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It’s not often that I finish a book and write in the back of it: “Every high school and college student should read this – don’t underestimate what can happen!” This was the case as I completed Tom Sine’s latest book, The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time.
In case you are not familiar with Tom, he is a speaker, author, theologian, and futurist who helps us look at the relationships between the shifting broader culture and the changing church. He has a prophetic gift and uses it to suggest best ways to respond to the future, identifying creative and cutting edge expressions of Christian faithfulness. This summer I reread some material that he wrote over 20 years ago and I was amazed by how “spot on” he was in his predictions, and how many things that he anticipated had come true. What I also appreciate about Tom’s writing is that he can be prophetic, which can be downright depressing and seriously challenging, yet reflect the hope that, as Christians, we have through Jesus Christ.
In this book he gives a helpful look at the four streams of emerging, missional, mosaic, and monastic church movements and their key players. He leads the reader through the current myths of our post 9/11 global culture and gives a Christian response. In his section on the global rich, vulnerable middle, imperiled poor, and western poor he paints clear pictures of the need and helps us ponder a Christian response to these global challenges. In the final section of the book he identifies creative “new conspirators” and challenges us to reflect biblical, rather than cultural values. I am pleased that he mentions one of our CSI schools, Mustard Seed School in Hoboken, New Jersey in this light: “. . . we also need more of these private Christian schools that empower the urban young” (page 184.)
This is a book that should be read by students and their teachers. With helpful and thought-provoking starter questions at the end of each chapter, this would also be a great book for adult study groups to read and discuss. A more complete and very helpful review of this book can be found at Byron Borger’s wonderful Hearts and Minds Books site.
One of the blessings of doing a couple of workshops recently at the Christian Schools Canada conference in British Columbia was hearing keynote speaker Mark Buchanan and reading his book, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath.
Mark reminds us that Sabbath is a matter of renewing our minds – choosing to live a certain way, making and keeping commitments. Work is broken, along with all other aspects of our lives and it needs renewal – we need to “be made new in the attitude of our minds” (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23.) Even our leisure is not complete or refreshing if it is missing the sacred element – focus toward God. In purposeful and God focused living we discover joy: “to experience the sacred amidst the commonplace – to taste heaven in our daily bread, a new heaven and new earth in a mouthful of wine, joy in the ache of our muscles or the sweat of our brows” (p.37.) He points out that a Sabbath heart is fully present, paying attention, looking for God in each moment. He encourages us to be the poets God created us to be, paying full attention to the people and creation in which God has placed us.
For all of us who are caught up in the speed up, Buchanan points out that we not only feel more frightened, hurt, isolated, and obligated, but that our capacity for both steadfastness and adventure shrivels. We begin to believe the lie that “it all depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying? . . .Unless we trust God’s sovereignty, we won’t dare risk Sabbath. . . either God is good and in control, or it all depends on you “(pp. 61-63). Buchanan points us to Psalm 23 as cure: “. . . he makes me lie down (and rest in Him), Psalm 62 – “my soul finds rest in God alone” and encourages us to make thankfulness a habit because it is through thankfulness that we acknowledge God’s sovereignty and goodness to us.
I was personally convicted several times as I read this book and was motivated to make changes in my life. I encourage you to pick up a copy and have your understanding of the delight of Sabbath be broadened, and your life enriched, as you rest in God.
We have been told many times that one of the greatest gifts that Christian Schools International (CSI) has made to the Christian education community has been the Bible curriculum that it has produced. While I don’t usually go commercial in this blog, I must share with you our excitement about the new version of our CSI Bible curriculum, Walking With God and His People, that is being birthed even as you read this!
Over the past several years we have been working on gathering research, creating a new scope and sequence, identifying and training writers, editing and proofreading, and all the other things that go into creating a new curriculum. At this point we are very close to having our preschool (JK in Canada) – 4th grade curriculum ready for final printing and production! For those of you reading this who are part of CSI member schools, you should be receiving a sampler brochure in the next few weeks outlining the new curriculum. We are also sharing about the new curriculum at fall teacher conventions and school-based workshops. If you are interested in learning more about our new curriculum you can click on this link, call 1-800-635-8288 for a sampler brochure, or email Andrea Kamper to schedule an introductory workshop for your school.
Growing up on a farm, the carpentry tools we used most often were a hammer and large nails with which we pounded together two by four’s to contain energetic young cattle trying to escape from box stalls. If you didn’t construct the stalls, gates, or fences well, the cattle inevitably would break through the barrier into places you didn’t want them to be. I have been told that this habit that I formed in my growing up years is demonstrated in my general fix-it carpentry around the house – I tend to pound nails too hard or over-tighten things down. My wife sometimes uses this analogy to gently remind me in my conversations that I don’t have to “pound the nail through the wood!”
Moralizing to kids in our care, and particularly to kids around faith matters, can be very detrimental in the same ways that over-pounding a nail or over-tightening a bolt can be. When we wrap up each Bible story neatly with the words “and so kids, don’t be like (fill in the blank)” we diminish what God is saying through the story and reduce Him to a formula. I recommend that you read this recent post on the Calvin Institute of Worship site about the problems of moralism versus faith formation. Although it is written for a church education context, I believe that there is much that applies to Christian day school education as well. Let’s allow room for the Spirit to touch hearts with the stories without needing to give a neat moral wrap-up.