Saturday, April 29, 2006

He's My Ideal

If you had the ideal father, how would you relate with him? Would you have fun together on picnics? Go to shows and laugh out loud with him? Take him shopping and dress him in the most current styles? Ask him for help with your problems? Trust his wisdom? Share every thought you have along the way?


If you had the perfect best friend, what would you do together? Would you giggle in bed until all hours on overnight visits? Tell her your deepest hearts desires and listen to what she had to say? Would you take walks together? Talk on the phone daily? Want to share every special thing with them?


If the peerless bridegroom had chosen you, how would you treat him? Would your heart be filled with longing for him whenever you weren’t together? Would you write notes of devotion and passion to assure him of his place in your heart? Make his favorite desserts – often? Dress to please him? Learn to love what he loves? Would you revel in the fact that you are the apple of his eye, jealously guarding that place in his heart? Would you adore him, take pride in him, overlook his weaknesses?


We have all this and so much more in Jesus Christ. As I consider once again the treasure that this relationship is, I realize that at times I am sloppy in my care of that relationship. Not that I will lose a place in His heart, for He is unchanging in His love for me, but it is up to me to tend the garden of my heart. He is so deserving of my devotion. Nothing else even compares in worth. I want to faithfully express my love to Him, to sit in absolute adoration of His wonder and beauty.

I enjoy being told on a regular basis that I am wonderful, loved and appreciated, and remembered for all I've done. Surely He is more deserving. He is "... looking for those who would worship Him..." I want to be one of those faithful ones.

Forgive me Lord, for the lack of simple, daily worship clearly expressed. You are so deserving of all my praise. Forever I want to sing to You of my love, to tell you I adore You, to offer up a faithful and true heart. Forever I want this to be my portion.

I love You, oh, my Lord, my God, and my King.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wild Stallion

Have you ever watched the process of breaking a wild stallion? I have only seen a Hollywood version myself. The animal is roped and at long last bridled, finally succumbing to loss of freedom. But yet it is far from broken.

Freedom seems to have a fragrance, and almost as if that fragrance has wafted in on a breeze, the beast suddenly seems to rise up. His nostrils flare with wild exhilaration, the muscles flex throughout his strong body; with newfound vigor the mane is violently tossed and his eyes are full of fire.

I have begun to walk -- admittedly it is halting at best, but it is independent walking none-the-less. A fragrance of liberty! So I begin to wander around the house, eyeing the laundry, the pantry cupboard, the linen closets, the bedrooms in need of spring cleaning; I consider the undone school projects, practice songs at the piano with my children, look ahead to summer happenings coming our way.

In the night seasons a bit of a panic sweeps in. My tasks seem insurmountable. I can tell the stallion is arising -- previously I did not even consider what needed to be done. There was no reason to even ponder "doings". Now, the muscles are flexing, the mane is tossing and I am ready to try. The daytime brings a better perspective; what appear to be monsters in the shadows of darkness take on a new form in the light of day. I can make lists, I can delegate, we can determine what will and will not be accomplished.

Freedom's redolence is wafting my way. My tether has not been cut loose altogether, but the nostrils have taken in the perfume. It is in the distance, this liberty I long for. I must be careful to not strain against the bridle. I will wait patiently. And in those long tormented nightseasons I will pray unceasingly, casting all care upon the one who holds all true liberty.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Another Authoress

I started reading a short bio on George Eliot followed by her book The Mill on the Floss. She was born in that awful time when Christianity was being swallowed up in mysticism and naturalism. In her youth she seemed quite established in Christian theology, but perhaps in reality it was more in the practice of traditional Christian theology, because once her intellect was spurred on by genius thought of the day, she quickly and easily veered off the beaten course.

In her parlor were often found such men as Emerson, Dickens, Richard Wagner, Darwin, and Kingsley. They were drawn to her lively mind and she was the center of much conversation. Unfortunately these men did not keep the Scripture as their focus, nor did she. In her mind she felt that she never forsook them, but the Word failed to be the beginning and end of all thought. Scripture was not the final authority -- it was no longer the paradigm through which all else was examined. Although their ideas seemed sound enough and kind enough, they were not tested against the Wisdom of all eternity. Their philoshophies and solutions for social concerns most certainly, therefore, fell short of true wisdom.

Oh, the heart is easily deceived and the mind polluted with things that tickle our ears. Once again I was reminded of the importance of formal training in the Word and the life of the Word being lived before the eyes of our young ones. We must have the Holy Spirit present in our lives. We must have! And they must experience the Holy Spirit at a young age lest the spirit of this age sweep in and steal their hearts and minds. He is always looking for opportunity in every sphere - the mind, the heart, the flesh, the eyes. Pray earnestly that they will have real life encounters with the Living God. Nothing less will do. They must taste of His goodness, they must sense His presence with them, they must know deep within their spirit that He alone is truth and life, that all else is counterfeit, and nothing else will deal with sin and eternity in a merciful and just way.

It isn't so much what we shield them from as what we present to them. Living in a vacuum will never satisfy a young searching heart. They want to experience fullness of life. They must experience Him as much as you do.

Christ was never afraid of sin and sorrow; He never ran from it or hid His eyes, but He did know the answer for it. And the truth was never hidden either. As children see the sinful world around them, they must know Christ's answer for it. Bring it all to light; speak the truth in love with boldness. But speak the Word! Unveil the works of darkness for what they are. If we forever hide them from them, they will not learn the truth regarding them.

I remember Bill Gothard sharing how his father would from time to time drive him through the rough part of the city where men were lying in the street in drunken stupors and prostitutes advertised their wares -- not to gloat in smug condescension, but to reveal the reality of sin and all its consequences. He then shared God's heart of redemption, His plan for Holiness and beauty, and His everlasting love for each and every man.

Oh, to remember always the great and wondrous benefits of life in the kingdom. As the Psalmist said:

Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5

Saturday, April 22, 2006

On the Fly -- Again, And More

My hubby left flew out this afternoon to spend the weekend in Texas. He will be attending the ordination service for an old friend (well, actually, he's younger than us, but -- ) I do wish I might have gone with him, but I will hold off on such travel for another two weeks. Then we will both head to Chicago where we will visit our dear friends the Browns as well as take part in a memorial ceremony for another dear friend's father.

Meanwhile, I will start moving a bit more each day in spite of some healing that seems a bit reluctant to attain completion. I seem to be able to walk fairly well, and that is encouraging.

Friday evening a young man from our church lost his mom unexpectedly. She was hemorraging internally and they were not able to save her. She was only a few years older than me. Please pray for the family.

The house is relatively empty at the moment -- I have several kids and a husband in all directions. Louissa is in Minnesota and Jamie is arriving home from Worcester, Mass. tonight. Carina is out to eat, Liana is bowling in Potsdam, and Merrick is en route from the Syracuse Airport with two adopted brothers (see last post.)

Soon they will reconvene, at least in part. It's always nicer to have the house a bit more inhabited.

Full House is now my entertainment. Previously we were watching What A Girl Wants -- gotta love Colin Firth. Not quite Mr. Darcy, but still...

Earlier I actually drove Julia to Elisa Meyers' home where she worked on Spanish worship songs for the summer missions trip. Did you catch that? "I ... drove." That would be me, for the first time in four months. It definitely is like riding a bike -- something you never quite forget, at least not quickly.

I found some great eyeglass necklace holders online. Pretty expensive, but maybe we can find the moola somewhere. It may help me avoid losing them once again. In the long run, it may save us some money! But picking out which one I like the best will be tricky. There are 30 to choose from -- including pearls, wooden beads, crystal, corded, chains, and more. There are about 5 I would really like to get, to match several outfits. But I think I will have to narrow it down to one. I also think I may have too much time on my hands and my hands on the computer too much. You really can find most anything online...

I will get ready to settle in soon. Tomorrow we head to church -- worship, word, and fellowship. Can't get much better!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Inhouse Discipleship

The number of interns around here keeps growing. I love young people. I love sharing my home with them (remember my post on musical bedrooms?) And it looks like this summer may bring an influx of young men our way. Time to build a boys dorm, I think -- something I never needed around here for my natural family!

When I was growing up my aunt's younger sister lived with us for a season of time. I absolutely adored her. I clearly recall sitting on her bed while she fussed over my hair, trimmed my nails, laughed and sang songs. She cooked Pork Adobo (she was Philippino) and told stories of village life before she moved to Manilla. Her broken English was enchanting. Recollections of Susan are like precious jewels in my treasure box of memories. She came and she went. But the season was special.

Maybe my love for having people in my home began there, in that basement bedroom, sharing magical moments with that tiny dark-skinned girl-woman. Maybe my passion for learning about different cultures was ignited through her stories of a life so different from mine. Maybe an enlargement came to my heart as a result of my parents making room for her in our home. I only know that the impact was more than any of us expected.

Now I look back at the home my husband and I have built, with the Lord's gracious help. Over the years our house has been an interim home to many people - 14 individuals who have called our address their own at least for a time, come immediately to mind, and perhaps there were one or two more, if I really stop to recall. My children have been the rich recipients, and hopefully we were able to give something to those who shared their lives with us as well. I know this -- Merrick is loving it. He is beginning to think that "unlimited brothers" is standard fare. He seems to understand which ones are on loan and which ones have a permanent place. In the midst of it all he is thriving.

I just wish I was better at household management. Perhaps an increase will force the issue. Perhaps God is willing to work with me in spite of my lack (do you think? I certainly hope so!) Or perhaps the ship will sink and we will go belly up. Whatever! We will never know until we have tried. The main thing is to serve Him, reach out, care, disciple in whatever way you can (I know this method is probably not for everyone), and look to Him for the increase.

At any rate, I am quickly looking ahead to a full house this summer. And it looks like I may be in need of a twin bed -- if anyone out there has an extra one floating around!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Silly Fun Stuff

Complete these sentences.

I am: sitting in the sun on my side porch, my first outdoor adventure this spring!

Maybe I should: work on the devotional book I’m writing
I love: walking around on two feet (it’s a very good plan)
I don't understand: theology boxes

I lost my: Target receipt for Danica’s maternity swimsuit
People say I'm: opinionated
Love is: God…, filling all of eternity

Somewhere, someone is: making great music (wish I could be there)
I will always: miss the years when all the kids were little
Forever is: how long ago that was

I never want to: live in constant pain
I think the current President is: needing our prayer
When I wake up in the morning, I: lay in bed, mustering up enough oomph to get the cast on again and get moving once more

Life is full of: seasons
My past is incredibly: long ago and far away
I get annoyed when: closets and shelves are disorganized (I have lots of those at the moment)

I wish: to be fully recovered, traveling and serving, soon
My dog is: somewhere else
Kisses are the worst when: only one of you has had garlic

Nice: my kids
Tomorrow I'm going to: start missing Louissa
I really want some: sweet oranges

I have low tolerance for people who are: mean-spirited to those who are weak
If I had a million dollars: I would renovate and decorate our house and be done with it once and for all, and add to our retirement fund

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Quick Thought, Not Too Developed -- Sorry

Marriage is a bit of a mystery. Two mystically become one. That is a bit of a mystery in my book, especially owning the significant differences between any two individuals presented on that wedding day. How can they possibly become one?

I am currently reading "Good Wives - Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650-1750". It is an interesting picture of Puritan views and consequently a portrayal of a slice of our American heritage.

Ah, poor Eve. Decried as a temptress or adored as a goddess, she was rarely understood to be what she was: a mere woman, a wife, a simple helpmeet. Cotton Mather wrote that only blasphemers call women "a necessary Evil, for they are a necessary Good; such as it was not good that man should be without."

A Puritan Goodwife sought to be a consort, which by definition implies a partnership, a companionship in travel or adventure, and one who is in agreement or accord. From Good Wives: "A consort tuned her life to her mate's. For the blessed, marriage harmonized spirituality and sexuality, two concepts frequently at odds in the western world."

Marriage is cited in scripture as a reflection of Christ's relationship with the Church. Our dear Protestant Puritan fathers understood this and openly drew parallels, showing a happy acknowledgement of the pleasure of this union in every aspect. This was no prudish culture. There was no pretense. These people lived real lives full of passion and devotion. Love letters exchanged between separated spouses were fiery examples of those who enjoyed warmest affection, deepest care, and tenderest devotion. Their letters are a true commendation for marriage.

In this day and age, marriage can get a pretty bad rap. I would like to shout from the rooftops that it ought not be so. The union of body, soul, and spirit is pretty wonderful. True, I have lost my identity. It has been blended with another and made into a whole new entity. This is not easy. But the joy of walking out a mystery is a wonder not to be lightly dismissed, nor should we readily relinquish the potential hidden there.

I remind you all again of a discovery that once upon a time shocked my feminist mind: marriage is a good idea. It really is.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Busy Week Ahead of Odds and Ends

Well, busy for husbands and kids but not necessarily me. Only busy watching...

He will be off to Dallas, Texas for a dear old friend's ordination. Marshall Cline will be ordained as he takes on the pastorate of a small work in Texas. Old friends are always a treasure.

We hope to entertain Dr. Henline this Tuesday evening with music, food, and laughter -- Sinclair style. Hope we don't overwhelm him!

School and music lessons return to normal routine for the homeschool crowd. Last week was a bit of a wash with presbytery meetings all those nights followed by Easter prep. Sure was a special week, but now it is gone and simple living must return (I can always hope for such, can't I?)

Jamie and Stephen are done with break from Potsdam State and are waiting at the door for their ride. A speech and papers have been worked on and there will be plenty more in the next few weeks. The semester is winding down. Amazing.

A wedding celebration this Friday will open the season of weddings (three other response cards have recently been mailed.) Marriage is one of God's wonderful plans -- such a true blessing, this life-long covenant.

In just a few minutes we will all sit down with our calendars in hand and do what is fondly known as "family planning" here at the Sinclair home. We have been calling it that for years, and even though someone pointed out the double meaning of the phrase (which we had failed to realize) it has stuck. So in our home, never get nervous when "family planning" is noted as a Monday morning happening for parents and all kids as well... :) What can I say?

Happy beginning of the week to all!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Continued Prayer

I just sat down in my comfy chair after returning from Liana's recital, which was totally delightful. The students played marvelously and then John Lindsey himself played. It was great! Refreshments followed and Nancy Hull asked my three girls to share their rendition of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" - that was fun, too.

But now I am home and I took my boot off to check out the ankle. I am supposed to wear a boot regularly for the purpose of stretching out the achilles tendon. That part is going well. Unfortunately the tissue, which was a concern of Dr. Henline's, doesn't appear to be healing very well. Upon removing the boot I was immediately aware of a large dark spot on the white sock -- there had been quite a bit of oozing from the wound. It has not completely healed over, but now it was opened again. Truly a disappointment. But we will persevere. It may mean a slower transition to moving around than we had hoped. It is hard to say for sure, but one thing I do know -- prayer is still needed.

So, for those of you who are not yet weary of my need, I sure will appreciate your intercession on my behalf! Thank you so very much -- prayer is indeed a powerful weapon. Of that I am absolutely confident.

And once again -- rejoice and be exceedingly glad! Jesus lives!

More on Easter

From my position here on the chair (I have been given permission to be out and about in limited fashion, so I do so conservatively...) Easter preparations are pretty much dependent on my children. The two married girls will help prepare the meal, bringing the fussy baked goods. Louissa and Carina have done food, candy, and gift shopping. Today they will all set tables, make place cards, bake traditional cheese braids, iron clothes, and clean the house -- hopefully all before 6:00 tonight because Liana is playing in a violin recital which we will all attend. (Have I told you lately how good she is sounding these days? I love to hear her practicing and whenever you get to the point of enjoying a violin practicing you know there has been improvement!)

At any rate, Easter is upon us. Let the celebration begin!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Day of Days

Looking ahead to Sunday morning I was aware once again of the hope injected into our souls everytime we remember that first Easter dawn. Can anything bring such a deep sense of cleanness and rejoicing? The beauty of this holy day is unlike any other. The cross was endured, His will surrendered to death. Then God's infinite power resurrected Him, shaming the enemy and robbing death and the grave. He lives!

Hallelujah -- Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Oh, what wondrous words! Oh, what a glorious morn! Oh, what joy is ours!

May your heart know the hope, the joy, and the cleanness of soul that was made accessible and free to all on that Easter morning so long ago. There is nothing better in all the world!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Where's That Maiden from Prov. 31?

I need to assign a portion to one of those maidservants -- a portion of food and work!

How can there be so much to do for someone who only sits all day? (yes, that is still my portion...) The paper work, phone calls, correspondence, conversations, online ordering, and lists to make are endless!

Good thing the day is just starting. I think.

Well, this much I do know -- it's all in His hands. And the portion He appoints is perfect. Now to tune in and get the assignment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Boy Sopranos - Coloratura Style

The singing seems to never end around here. Obviously there are times with no music in the air. But with Merrick around, it is seldom. And certainly his sisters more than fill in any missing measures.

Today I have heard Star Wars themes, Beauty and the Beast sung in the stratosphere, and currently we are all being serenaded with "We're Off to See the Wizard". Yesterday it was "Lida Rose" sung at least an octave higher than written, along with numerous other offerings.

Happiness comes easily to some people; Merrick is one of them. Sunny tunes exude from him as he plays and works. Ryan asked Danica if there would be any fun in raising kids, assuming that Merrick was a total exception and that all others were nothing but work. A bit dismayed at his thinking her to have been merely a chore for us, she delivered a sound comeuppance. She knew full well that there was joy galore. After all, it comes with the territory.

And just for the record, Julia made it quite clear that Merrick's happy-go-lucky nature seems to require more work than many. That seems to go with the territory as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


"How are you doing?" That is the most common question I encounter these days. But no, I am not tired of it. I appreciate every bit of care and interest.

"I'm learning how to putz along at everything I do -- everything." That is the most common response you will hear from me.

These days the thought of hurrying never enters my mind. Before I would have to fight against it; now I am not even tempted to move quickly. "Don't worry, don't get in a frenzy -- if you miss it, you miss it. Better to stay calm, minister patience and peace, take time to enjoy the moment." These are the thoughts that often move across my mind as I watch the world around me.

It's a great view on life it seems. I rather enjoy it. I wonder though -- how long will such thoughts stay in place once the ability to move quickly is finally regained. I just wonder...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Always Listening, Ever Watchful

His care goes beyond words, way beyond.

The psalmist gave it his best shot when he described His love this way: Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)

Our words are heard, our needs recognized, our fears addressed, and our concerns cared for. His watchful eye has seen it all, His listening ear has heard every whisper. And even the unspoken thought is known to Him. We know this because His Word has told us this is true. And that is all we ever need. But oh, how wonderful when He stoops down to our existence and reveals such love in concrete measures.

Last night our church body experienced such intervention by the God of Love. Words can hardly express the tenderness, the care, the provision of hope, faith, and love poured out upon a dear family and consequently upon all of us who walk in covenant with them. They have recently experienced pain and brokenness of devastating magnitude and we had done all we knew to do -- we wept with them. But as a prophet unveiled God's heart of compassion for them, words painted a clear picture of dawning hope and renewed life. With gentle patience the words came forth, revealing the depth of His care and knowledge of every aspect of their pain, promising that little by little the light would once again pierce the darkness that is presently filling their world. Light -- beautiful, holy, pure light.

Firsthand, we all saw and experienced His faithful love. Apart from His love complete healing will not come, but in His love fullness of joy can be restored. As my daughter so intimately expressed, "My Jesus was amazing tonight. Simply amazing."

There is no other word for love like His.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Those Stubborn Enemies

Records of human history make us aware of countless empires that have ousted people from their homes to take over lands. At times conquest was simple, easy, and hardly troublesome at all. As the invaders moved forward their enemy seemed to almost step aside, their strength being minimal in comparison to the encroaching force. But others did not relinquish their claim on the territory so readily. In such situations the invaders may have accepted a compromise of ownership. An agreement to live in close proximity was settled upon. An area would be occupied by one nation while the other settled in the neighboring territory. Treaties were established and borders scribed.

The outcome of such arrangements may vary. Peace may reign for a season, but differences eventually can lead to conflict of word or action. In our day, we see an example of this in the Middle East. Artificially imposed borders have created nation-states, but time has shown that those artificial impositions inflict wounds that will not heal, wounds that bleed interminably in the heart and soul of nations.

Another solution may be willing compromise, an overlooking of differences, an amalgamation of culture including tradition, arts, and religion. Voila! A new culture evolves as old ways are exchanged for the au courant. In our modern humanistic mindset this could only mean an improvement. Surely people such as these are to be commended for their open-mindedness and tolerance. All liberal hats are off to them for sure. After all, peace at all costs is the supreme goal, isn’t it?

I will not venture to suggest any direct application to current political situations. That will be left to your own consideration. But I do want to apply some of these thoughts to the spiritual realm.

In reading the record of history as accounted in Joshua and Judges we see Israel facing such dilemmas. Some of their enemies had been handily overcome. Others they were unable to defeat. Therefore they decided to live in agreement, to make compromise, to accept the enemy’s presence in their midst. Lines were drawn, crossed, and culture mixed. This was not God's plan, narrowminded as that may be.

I have been challenged by God to realize that I have done the same. Through the years I set up arbitrary boundaries, foolishly thinking that I could live at peace (false as it may be) with enemies. I agreed with them that they were too strong, that I could not easily overthrow them, and therefore they were allowed to remain.

I have been deceived; I have failed to walk by faith. I have forgotten a third option of empire building: team up with a strong ally to increase your strength.

A strong ally – I have the strongest of all allies. In fact, I have the same ally that Israel had. According to the scriptures, they were cited for disobedience because they were without excuse. After all the Lord of hosts, God Himself, was on their side – there was no legitimate reason for compromise.

Neither is there excuse for me.

Pride, insecurity, anger, impulsiveness, greed, lust, impatience, unkindness, laziness – any enemy of God is to be driven out. We are His, bought and paid for. This heart of mine is to be ruled by one ruler. They are not allowed to dwell in His domain. We are not to set up camp next door to even one of them!

Sometimes we have battled unsuccessfully for years and in time we have given up, given in, and given place to their presence. If we are not careful we may even begin to identify with them, thinking of them as “who we are”.

This is where I find myself. And I find God challenging me to recognize them for who they are; to remember His command to drive them all out completely; to stir up faith by acknowledging my great Ally and His never failing promise to go before me, defeating the enemy on my behalf; and finally, to stand until I see it accomplished – not waning in tenacity simply because there have been years of failure but instead clinging by faith to the unseen declaration of fulfillment found concerning me in His infallible Word.

So, in spite of years of false peace, errant treaties, and wrong acknowledgements made in agreement with an enemy’s lies, I will rise up and answer the call. The trumpet has sounded once again, and I must respond. We are made for battle, within and without. The Captain of my soul leads onward – onward to battle for territory in my soul yet to be made completely His.

And I thought it was time to rest on my laurels. Silly me.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Last Time

We just returned from Christian Fellowship Academy's Annual Grandparents' Day. Included every year is a talent show by students of CFA -- a homeschool support organization hosted by our church. Five of my children, all still homeschooled, were involved in the show. They played in bands, sang in choirs, joined in skits, the girls were mean pirates playing backup to Merrick's energetic Pirate King, and three of the girls donned WWII jackets, shirts, and hats and sang strong harmonies to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" while pulling off some crazy dancing! Louissa was one of them -- a cute army nurse from the 40's.

This is her senior year. Believe it or not, Mom shed a tear or two as I realized this was her last Grandparents' Day Show. She was terrific, as always, and I am sad that another of my children is finishing this season of life. Louissa is number five, if you go by numbers. But she is much more than a number, as they all are. She has become a nurturing, caring, dependable young lady, full of talent, ready to serve, and ever a good example of Christian living. Will I miss working with her day in and day out? Your first guess is undoubtedly correct!

Glad I am to have had these years to invest in her and have her home with me. She is a precious jewel to be treasured always. And treasure her I do.

To all involved in the show - congratulations! It was a terrific display of creativity, hard work, and caring. Hats off!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Thoughts On Education

Alert as I am prone to be in regards to information, commentaries, and most varied and sundry thoughts on the topic of education (of the young that is), my interest was piqued when I read an observation put forth by Pearl Buck in her autobiography My Several Worlds.

But upon education one can write many books. Examinations, tests, grades, competition, these are all obstacles to true learning. Were I young again – how many things I would do if I were young again and in my own country! I would create a school where children could drink in learning as they drink in fresh milk. They drink because they are thirsty, and children are always thirsty for learning, but they do not know it. And in schools sources of learning are fouled with tensions, anxieties, competitive sports and the shame and fear of low marks, and it is no wonder that we are not a book-loving people. We have been made to hate books and therefore to scorn, with private regret mixed in, the educated man because he is an intellectual. Compulsory education? I doubt the wisdom of it, and certainly the use of the word compulsion is not wise. Education, yes, but not this sausage mill, this hopper, into which our children are all tossed at the age of six, and from which they emerge, too many of them, in dazed confusion, somewhere along the way, as rejects or as mass products.

For me, the date of this observation was as interesting as the thought itself, for this has a copyright date of 1954. Modern Christian critics of the present day public school system will often point to a singular event as the great divide marking the decline of public education – the infamous 1962 Engel vs. Vitale Supreme Court decision to remove prayer from schools. Certainly this was detrimental to the purpose of generational building and holistic education, but was it cause or effect?

According to Buck’s observations, the system was in trouble long before 1962. Engel vs. Vitale, it seems, was the result of an existing defect, a second problem altogether. The decision to refuse prayer to be expressed in the public classroom reflects a society bent on turning from God. Buck’s observations were in regard to a fundamental concern in the method of education itself. Her postulation addresses the challenge to traditional classroom methods used today, regardless of worldview.

This brings us to the question of how to best educate the children entrusted to our stewardship. What will protect the individual destiny hidden within each life? How can we ensure that the unique gifts and talents will blossom to full health, bearing mature fruit? Surely we do not want to subject them to the mass production so commonly envisioned when thoughts of our current institutions come to mind. Try as we may, there is a general tendency toward a cookie cutter approach – efficient, practical, simple mass production.

But children are not lifeless lumps of dough to be rolled out, pressed into shapes, and baked to golden brown. Each life, full of promise, talent, and ability must be nurtured through careful observation, tailored methodology, and customized curriculum. Academic and character growth requires individual attention as well as individual application.

Within every soul is an inherent desire to learn and grow. Individuals will display differing degrees of abilities and talents, but everyone desires to attain some measure of growth, learning, and achievement. We can either nurture that desire through gentle, careful encouragement and instruction, showing a high regard for every unique gift, choosing to understand that every human being has a part to play in this grand scheme called life on earth or we can crush such desire through careless indifference to the individual strength and beauty, displaying a course failure to appreciate those who are different in their makeup.

Actually, we have now entered into the discussion of worldview – the previous concepts can be embraced only when one believes in a Creator who is involved with the forming of every person, intimately involved with every single person. If we believe that human existence is predicated upon chance, mere happenstance, than we have no confidence in the value of that child sitting in the third row, two seats back. We only know that they don’t measure up to the status quo; their mind doesn’t grasp academic ideals, raw talent is not evident. They are relegated to the group marked slow, and their demise has begun. If we fail to understand gifting through the paradigm of human value bestowed from above, we mishandle the gift. What about that other child, the one in the back corner who aces every test while never doing the homework, the one who acts up in class and has become nothing more than a disruption to somehow be endured? He has long ago lost interest in learning. His glaring lack of character was overlooked because of his sheer brilliance and now even that brilliance is being forfeited.

This is not intended to be a full blown dissertation on the subject of education and various methodologies and philosophies. I simply want to suggest this: a love for learning is a fragile, delicate thing. In certain individuals this desire to learn has a measure of virility lending a strength which may allow survival, even prosperity, in less than ideal learning environments. A more average appetite may barely survive and a weak passion may succumb altogether. I am convinced that almost all will suffer some loss when subjected primarily to the confines of institutional settings.

What is to be done? How can society support the kind of nurturing suggested here? Where would we find the number of genuine and concerned teachers needed to meet such a demand?

The Biblical mandate is upon parents to provide for children. It is not a governmental mandate, nor is it given to community to supply such care. The obligation rests upon the family and within the family it falls primarily to the father. We have wandered far from this pattern.

Can this now be remedied through legislation? Is indeed governmentally required compulsory education a possible solution? Can families be forced to comply through law and regulation? Again the question comes – what is to be done?

It must begin with individuals; the very nature of God’s plan is individualistic. The command to teach children was put forth to fathers and mothers, not to an organization, government, or community. A simple method was prescribed – to teach diligently, routinely, and daily. (Deuteronomy 5)

An appeal can be made. We can teach this concept. We can pray for His wisdom to be made manifest. We can look for Him to bless obedience and prosper His word.

And we ourselves can begin to serve the vision. Through serving the vision, we will serve another generation. The nurturing of individuals will be accomplished and greater fruit will be born.

Instead of Oreos (and mind you I love Oreos, but please, let’s recognize that not everyone does and that variety packs have more to offer) there will be beautifully decorated sugar cookies, robust fruit-filled bars, chocolate delectables drenched in fudge frosting, airy meringue delights, spicy molasses crinkles, simple but rich melt-in-your-mouth shortbreads, and so much more. (Forgive the over indulgence of illustration…my taste buds were carried away.)

The value of the individual will not be sacrificed at the expense of the multitude. And in the end the multitude will be enriched.

I think Pearl Buck’s observation of 1954 has merit still today – a great deal of merit.