He complains to the others that no good will come of his presence.

"Don't you go talking about things you don't understand, Nikabrik," said Trufflehunter. "You Dwarfs are as forgetful and changeable as the Humans themselves. I'm a beast, I am, and a Badger what's more. We don't change. We hold on. I say great good will come of it. This is the true King of Narnia we've got here: a true King, coming back to true Narnia. And we beasts remember, even if Dwarfs forget, that Narnia was never right except when a son of Adam was King."

Lucy's first encounter with Aslan on this particular trip to Narnia goes like this:

"Welcome, child," he said.

"Aslan, said Lucy, "you're bigger."

"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"

"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

Lucy receives her commission from Aslan, but is disappointed that he hasn't set everything right already. Her complaint sounds somewhat familiar, don't you think? "And I thought you'd come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away..."

When Peter and Edmund go off to war leaving the girls behind with Aslan, the trees begin to dance and there appear a wild and handsome young boy and several maidens, followed by laughing, shouting, games, and feasting! This is how they spend their time in Aslan's presence even as the men head out to fight. When they stop celebrating, Lucy realizes that the boy was Bacchus - the Roman god of wine. Susan's response is, "I say, Lu, I wouldn't have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we'd met them without Aslan." To which Lucy responds, "I should think not!"

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Beauty and Brilliance

Though the title might lead you to believe otherwise, this post is actually not about ME. But was a nice thought.

The boys, Riesa, and I ventured out to see Prince Caspian yesterday afternoon. And, trust me, when anyone over 30 heads to Ronnie's 20 on a Friday, it qualifies as a "venture" (i.e. a risky or dangerous undertaking). As is usually the case with movies "based" on books, PC was less than satisfying. It was even less true to the book than the first Narnia movie and took greater liberties than I had expected with Mr. Gresham at the helm.

The scenery was stunning, the battles intense, and the creatures realistic, but they focused too heavily on these features and the story suffered as a result. The complusion to add to and even distort the original storyline leads me to believe the script writers must not fully appreciate the beauty and brilliance of Lewis' narrative.

Lewis' gentle cadence and rather-unadorned appeals to the imagination arouse in me a childlike delight and sense of wonder, while his artful weaving of Biblical symbolism, imagery, and theology bring to mind beautiful and profound truths. These qualities combine in a unique way in Lewis. Beatrix Potter writes with a similar gentle cadence, A.A. Milne evokes the childlike delight, Tolkien weaves the imagery, but none of these - for me anyway - incorporate them all to the effect that Lewis does.

When the cadence and profound simplicity are removed, as they are in the movie, the story only marginally resembles the original. The imitation is good, but the original is a masterpiece.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kool-Aid for Grown-Ups

My e-mail system does a pretty good job of screening out spam, but I do receive 2-3 a day. Those that slip through are obvious and I send them straight to the Spam folder. But for some reason, this one made me laugh today:
Look better NOW!
Flatten Your Tummy with Colon-Aid.

Do we have a webcam I didn't know about?

I mean, how do THEY know my tummy needs flattening?

Or do they just have access to a list entitled:

"Women Over 40 Who Have Given Birth"

because really, that's all they would need, you know?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Le Grande Fromage

Saturday evening we attended a dinner with a "French" theme and I was assigned to bring a cheese tray. Sound simple enough...unless, like me , you know absolutely nothing about anything French...including cheese! After some internet research and trips to Sam's, Trader Joe's, and The Wine & Cheese Place, here's what we ended up with:
St. Andre (Trader Joe's) - a soft, triple-creme, rich, buttery cheese - excellent spread on a piece of dried Bartlett pear
Port Salut (Sam's) - a mild, semi-soft, white cheese - very good on either Kellog's All-Bran crackers or the dried pears
Raclette (Trader Joe's) - a firmer cheese with a slightly nutty flavor - works well alone or on the All-Bran crackers.  Excellent when combined with almonds.
Basque (The Wine & Cheese Place) - a sheep's milk cheese not altogether different from the Raclette - slightly stronger aftertaste - also good alone, on a plain wafer, or bran cracker
Comte (Trader Joe's) - mildly pungent, semi-firm cheese - pairs well with wafer or cracker
St. Agur (The Wine & Cheese Place) - a soft, double-creme bleu cheese - very salty and creamy - best served on completely plain bread, wafer or cracker so that the full flavor can be experienced.
French Brie (Sam's) - soft, slightly pungent - excellent with blueberries and brown sugar scattered over top, then melted - serve with Almond-butter wafers from Trader Joe's
I highly recommend the St. Andre, St. Agur, Basque and Brie with blueberries. The only bleu I've liked more than the St. Agur is Schwarz & Weiss, an Amish-made bleu which I can't find anywhere in St. Louis right now. Of course I couldn't have included it on a French cheese plate anyway, could I?
The Wine & Cheese Place, is a great little shop that allows you to taste anything you want, and their staff is very knowledgeable. I always feel out of place when I walk in - like I'm not rich or worldly enough - but if you get the right person (not snobby) it's a very helpful experience. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Scheuermann's Kyphosis

That is Grant's official diagnosis from yesterday's visit to the ortho guy.

The good news is that since he has no pain associated with it, they are going to leave it alone for now and his activities remain unrestricted. He can weight lift and begin training for football this summer as planned.

The bad news may not be bad at all. Because noone knows the origin or cause of his "deformity," (thus the diagnosis of Scheuermann's which is caused by abnormal growth of the vertebrae during puberty) they want to do new x-rays in 3 months. If the curve has progressed (it's currently 50+ degrees), they will brace him until he is 16 or stops growing...that would eliminate all participation in sports until that time. Of course we hope they find no change, but are praying for humble and peaceful submission to whatever comes his way.

In the meantime, Grant is to do some postural training that may (or may not) help stem or at least discourage the progression.

We all - Grant especially - are relieved with the full-steam-ahead approach! Yeah...even me...I'm O-K with the whole football thing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fundamental Tenets of Teaching I

Because I am leaving my post as teacher, I was asked by 2 colleagues, who are too young to know any better, to lay out those guiding principles which I believe are essential to teaching. After thinking it through for a number of weeks, here is the first of 3 that I have come up with: (by the way, these thoughts, as usual, are derivative...influenced by many books, sermons, lectures, conversations and experience...nothing profoundly original here.)

Principle # 1:
A truly Christian pedagogy must be incarnational.

I remember the first time I heard a statement to that effect. It was an unexplained passing remark in a larger discussion about education, but it stuck with me because, at the time, its meaning eluded me. Not that I have fully secured its meaning now, but after years of periodically mulling it over, this idea has begun to take a shape which emerges more clearly in my mind through further instruction, conversation and experience.

Incarnational pedagogy insists that effective teaching and learning take place person to person - in community. This idea carries a multitude of implications which are extremely difficult for fiercely independent individuals (such as myself) to accept. The implications of incarnational teaching are far-reaching and pervasive. I surely cannot address them all here, but hopefully we can all flesh-out the applications for our particular situations.

Many of us, either through our own or our children's experiences, can attest to the significant and sometimes long-term damage caused by poor teacher-student relations. Whether this faulty relationship stems from a basic conflict in personality, rebellion or inability on the child's part, stubbornness or incompetence on the teacher's part, or a critical spirit on the parent's part, in every case, real learning is hindered if not halted entirely.

A teacher who doesn't really love his students, or remains superficial in his relationship with them, will tend to enforce rules and expectations arbitrarily, generating resentment toward the teacher or toward favored students who never seem to fall prey to the random rebukes. Students know, or at least suspect, when they are not loved. (By the way, that is NOT to disregard that children regularly misinterpret or misrepresent their own case. They are sinners like the rest of us and, if they can generate pity or a lesser punishment by portraying the teacher as "unfair" or themselves as "innocent," they will! But the intent of this essay, is to address the teacher's responsibility and demeanor.)

A less-than-loving teacher is often highly concerned with the amount of measurable data that is acquired, students' GPA's, and standardized test scores since these are interpreted as a direct and public reflection of his "teaching ability." His students often become the victims of data download...large amounts of information may be acquired, but without penetrating to the heart in any meaningful way. This kind of "learning" is temporary at best, and leads to a "performance-only" mentality or a "puffed-up" heart at worst.

The lack of true love on the teacher's part might manifest itself in ways other than the two mentioned above, but hopefully those examples are sufficient to remind us of the experiential reality that significant learning potential is lost in the absence of loving relationship. My intention is not to attribute all academic success or failure to the teacher-student relationship, but barring real mental or emotional obstacles that prevent learning, I believe the necessity of loving relationship is normative.

Hopefully we have also witnessed the reaping of innumerable benefits when the converse is true. A child who has struggled in school or a particular subject, may suddenly take great interest and find success because he loves and is loved by his teacher. That love may be exhibited through patience and understanding with the child's struggles, or it may result from a connection established apart from the academic setting (such as common interest in airplane models, or Cardinal baseball, etc.).

A loving teacher strives to operate justly and consistently in the classroom , while considering individual students' personalities, interests, strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and life-circumstances.

A loving teacher desires for each student to enter school daily with the confidence that he is loved, that he is understood, and that his teacher is working for his particular benefit. Given the diversity of most classrooms, that is an incredibly enormous task, but if we love, this will nevertheless be our goal.

A loving teacher will take great pains to insure that his students are acquiring more than mere head-knowledge. He will engage his students in discussion, exercises and conversation whose goal is to transfer the raw knowledge set before him into understanding which penetrates the heart and begins to transform the way the student thinks, feels, and acts.

Keep in mind though, parents, that just as the lack of love will manifest itself in various ways, so will the presence of love. Teachers, like all human beings, possess a variety of personalities, which influence the way they express or withhold love. A "strict" teacher can be just as loving as a "sweet" teacher, even though their classrooms may operate differently.

If we accept the premise that loving relationship is necessary for maximum learning, we must necessarily examine the structure and atmosphere of our classrooms. Are we providing our teachers with a structure designed to maximize their opportunities? How many students can a teacher be reasonably expected to know, love and meet the needs of? I would suggest the optimal size is 10-12. This remains a somewhat unrealistic notion since schools have largely become independent financial enterprises rather than member-supported ministries of the local parish church, but experience tells me it is a worthy, if lofty, goal. Even the most experienced and competent teacher is unable to ascertain the individual needs of 20+ students, nor is it hard to imagine how a relaxed, less-taxed teacher is more likely to operate lovingly.

The classroom atmosphere is dependent, not only on the children's vertical relationship with the teacher, but also on horizontal relationships between students. Love between classmates doesn't often come naturally and requires a great deal of instruction in wisdom on the teacher's part. He must plant, water, and feed the seeds of love while pulling the weeds of discontent, strife, malice, etc. If these sins are allowed to grow between students, they present a severe distraction from the learning process. Children need to learn early on that they can benefit from the input and perspective of peers who approach ideas from a different vantage point than themselves. They can actually learn from one another if they stop vying for top-position, either with the teacher or among the other students. They must learn to value one another, bearing with one another's weaknesses, rejoicing in one another's victories, building one another up, etc. These student-to-student relationships can greatly hinder or help the process of learning.

The above comments about relationships apply in a homeschool setting as well as in a classroom, and this principle of incarnational teaching should also inform our use of technology in the home school. Though all books, computer programs and videos come to us through other people and so are "incarnational" to some extent, they should not replace the interpersonal relationship and dialogue that are essential for real and lasting understanding.

At the very least then, our experiences with teachers and fellow students, whether in the home or the classroom, confirm that neither educational degrees, teachings "skills", experience nor course content are paramount in effectively transmitting knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Training and experience can certianly enhance a teacher's ability - and a good teacher will always seek ways to improve his delivery, advance his understanding of the human-brain, obtain the most thorough and well-thought-out curriculum, and acquire new knowledge or skills that improve his practice of his craft. My point, though, is that no acquisition of these skills and abilities, however thorough, can erase the necessity of loving interaction in the Christian learning environment.

Why is this true, though? Why is the process of learning inextricably linked to these outward, social relationships? Because man is created in the image of the Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - who live in perpetual, eternal fellowship with and service for One Another. This Trinity is essentially communal and thus man, like the Image in which he was created, is social by nature. It is not good for man to be alone. We need one another. We are designed to function optimally in relation to others.

Think about it. When God created Adam and placed him in the garden, he declared that it was not good for him to be alone. Adam wasn't really alone, was he? He was in direct fellowship with God, was he not? He was surrounded by living creatures in a perfectly beautified and untainted environment, wasn't he? Why then, did God declare him to be alone and set out to change that? Because the life of man would not be a true image of the Creator if it did not reflect the mutual fellowship, love and submission embodied in the Trinity.

It is not good for man to be, do, or learn alone. Think of the multitude of false teachings and religions which have been cultivated by men or women who developed their views in isolation. Joseph Smith, Mohammad, Jim Jones...those three alone are enough to make the point! Therein lies the danger of "just me and God and the Bible." Too often, when men set themselves to learn Scripture, or any truth, without seeking wisdom and validation from others, they go off the proverbial deep-end, ending in grave error.

This fact leads me to question Dorothy Sayer's statement in her popular essay on The Lost Tools of Learning that "the sole true end of all learning then is to teach men to learn for themselves." Though I believe her intention was for us to equip students so that they have the ability to pursue new knowledge without absolute dependence on a teacher, we must be careful not to over-apply this idea! Our goal should not be little students sitting alone in their rooms acquiring massive amounts of knowledge on their own! We must teach our children to engage others in these seek input, discussion and wisdom from real people, not solely from books, tapes, websites, videos or nature. Those who learn in isolation are in great danger, not only of falling into error, but of becoming idealistic and arrogant in their thinking. This almost always results in a harsh, critical, judgmental, divisive spirit which then leads to further isolation.

It is also helpful to remember that God, from the beginning, ministered his grace to his people through human agents. He didn't just drop a copy of The Decalogue on the doorstep of every tent. He provided fathers, elders, priests, judges, kings, and prophets as agents of his law, love, forgiveness, knowledge, understanding, etc. And what was his ultimate act of love on our behalf? The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and through The Man Christ Jesus we beheld the glory of the Father. The Truth, the Way, the Life, Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom....embodied in human flesh. Our desire should be to embody the Gospel for our students...we are living, human agents of God's Truth, not mechanical transmitters of data. As we live in faith and love beside our students, they will be encouraged to willingly submit to the yoke of learning and will likewise be stirred up to love and good works.

Principle #1:
A truly Christian pedagogy must be incarnational.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Charlie Bit Me...

I know...2 days in a row I've posted a video, but this is too cute, and pitiful, and hilarious...I couldn't resist!

Fun From Bloggin-Dazs

Angie at Bloggin'Dazs tagged all of us coffee lovers to answer the following questions in 2 words:

1. Where is your cell phone? Don't own
2. Where is your significant other? Southwest airplane
3. Your hair? Dark curls
4. Your mother? Lovely lady
5. Your father? Hardworking husband
6. Your favorite thing? Peace, quiet
7. Your dream last night? Don't remember
8. Your favorite drink? Strong coffee
9. Your dream/goal? Godly children
10. The room you're in? Cold basement
11. Your hobby? Cooking, eating
12. Your fear? Kidnapped children
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Right here
14. Where were you last night? Choir practice
15. What you're not? Skinny, optimistic
16. Muffins? Cinnamon scone
17. One of your wish list items? Oreck XL
18. Where you grew up? Hammond, IN
19. The last thing you did? Feed Riesa
20. What are you wearing? Linen skirt
21. Your TV? Big Screen
22. Your pets? Bye bye!
23. Your computer? Gateway PC
24. Your life? Predictable chaos
25. Your mood? Surprisingly pleasant
26. Missing someone? Sister Pam
27. Your car? 1997 wagon
28. Something you're not wearing? Argyle socks
29. Favorite store? TJ Maxx
30. Your summer? Long, lazy
31. Like someone? Can't...married
32. Your favorite color? Green, green
33. When is the last time you laughed? Angie's #19
34. Last time you cried? Shaun's death

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Lord's Prayer

I saw this over at Brandy's blog and it was too cute not to share! This little girl is 2-years-old. It's unbelievable the way she can carry a tune! You-Tube has other recordings of her as well.

The Lord's Prayer

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Good Earth

What are good friends for, if not to share books they've enjoyed! That's how I came to read The Good Earth. It was not only recommended, but loaned to me, by a friend. And...I read it cover to cover without making a single mark in the book! That's not easy for me, you know. I always want to mark off especially poignant passages, or to label examples of recognition, reversal or figures of description for future reference!

Pearl S. Buck, because of her status as missionary kid growing up in China, was well-equipped to elucidate the slice of eastern civilization which she portrays in this novel. I walked away feeling as though I had visited this vastly foreign culture. Buck's exquisite use of language, character, and place beautifully relates the life of Wang Lung, whose ascent to wealth and status parallels what we would deem his tragic moral descent; though it was not seen as such in his un-Gospeled world.

Beautiful and tragic. That about sums it up.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What Of It?

Following are a Scripture reading, a hymn and a quote from Ascension Sunday's Covenant Renewal Service at PRPC, which was especially uplifting. Thanks, Pastor Smith.

"I kept looking in the night visions
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Adam was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him
And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations, and tongues
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed."
Daniel 7:13-14

Blue Trinity Hymnal # 211
See, the Conquerer mounts in triumph;
See the King in royal state,
Riding on the clouds, his chariot,
To his heavenly palace gate:
Hark! the choirs of angel voices
Joyful Alleluias sing
And the portals high are lifted
To receive their heavenly King.

Who is this that comes in glory,
With the trump of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies,
He has gained the victory;
He who on the cross did suffer,
He who from the grave arose,
He has vanquished sin and Satan,
He by death has spoiled his foes.

Thou hast raised our human nature
In the clouds to God's right hand;
There we sit in heav'nly places,
There with thee in glory stand:
Jesus reigns, adored by angels,
Man with God is on the throne;
Mighty Lord, in thine ascension
We by faith behold our own!

From a sermon by Calvin:

Jesus is at the right hand of God in this nature which He assumed with us...He is always ready to stretch out to us His hand, and we must be certain that, although we suffer for a time, the end of it will be for our salvation. That is what must be understood when His Ascension is spoken of. Thus, since He has gone up there, and is in heaven for us, let us note that we need not fear to be in this world.

It is true that we are subject to so much misery that our condition is pitiable, [but] we look to our Head Who is already in heaven, and say, “Although I am weak, there is Jesus Christ Who is powerful enough to make me stand upright. Although I am feeble, there is Jesus Christ who is my strength. Although I am full of miseries, Jesus Christ is in immortal glory and what He has will some time be given to me and I shall partake of all His benefits.

“Yes, the devil is called the prince of this world. But what of it? Jesus Christ holds him in check; for He is King of heaven and earth. There are devils above us in the air who make war against us. But what of it? Jesus Christ rules above, having entire control of the battle. Thus, we need not doubt that He gives us the victory. I am here subject to many changes, which may cause me to lose courage. But what of it? The Son of God is my Head, Who is exempt from all change. I must, then, take confidence in Him.”

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On

2 earthquakes and 3 palpable aftershocks in a matter of weeks. Crazy...just crazy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Listen, Believe, Obey

The previous post offers a bare bones argument for why the adults in the Body of Christ should set a priority on the Christian education of our little ones, specifically in the ministry of Sunday School. But it cannot be ignored that as we take responsibility for that work, it will only achieve its full effect when our children fulfill their responsibilities as well. As parents, we would do well to remind our children of their dutiful response. Which is:

1. Our children must HEAR. They must not let the familiarity with the subjects at hand lead to indifference. They must listen actively. An apathetic and unresponsive heart is a heart that is more easily led astray and it is a reflection of a haughty spirit to think we already know it all. The Word of God is a deep mine whose treasures can never be fully exhausted.

The Shorter Catechism states well how we are to hear:

Q. 90 - How is the Word to be read and heard that it may become effectual unto salvation?

A. 90 - That the Word may become effectual unto salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation and prayer; receive it with faith and love and lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.

Our children have memorized this, but do they know what it means to attend diligently? Our friend, Noah Webster, would say they are to listen with "steady, earnest and energetic effort." There is a reason our pastors, before the public reading of Scripture, regularly remind us to "Pay careful attention!" or "Listen carefully!" How much more do our children need this reminder not to take God's Word lightly but to listen on purpose.

It is their duty to heed Solomon's advice to his son,

"Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it..."
Proverbs 8:33
"My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings..."
Proverbs 4:20
"And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth..."
Proverbs 5:7

Deuteronomy reminds us that the words of God are not just idle words for us, they are our life! We must remind our children of this so that they listen - diligently...carefully...actively...on purpose. When they hear God's words through our instruction, their minds are renewed, they take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and they begin to think God's thoughts after him.

We should also remind them that their hearts and minds must be prepared to receive God's word, which means that sins must be confessed prior to hearing. We also must receive the Word with prayer. The Psalmists repeatedly implore, "Open my eyes..." "Give me understanding..." "Make me to know..." "Teach me..." We do well to remember our dependence on the work of God's Spirit to guide us into His Truth.

2. Our children must HOLD FAST. Once they listen diligently to God's word, they must take hold of it...that is, grab onto it as they would a life-preserver in the middle of the ocean. Holding fast to what you hear is an act of belief. Again, Solomon instructs his son:

"Let your heart hold fast to my words..."
Proverbs 4:4
"Hold fast to instruction; do not let her go; guard her for she is your life."
Proverbs 4:13
"Whoever takes hold of instruction is on the path to life."
Proverbs 10:17
"Bind them [teachings] on your heart always; tie them around your neck..."
Proverbs 6:21
"Bind them [commandments] on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart."
Proverbs 7:3

Holding fast is an expression of faith which leads to ever-increasing trust and devotion. If our children express doubt and skepticism, we must pray earnestly with and for them and encourage them to pray for themselves, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!"

3. Our children must HEED. (Yes, it's alliterated. Clever...I know. Or maybe it's just cheesy!) Finally, once our children listen carefully and take hold by faith, then they must put it into practice. They are not to be like the man who sees himself in the mirror, but walks away and immediately forgets what he saw. No, belief necessarily translates into action...or "faith without works is dead." Failure to obey is the same as disobedience. A life of habitual, unconfessed disobedience is a life absent of faith. Not only are they to resist inaction or direct disobedience, they should, like the Psalmist, turn their feet unto his testimonies and make haste to keep his commandments!

"My son, keep your father's commandments..."
Proverbs 6:20
"Keep my commandments and live..."
Proverbs 7:2
"He who keeps the law is a discerning son..."
Proverbs 28:7

When our children listen, believe and obey the words of God, we will see them walking worthy of their calling in Christ Jesus, applying Truth to their daily lives, destroying every vain philosophy that raises itself up against the knowledge of God, discipling the nations, and one-anothering their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Isn't that a joyful vision?!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It Takes a Village

Well, actually it takes a Church. But as often happens with false ideas and philosophies, Hillary brushed up against the truth while promoting her particular distortion of it. We are not meant to live in isolation as individuals or even as families. As image-bearers of a Triune God, we are communal by nature and we reach our fullest potential when we make the most of the gifts, wisdom and service of our Christian brothers and sisters. This is particularly true in the area of raising our children.

All of us parents become weary at times, and most of us have experienced times when our children weren't anxious to receive our counsel. The larger family of God can contribute significantly to the Christian discipleship of our children, alleviating the illusion that it all relies on us. Of course, we know that their remaining faithful requires a work of the Holy Spirit, but we also know that this work most often, if not always, comes to them through other believers - parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, elders, pastors, friends, etc.

Add that reality to the vows we take every time one of our little ones is baptized, and it's easy to see why we adults in the body of Christ should be committed to serving these children in a ministry such as Sunday school.

The primary purpose of Sunday school is to lead our students toward an increasingly thorough and mature understanding of, and faith in, the words and works of the Triune God; and to encourage them to demonstrate this understanding and faith through a life of self-sacrificial service, for the redemption of the world and for the building up of the body of Christ.

Our goal for each student is in keeping with Solomon's for his son:

"To know wisdom and instruction;
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and understanding to the youth."
Proverbs 2:1-4

Wisdom...there's a fairly lofty goal! How do we attain something so high? Well, we have to start somewhere and again, Solomon instructs us:

"The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom..."
Proverbs 9:10

This is where we begin: with the fear of Yahweh. In order to instill this in our children, they must begin to know him - his ways, his works, his character. Where else will they come to know him except through his Word...his divine revelation of himself.

"Yahweh gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."
Proverbs 2:6

Wisdom is a gift of God and it comes from his mouth. At the risk of stating the obvious, then, the path that will lead our children toward wisdom is the Word of God, whereby they hear him, know him, fear him and trust him.

Keep in mind that we are not primarily concerned with teaching doctrinal statements or systematic theologies, but the ways, works and faithfulness of the Lord as manifest in the Holy Scriptures. Systematic theologies can be a helpful tool for organizing and teaching major doctrines, but the primacy of the Word of God must be stressed, with all doctrinal systems subject to its scrutiny.

What are the responsibilities of Sunday School teachers in this mission of leading our children toward wisdom?

1. Remember the goal. As you teach, keep in mind that your role is to cultivate faith and Christian maturity through God's Word. That overarching goal will inform your approach and emphasis as you teach.

2. Teach the Word. Our children need to learn the whole counsel of God: Old, New, stories, genealogies, poetry, history, exhortation, reproof, rebuke, doctrine, correction, instruction in righteousness, encouragement, etc. The curriculum we have chosen to use at our church, systematically teaches through both the Old and New testaments, varying the focus depending on the students' ages.

3. Know your significance. What you are doing is no less than planting, nourishing, and watering seeds of faith! You are furthering and strengthening the Kingdom of Christ! You are equipping the saints for ministry! These are no small potatoes, folks! As Louis Berkhof says, "We must employ all the means at our command to unfold before their very eyes the treasures of divine grace of which they are heirs in Jesus Christ."

4. Know your limitations. Even though your task is enormously important, you are only one piece of the larger puzzle which comprises their discipleship. Parents, school teachers and pastors are also contributing. Attainment of wisdom doesn't happen in one year! It is the work of a lifetime.

5. Embody the Gospel. Love your students. Students listen more carefully when they know they are loved. Besides a loving demeanor on Sundays, other simple acts can communicate that you care about them. Write a note every now and then and send it to their home, letting them know you are thinking about and praying for them. Each year, plan 1 or 2 activities outside of classtime where you can get to know them in a different setting. Show up to the classroom early on Sundays to listen and talk. All of these things can be done without creating an undue burden on the teacher.

So, you see, we all need each other within the Body of Christ. It takes all of us working together to provide the greatest opportunity for our children to grow to maturity.

It also requires something of our children. I'll talk more about that next time.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tip of the Day

If your doctor confers a diagnosis on your child with which you are not familiar, don't go home and Google it.

You're sure to find an abundance of words like "surgery" "paraplegia" "spina bifida" "deformity" "lung failure" "neurological parapaethesia" etc.

Don't do it.

You're welcome.

I'm just here to help.