“How sweet are your Words, Oh Lord,” part 2: notes on education practically speaking

courtesy of the movie.

courtesy of the movie.

I think it would be pertinent to add exactly WHAT I think education and formal education look like in order to avoid confusion from part one of this topic, “Thoughts on the priority of Education.”

Simply put, I believe that education can be done well MANY ways and in many settings while still fulfilling the biblical commands of God.  The Bible itself teaches a few of these ways.

  • In Exodus and Leviticus the Lord teaches the nation of Israel, through Moses, with verbal and written instructions addressed to the “congregation”. This picture fits with what we think of as formal education today, a professor with a white board and a lecture hall.  This technique is used frequently throughout scripture by other national leaders, prophets, judges and kings.
  • The book of Proverbs gives us insight into education in the home, demonstrating clearly that the father and mother are speaking and writing, in this case to their son but daughters learned this way as well, to their children.  The topics covered in Proverbs are vast and it is important to note that they were composed by more than three different authors of the period who, while they had different perspectives, came into agreement on the essentials.
  • In Deuteronomy we have an entire book dedicated to teaching the covenant of God to the next generation of Israel, the generation which followed the disobedient people who left Egypt in the Exodus. Recall that they were not allowed to enter the promised land because they did not trust God or learn is commandments.  This book contains the content that the average child was supposed to have memorized.  The Shema, in chapter 6, is memorized by Jewish children today very early on.  As to educational principles, this book refers to family members being a primary source of education for the Word of God to the children.  This happened through every day instruction, writing exercises (covering stones with lime and inscribing the laws of God on them, and then erecting them on mountain tops and by the Jordan river), group classes (they lived in family units and would gather together to hear stories, typical of oral tradition) and individual mentor-ship.
  • The tradition of mentors occurs throughout the Old Testament and on into the Jewish culture of the New Testament.  A primary example would be the relationship between Elijah and Elisha in the books of Kings.  In the New Testament the example is set by Christ himself, who had a number of disciples BEYOND the 12 (including women), whom he taught individually and privately in group, classroom settings.  He also spoke publicly at regular intervals using practical examples, metaphor, poetry, logic and scripture to teach about life and the laws of God.  (Sound like school?).
  • Today we’ve adopted a kind of discipleship in our church fellowships but it typically doesn’t come ANYWHERE close to the rigorous education that the disciples of the Bible went through.  For example, one of my proph’s has a good friend in Israel who is an Orthodox Rabbi.  The rabbi asked him, “Do you know the Torah?” and he knew enough to say no.  The rabbi went no to say, “My wife knows the Torah.  Open to Jeremiah and start reading, she will finish.”

THAT, is about as formal as you can get!  She didn’t just know the first five books of the Bible, she memorized the prophets!  That’s heavy stuff!  No. I have encountered VERY few church discipleship programs, internship programs or institute programs that take the study of the Bible this seriously.  When was the last college course you took where they asked you to memorize an entire book?

Today, the beauty of technology has enhanced our learning abilities, providing access to vast amounts of information through the internet and videos and giving opportunities to young people beyond what we have yet experienced.  There are some detriments to this, unreliable information, for example, the bottom line being that it is still essential to have the guidance of well educated teachers/parents to give instruction in wisdom and discernment.

On another note, our institutions of learning have contributed to a desire for “informal” education as well.  In my opinion, EVERY instance of formal education and instruction SHOULD come with a healthy dose of the informal.  It has too! Otherwise creativity and individuality get squelched.

Everyone learns differently, and as a teacher I uphold that we teachers need to learn about and adapt to these differences. But it is utterly ridiculous to me when someone says, “I can’t learn in a classroom.” We need to be teaching children to learn ANYWHERE and have the ability to learn IN and OUT of the classroom, or they will be missing vital aspects of their education.

Back to the big picture I’d like to combine Webster’s 1828 definition of Education with a beautiful Jewish tradition for children. When a Jewish child goes to school the first day, they teacher gives them a copy of the aleph-bet covered in honey, or sometimes even an elaborate cake is made in the shapes of the letters and then drizzled with honey for the children to eat!  The lesson is that the Word of God is not just the completed instructions, it is the very letters themselves that comprise them, “Oh Lord your word is sweeter than honey.”

courtesy of haaretz.com

EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

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“How sweet are your words, Oh Lord,” thoughts on the priority of education

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I recently had a conversation in which the topic was life priorities. It was put forth that this order was correct, God first, then family, then work, then school. It was also put forward that school was in conflict with spending time with God, and far from being a unique perspective, this is normal in Christian circles.

I immediately thought of Eric Liddel, the famous missionary who said, “When I run I feel Gods pleasure.”  If you know his story you’ll know that the joy of bringing pleasure to God through his running led Eric to train for, and compete in the Olympics, rather than go back to the mission field with his family. He won, but he also almost lost his chance because in the midst of his competition he refused to dishonor God by competing on the Sabbath.  What an act of worship and self sacrifice!  For the whole story the movie Chariots Of Fire is a MUST watch.

WHAT-
That is what study is for me. A worshipful adventure of feeling the pleasure of the Lord as I pursue Him. Not everyone one will feel the pleasure of the Lord as they study of course.  For some it is natural, but for most it must be LEARNED. Is learning to worship the Lord in our studies of him, his word and the aspects of his creation in conflict with a relationship with him? I’d go as far as to say that it is necessary! We are commanded by the Lord to KNOW his word and to learn it.  How much better is it if we learn to make our study and meditation an act of worship as well?

But what does the Bible say. “Your word is sweeter than honey”, honey“I meditate on your word day and night.” “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom…fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and understanding.” The entire book of Proverbs is dedicated to teaching us the importance and necessity of receiving instruction, Proverbs 1:1-7. “Fools despise wisdom and teaching.”  Meditating on the word of God is an act of profound worship and adoration!  So why, then, is the formal application of that study thought to be in conflict with ones relationship with God?

WHY?
I think many people think this way about formal education.  Firstly, it is a direct result of the crumbling school systems and the myriad of stories from young people who were mistreated by teachers or by peers, told that they couldn’t learn and given negative  preferential treatment for supposed disabilities. The second problem is our national tendency toward idolatry.  For several generations in recent history, getting  the RIGHT kind of education at the RIGHT places has been worshiped as an idol, even by Christians! Naturally the gut response of the next generation is to avoid it, and that response is followed shortly by the scorning and shunning of formal education altogether.

Today we have a dichotomy church movements where one part is still upholding the necessity of education in the RIGHT place by the RIGHT people, and the other movement really believes that formal education is not necessary at all.

WHERE-
We need to get back to the basics of what education is in the first place.  Paul says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, ” but even more than that, both Paul and Jesus came from a culture, built by God, where the teachers, the Rabbi’s were the most honored members of society. And to be a student of a Rabbi was another exceptional honor!  You NEVER insulted your teacher or criticized them OR their methods. Children were taught to trust them, and to learn how to learn from the worst as well as the best.  I’d love to personally from a member of the Jewish faith about the treatment of your teachers and your perspective on the value of learning.

The biblical exhortations for formal education and instruction stem from WHERE they came from, and are extended to us where we are today. “Honor your father and mother (the primary teachers) that your days may be long” Exodus 20. “Hear, my son, your fathers instructions and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” Proverbs 1:8.

WHEN-
When our Christian families reacted to the worship of education and institutions we had the unintentional result of teaching our children that they don’t need to learn, and they don’t need to honor their teachers.  We can change that. 

Let’s do education the way it was meant to be done.  Let’s teach the next generation how to worship THE LORD through our studies no matter what they may be.  Let’s honor The Teacher who gave us the ability to learn by learning how to join a classroom that is basking in the presence of His word! It starts with you.  Will you make time to learn again?

Courtesy of DeviantArt

Courtesy of DeviantArt

(A few additional thoughts about what education looks like practically, to follow.)

What would we write?

Not long ago a popular secular music artist called Hozier came out with a BIG hit called “Take me to Church”.  The song is well written, catchy lyrics and a dynamic that just sticks in your brain and you find yourself humming along like it’s a favorite tune!  When I think of the song objectively I think, “What a great piece of music.”  But when you look closer, his message is even more impactful.

I have never heard a better song that describes so clearly the failure of the church to train up our young people with clear understanding and confidence in their faith.  I dare you to watch the video all the way through and let it sink in that this song is about what THEY think Christians think and do.

“Take me to church, I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies…”

That one phrase exposes so much hypocrisy on our part and I’m left thinking, “Maybe if Christians spent more time listening to the world around us, we would not only be able to minister more effectively, we could effect REAL change and in the process be challenged and changed ourselves for the better.”

If Christians were to get together to write music and create works of art that were EXCELLENT, with catchy tunes, content people could relate to but be challenged as well, music that sent out a message people would be COMPELLED  to hum along with whether they agreed with the lyrics or not because it is simply THAT GOOD…what would we write about?

Brainstorm with me!

A few Christian artists over recent years have succeeded here and there, Michael W. Smith is my idol in this arena, he truly created a trend in contemporary Christian music that has lasted for years. But now everyone else is stuck trying to do the same thing!  Originality, creativity, individuality.  It doesn’t have to quote scripture to be Christian and when it does maybe we could write about parts of the Bible and other aspects of the HUNDREDS OF YEARS of Christian history that needs to be passed on!

Song of Songs? How about more tantalizing country songs that talk about love between husband and wife with the same adventure, mystery and longing as all the other love tunes?

One of my favorite songs about friendship is “How to Save a Life“, by the Fray, a secular song that talks about a man not knowing how to help his friend who commits suicide.  “Where did I go wrong?” the artist says. There is a message here for Christians as well that we need to hear!

We have spent so much time on one kind of music that we’ve detached ourselves from the world and stopped engaging it on the level we were called to engage it by Jesus Christ. So my question is, if we were to start THINKING about writing the songs of our nation, teaching through music and art and LEADING THE WAY in the world of artistic expression, what would we write about?…


What dances would we create?

What stories would we write?

What pictures would we paint?

If we were to start believing in change,

and be truly convicted that souls could be saved,

Our work might be less about us and our praise,

and more about those we should be trying to save.

A message to moms, “Don’t lose that.”

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There is so much hype and attention right now on the choices mothers are making or not making, and I have so many thoughts I want to share.  But I can’t share them fast enough to get it all across before some women somewhere jumps the gun and slams a door in my face because I hit a HOT button in her mental library of things you just DON’T say.  I just want to be me, and I’m a very personal person and very open about life with anyone who wants to share. Right now, I want to share an important message for moms based on my own experiences about a perspective that is lacking where I live and do ministry.

Ready?

Simply put, DADS ARE PARENTS TOO. And I don’t mean that they occasionally change diapers and babysit when you need a break.  A father is just as essential in your child’s education and nurturing as you are, and there are two common problems that need to be repaired.  The first is that father’s are NOT participating as much as they need too. The second is that we mothers often don’t let them. 

Let’s talk about the former first.  This is an article I pulled off the web about the hidden benefits of being involved as a father that give the physical and psychological perspective on fatherhood: The Hidden Benefits of Being Involved.  A fantastic biblical source of information and encouragement for further study is the recent movie Courageous. But don’t stop there!  Go deeper and find out more about WHY a father should also be changing the diapers, doing bottle feedings, watching the kids for AN ENTIRE DAY, cooking maybe? and demonstrating love and respect for his wife in front of his children.

Ok, now for the second problem.  Honestly and truly, how much thought do you, as a mom, put in to opening doors for your husband to take more responsibility with the children?  If yours is anything like mine, he’ll stay out of a lot of it unless I ask for help.  Fortunately, we had some very serious discussions before having children in which my husband expressed his STRONG desire to co-parent with me.  What we have now is something I call duo-parenting where we both mentally and physically share our parental responsibilities completely, each compensating for what the other needs on any given day, and each putting preference on the others need for quality and nurturing time with our children.  Moms and wives, it’s not easy, especially if your man isn’t interested in doing it with you and if we don’t let them.  But people can change, right?

This lifestyle requires a lot of team work and a lot of communication.  Nathanael wanted to be as involved with the children as I was, and then he HAD to be because of their health issues at birth.  I couldn’t be super mom 24 hours a day so he had to learn how to mother them while I slept.  It’s not as crazy as you think.  We have to learn how to “father them” too when hubby works 60 hours a week.  The reality is that a child NEEDS both attitudes, both personalities and both people each and every day, and when one person has to be gone the other has to compensate.  Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to compensate QUITE so much all the time?  To give our “mommy brains” and the attached ears a little more time off a little more often?

An aside: When reading up on my son’s hyperacusis (super, super sensitive hearing) I discovered that sleep deprivation, constant stress and physical trauma can cause hyperacusis, which in turn heightens stress levels and blood pressure due to the increased sensitivity to sound.  Sounds like motherhood from pregnancy onward!

God did not design women to be the ONLY parent any more than he designed a man to be, but we are AWESOME teammates.  Here are four essentials to get you started:

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1).  Find a couple of days out of the week/month during which you (mom) leave the house and leave your children with their daddy for the WHOLE day.  If you can do it a few times a week, even better, because you could use the time and HE will need regular practice if this hasn’t been a usual thing in your home. Even if all I get to do is go grocery shopping by myself, I have a chance to breath, listen to a good audio book I can’t when the kids are around and maybe grab a cup of coffee!  I’ve also found that I LOVE the hugs and kisses I get when I come home, and the ooos and aaahhs of presenting the children with fresh strawberries.  There is something REALLY relaxing about running errands when you’re not worried about hungry children who’ve been sitting in a car for hours and need to get home for a nap.

2). Figure our your duo-parenting teamwork groove. Nathan and I chat pretty regularly about our children, everything from what they ate that day to what they’re learning, what they need to learn, and what areas they need discipline in. All of these things are important to help the other parent be able to jump in at a moments notice and help or take over. For example, we’ll talk about my son’s behavior and agree on the top 3 to 4 behaviors which need to be nipped in the bud and not ignored. We’ve been doing this since he was 6 months old and consequently Samuel learns really fast what is ok and what’s not when mommy and daddy are both catching the same things consistently.  The less formal these discussions can get the better! Run-of-the-mill chat is MUCH less stressful than a long meeting, and then you’ve saved those hours of precious alone time for yourselves 😉

3).  Put your awesome multi-tasking skills to the test and find time for both you and your spouse to go to school.  Every parent has something to teach their children, even if it’s only how to draw an amazing dinosaur. If you homeschool, get both parents involved in teaching regularly!  If you use an online school or local option make sure that you and your husband spend time with the kids on their homework as well as extra-curricular activities.  That way you both know what’s happening in school and how your child is doing, you’ll both feel a sense of responsibility for their education, which will help in all kinds of family decisions.

4).  YOU.  Being a good mother is not about having all the meals ready, fantastically behaved children or a clean house.  I believe that those things do matter, but not at the expense of who YOU are, your own mental and emotional health and your own enrichment.  We can’t be good mothers if we’re not good people, good women.  How much have you thought about pursuing the unique and special interests that you spent time doing before having children?  Not long after my husband and I got married, I was sitting outside a coffee shop studying Ancient Near Eastern History when an old friend of mine, and a mother, approached me.  We’d talked a few minutes before, inside, and got caught up on our news at which time I got to meet her son!  As they were walking out to her car she stopped and said, “I used to do those things before.  Don’t lose that, ok?” And that’s my message to you as well.

No matter what, don’t lose what makes you you. It’s why your husband fell in love with you, it’s why your children love you and it’s what will make them want to get to know you as they grow older.  Bon Voyage!

photo courtesy of cottontradelink.com

The government in marriage? It’s simple.

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So, the federal government is bypassing state rights and individual rights in order to force the legality of gay marriage. Recent criticism of Alabama for resisting has prompted me to finally write some thoughts. So what’s my take? Well, tell me why exactly WHY do you need the governments permission to get married or everyone’s approval for that matter!?

I do ministry in a small community where some pastors quite willingly hold ceremonies for elderly couples to marry without a state license. They do this because the government cuts social security almost in half when two retired people get “legally” married. For someone in their sixties with few other options for assistance (which is, sadly, most of our elderly in this country) this presents a very real problem.  Consequently I completely agree, and support these pastors in officiating marriages without a state license because in this circumstance I believe that the state’s actions are unjust.  Because I live in a nation with religious freedom and individual rights and liberties, I have the power AND the ability to disagree with the government on this issue without fear for my life.

Regardless of my personal views on homosexuality the logic here is simple. Anyone who truly believes that they are right in their actions and justified in their beliefs does not need public approval, let alone approval under coercion.  My solution is simple, go get married! WITHOUT A STATE LICENSE.

Why the hubub?  Why publicly criticize and condemn people who disagree with you or don’t affirm you in the way you want?  In any other area of life this kind of behavior would be seen as, well, to put it bluntly, immature, selfish and mean.  A new law won’t stop bullying, it will create more.  It won’t encourage as many people as it will put at risk.  It won’t bring freedom, it will destroy it.

We are not “homophobic” and we are not ALL out to get you (I’m frankly ashamed at the behavior of some of the American’s who call themselves Christian’s, and how they have handled this, or NOT handled it).  If homosexuality is really this important to you, whether it’s your own life or your own desire to support others who have made this choice, you (or they) don’t need a state license to get married.  Not in the true sense in which marriage really matters.  Do you really think that government approval and a piece of paper make a marriage?!  Maybe that’s why so many marriages are ending, just get a new piece of paper, right?  WRONG.

The governmental principle here is simple and one we MUST understand: The reason we live in a free country with individual rights and liberties and the ability to vote in favor of or against a law without fear for our lives is because we THE PEOPLE retain those rights by limiting the powers of the government.  By voting in favor of federal government powers to force the approval/cooperation of other individuals with whom you abide in civil union, you are establishing a precedence for government coercion, aka tyranny.
Further, by asserting that the state should force the “legality” of marriage upon those who do not, on a religious basis, agree with it’s morality, you are foregoing your own religious freedoms, and the individual rights that enable you to live your preferred lifestyle in the first place. Once those rights are gone you can only reclaim them through revolution, as history clearly teaches us.  Governments don’t like to let go of power.

Take this out of the political arena and claim your freedom to live as you choose.  This is a classic “lead by example” scenario. As long as your lifestyle does not do harm to other people, exercise the rights and freedoms you DO have rather than take them away from others.

(As an aside, because this has been brought up. If you should find yourself in a situation where you will be physically threatened, exercise your 2nd amendment rights, and take a self-defense class).