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If you wanted to tell the greatest story ever told what would you emphasize as a writer? As I reflected on the introductory thoughts by Eugene Peterson before each of the gospels in his translation, The Message, it became clearer to me what each writer was trying to get across. It also became a comfort as I considered what that emphasis meant on a personal level. How is the gift of Immanuel – God with us conveyed in each case?
Matthew – God has been at work a long time – a master plan – we are in the middle of this plan – we are not accidental or incidental – Christ’s birth gives us meaning, orientation, connection to past and future.
Mark – doesn’t even talk about the birth – gets right down to business – God is here and he is on our side, he is passionate to save us – we can live in reality with hope.
Luke – as the only non Jewish New Testament writer, Luke the outsider shows how Jesus came to include all who were previously excluded from the “in club” – women, the poor, the racially different (the Samaritans), and those of lower status (shepherds). Jesus came to make all of us belong and fit in and breaks down all earthly and man-made barriers.
John – emphasizes the word – creation is spoken into existence, God speaks salvation into existence through the person of Jesus, Jesus speaks to us and invites us into a relationship with him. Are our words back to him “ I believe – I want to live in relationship with you?”
The words of hope and comfort in summary from these four gospels are:
We are part of God’s plan – he has a plan for each of us.
God is passionate to save us – we live in hope.
Through Jesus we are made to belong and are here to extend that gift to others.
The Word most of all wants relationship with us. How are we responding?
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
John 1:14 in The Message.
Thank you for coming to be with us, for giving us hope now and for the future, for including us, for desiring a relationship with us – how can we begin to say thanks for these unbelievable gifts.
You have been and promise to be with us through all our trials and the brokenness of this world – thank you for being with us, for being our comfort. Despite the worst that this world can hand us, we thank you for the deep down joy we know from knowing you and living in hope. Amen!
Bob Moore, principal at John Calvin Christian School in Guelph, Ontario offers this blog post about the kinds of student outcomes we seek in Christian education. Thanks, Bob for sharing!
“…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17.)
Have you ever driven up to a hospital entrance and noticed a doctor or a nurse standing on the sidewalk having a smoke? Or what goes through your mind when you hear of a lawyer who has just been convicted of a crime? Doesn’t it puzzle you when someone takes up an activity that is directly contrary to what he or she knows to be right?
In our more truthful moments, we all must confess that, from time to time, our heart or hands or feet follow a path that we know to be wrong. Our actions contradict our knowledge.
For too long in our culture, probably since the Greeks shaped our concept of education, we have made a practice of divorcing our heads from our hearts and hands and feet. When we say we are educated, we mean that we have captured a fact in our mind, e.g. smoking is harmful, but our definition of education doesn’t require that it affect our actions. Someone taking a test for a G1 driver’s licence may know every answer on the test, get a perfect score, and then drive down Waterloo Avenue like Paul Tracy at the Toronto Grand Prix!
There is a serious shortage of ethics in our society. It seems like every week, there is a new report about highly educated politicians or business leaders who are involved in shady or illegal activities. Much of the front page was covered this summer with stories about Conrad Black and his associates who were allegedly lining their own pockets at the expense of their shareholders and employees. When the topic wasn’t Conrad Black, it was the RCMP and the abuse of their pension fund. Even 20 years ago, these stories were not common. We thought of white-collar crime as a rare event, or something that was only typical in some poorly educated place like Nigeria or Haiti. As an aside, the strength of a country’s economy is directly tied to the practice of ethics in its business dealings. If we don’t solve the shortage of ethics in Canadian business and government, the handwriting is on the wall for the economic health and stability of our country.
Of course, Christians are affected by this same problem. For years, we have admired church members who have astounding grasps of Biblical knowledge, regardless of how they treated their family members. We have applauded children who can give all the right answers, but who then abuse their younger siblings.
This year at John Calvin Christian School, we have taken on the ambitious project of turning around thousands of years of educational tradition. Our year’s theme is “from head to heart to hands and feet,” and our theme verse is James 3:17: “…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. “ Though our worldly culture defines education as, and rewards students for, adding to their store of facts, we want to define education as, and reward our students for, letting the facts be understood and applied in the context of our faith in Jesus Christ.
We want to convince the students that having the head knowledge is not the end of the course; rather it is only the beginning! We want to encourage the students, and provide opportunities for them to let that knowledge change their hearts, and guide and direct their hands and feet! It isn’t enough to know about Jesus; we want our students to know Jesus, and to respond to Him personally, by making choices about how to use their time and talents in ways that will please Him. It isn’t enough to know the right answer; we want our students to live the right way, in justice and mercy.
The Bible talks about two kinds of wisdom in James, chapter 3. One kind of wisdom is all too prevalent in Canada today; “such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:15,16.) At John Calvin Christian School, it will be our goal this year to pursue “…the wisdom that comes from heaven [which] is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17.)
Here are notes from random slips of processed and printed upon wood that I had collected and stuffed into a pile – along with their sources.
Every 4.8 minutes on TV between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. there are instances of violent, profane, or sexual content according to the Parents Television Council. (Time magazine, as quoted in The Week, 9/28/07)
Education seems to be working – the percentage of parents imposing TV restrictions for children 6-11 jumped from 60% in 1994 to 71% in 2004. U.S. Census numbers also showed that parents are reading more to children and are encouraging them to participate in extracurricular activities that focus on education. (Associated Press, as cited in Grand Rapids Press, 11/1/07)
“The average American now spends more money on entertainment than on gasoline, household furnishings, and clothing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most affluent 20% spend more on cable TV, high-speed Internet connections, movies, sports events, and other diversions – $4,516 a year- than on health care, utilities, clothing, and food eaten at home. “ (The New York Times, as cited in The Week, 12/2/05)
Teens are a prime market for high caffeine, high energy drinks such as Red Bull, according to Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Medical experts warn that too much Red Bull could lead to serious heart palpitations. A new teen trend is to use high-energy drinks as mixers with alcohol. (Chicago Tribune, as cited in the Holland Sentinel, 9/20/07)
Bumper sticker seen on a car ahead of me:Instant gratification takes too long!Interestingly this car also had a radar detector on the dashboard and a spoiler on the rear deck (presumably to improve handling the power of the car at high speeds!)Take some time to slow down during Christmas break and have a Happy New Year!
Transition points in student’s lives – moving from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school, and from high school to college are often times of great change and upheaval, as well as significant markers in student’s personal development. These are often times when new friendships are formed, old friendships shed, and new personas or identities appear. They are times when students consider where they have been, where they are going, and how they will approach the next phase of the journey. These transition points can be key times for schools to help students do some reflecting on the deeper questions of life via culminating experiences.
Some Christian schools ask students specifically at these transition points to reflect on, and articulate the development of their faith perspective. These culminating experiences allow students to make connections between head, heart, and hands, and students are often asked to communicate these connections to significant persons in their lives. Schools have reported that these times can be very valuable experiences for the students personally, for the continued encouragement of the faith of students in general, for the encouragement of teachers and parents who are participants, and for assessing whether the school is being faithful in meeting its mission.
One school that has been developing and refining the senior presentation concept for several years is Lynden Christian School in Lynden, Washington. Superintendent Don Kok is very enthusiastic about what he has seen:
“The entire staff (preschool – 12th grade and Board members who are available) is involved in listening to the presentations. It is an absolute delight to hear their stories especially when you may have had them as students during the lower or middle grades. It is wonderful to hear about their journey and their goals for the future. Themes that I have heard over the years are the influence of people in their lives who have made a significant impact (parents and teachers are usually named), and critical events (illness or death in family, particular activity such as work experience or trip, etc.)”
Principal Keith Lambert has seen many refinements over the time that he and others began the process of senior presentations with students. He reports that the staff continues to look at incorporating new ideas. One of the new approaches that is being considered for addition is a focus on using Strength Finder materials to help students identify and develop their gifts through the high school years. (For more information on Lynden’s program, see his article in the upcoming Winter 2008 Christian School Teacher magazine.)
Lambert concluded: “We have been very excited about it (senior presentation) – this is one of those things that, long after I am gone, they will be doing this – it’s a fixture of the school.”
I know that there are other schools out there doing similar great things using this kind of approach to nurture reflective thinking around issues of faith and life – would you be willing to share what you are doing by posting a comment? That way others who are interested in putting culminating experiences together can get in touch with you to learn more.
*(For an explanation and definition of Faith Enhancing Practices see my post of February 3, 2007 entitled “What’s the difference between teachers?”) If you are interested in seeing all 12 Faith Enhancing Practices modules at once, you can go to the Member Community Center and access them there.
Sometimes we are so in the middle of what we are doing and wrapped up in the details that it is hard for us to step back and be thankful for the daily, magnificent things that are happening all around us. I really appreciated the thoughts that Arlyn Schaap, principal at Orange City Christian School in Orange City, Iowa put together in a summary paper as part of the CSI Christian Distinctives online course that recently concluded. He has graciously allowed me to share them here.
I am grateful to God for classrooms where faith integration and teaching the whole child is alive and well. I have an opportunity to observe many classrooms through the course of each school year. I am thankful for teachers who help students stand in awe of God and what he has done. I rejoice with teachers when former students make profession of faith and give testimony to their walk with the Lord. I am thankful for teachers who spend time discussing how to discipline a student without breaking his spirit. I have seen students ponder over DNA and marvel at how great and wonderful God has created each person. I have seen students rush to school to see if any eggs have hatched and how many chicks have been able to break their shell to become a part of the wonderful world around us. I have seen students so eager for their grandparents to come to school so they could show them the poem they had written about their grandparents as part of the extended family God has given them. Praise God for Christian teachers who have been given the craft of teaching Christianly!
For those of you who are confused, please read on. With the help of the transl8it website, I asked you this in the headline above: “Can you speak lingo? If not, read this.” Hopefully I made you feel out of touch enough to consider learning more about the strange new language that has been developed by teens around instant messaging and text messaging. One of the better books I have recently discovered to help us understand the online culture of teens is Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are REALLY Doing Online, written by a popular blogger and media consultant, Anastasia Goodstein. Although the book is written for parents, I think that educators and church workers will also find it a helpful resource for getting up to speed quickly and for some good common sense guidance. Here are some things that I ended up underlining that were “value adds” for me:
Goodstein reminds us that parents have always panicked over new forms of entertainment – in the 18th century girls were discouraged from reading and that this mania was a kind of disease; in the 1920’s movie houses were an assault on maidenhood and dancing to jazz would lead to sex; in the 1940’s it was feared that comic books would ruin eyes and lead to crime, and in the 50’s that Elvis’ swiveling hips were a threat to decency. (Well, maybe it is a slippery slope!)
- “No other generation has been so targeted and saturated with media and marketing created just for them. Marketers are trying to reach customers at younger ages to create brand loyalty for life. Toy cell phones are now marketed to parents of toddlers and real cell phones just for tweens (12-14 year olds)…the media has become just as powerful and influential in teen’s lives as their friends.”
- New technology challenges: public disclosure of formerly private information, the viral nature of instant distribution of information leading to bullying issues, distance that allows for experimentation with identities and flirting, instant gratification for teens related to thoughts and appearances, and a “vast opportunity offered by these technologies for educators to revolutionize education and for teens to create their own media.
- Online offers a place to “hang-out” – earlier generations had more time and spaces for physically hanging out – today’s teens are busier so it’s quicker, safer in some senses, and more convenient to hang out virtually. It is a place to connect and develop relationships and identity away from the eyes of parents – just like earlier generations did by going downtown or to the mall.
- Recent figures show that the teen social networking site MySpace has more traffic than Google, and that teens spend about 15 hours a week on the site.
- According to one study cited, 75% of job recruiters used the Web for applicant screening purposes … and eliminated 25% of the applicants based on information they found online.
- Best resources for parents and educators on online safety: Wiredsafety.org
More from this helpful resource for parents and educators in future posts dealing with how much parental control and the huge change technology is bringing to education.
(Michael Essenburg from Christian Academy in Japan encourages us to share what is happening in our schools.)
Good things are happening in our schools. Really good things. God continues to pour out His blessings on us!
How about celebrating God’s blessings by sharing a story?
Here’s one from a music teacher at our school: “Conversation about an unknown vocabulary word in a song (belfry) led to a discussion on remembering to pray. A 2nd grader quoted a Scripture and others eagerly joined in about how they could remember to pray when they hear bells.”
And here’s one from a math teacher: “In a recent project, students viewed the world through the lens of Scripture. They took Bible passages related to God’s control of the universe and applied them to the mathematical situation of one-point perspective. Good stuff.”