Monthly Archives: April 2009

Edging toward amortality

Aging Not So Gracefully

Aging Not So Gracefully by Cayusa on Flickr

Maybe it is the constant barrage of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) letters in the mail, or the fact that my upcoming birthday pushes me closer to the name of a local bank (there really is a bank called 5/3 Bank!), but I can’t help but wonder if the concept of amortality is happening to me. Note that I said amortality, not amorality!  If you are not familiar with the concept of amortality, you should know that it is #5 on Time magazine’s list of 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now, and is described by its inventor, writer Catherine Mayer as:  “. . . the intersection of that trend (resisting the onset of age) with a massive increase in life expectancy and a deep decline in the influence of organized religion.” Yes, the Boomer generation seems to be both re-inventing age and walking away (or running or “spinning” away) from the concept of organized religion (see Barna’s book Revolutionaries and my 12.18.06 post.)

As I write this, my body is recovering from a spring break filled with painting, yard work, sod moving, and closet cleaning. I want to function at the same pace as I did in earlier years, and am disappointed if I can’t. As Mayer states: “The defining characteristic of amortality is to live in the same way, at the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from late teens right up until death.” We somehow expect to live forever on this earth and expect/hope that medical science will have the answer by the time we need it, to allow us to live indefinitely. These attitudes fly in the face of “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12. We are in essence saying we are not interested in learning another pace, to develop character and understanding toward wisdom, but instead are saying “just give us our Botox and Viagra and let us go on our paths of consumption.”

My sister’s recent struggles with long-term cancer have again inspired me to number my days and do things that really matter, as I have seen her do. Her grace and ministry to all around bear witness to a heart that holds no illusions about the power of amortality. I only hope that I can live however many days that are numbered for me with half the grace and focus that she has demonstrated. Perhaps our personal mantra should be something like, “Modeling what matters so that the wisdom of Christ is seen through me.”

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Filed under Biblical worldview, change, discernment, encouraging the heart, stewardship, worship

The Code Talkers Project

codetalkers-coverIn the time of war, accurate and confidential information can be the difference between life and death for soldiers. During World War II, Navajos played a key role for the Allies, creating a secret military code for communication purposes. In a new DVD called The Code Talkers Project: Keeping the Code Alive, Rehoboth Christian School shares the stories of the Navajo Code Talkers and celebrates how the Navajo language helped to win the war. Rehoboth middle school students interviewed the Navajo war heroes and were involved in the production of the DVD under the guidance of director Theo Bremer-Bennett. The documentary is about 30 minutes in length and would be a wonderful addition to your social studies curriculum or for inspirational use, such as a chapel.

What I like so much about this project is that it involves students in understanding their roots and appreciating their culture, connecting cross-generationally with their elders, and working collaboratively to produce the final product. It is a great example of students in Christian schools getting involved in creating culture (see blog post of January 16, 2009 – Creating Culture.)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the video for $15 please contact Sue Eddy at Proceeds from the sale of this DVD will go towards Rehoboth’s Navajo Code Talkers Communication Center & their Navajo Language program.

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Encouraging faith through beauty

As I walked by the bookstore flower box, the beauty and color astounded me. The brilliance of the colorful pansies that were blooming in this warmer climate seemed to shout to my eyes to wake up, to jump for joy, to drink it in deeply. You see, my eyes had grown accustomed to only the white of snow and the gray cloud cover.  How could such simple flowers in such a pedestrian area, bring so much joy to my soul? I felt a bit self-conscious gazing on the flowers. After all, there didn’t seem to be similar appreciation from those around. Yet I decided to run the risk as they lifted my soul to consider the God who would put so much detail and brilliant color into something so common, which led me to say a prayer of thanks.

Our opportunity to connect creativity and beauty to its source is one we should not take lightly as Christian educators. We must teach the youth in our care to respond to beauty, and consider the ultimate Creator of all things. Creativity is now acknowledged to be the highest skill on the revised Bloom’s taxonomy – how appropriate that humans’ highest aspiration is to image God through creativity. Yet, in our modern society we grow alienated from creation and fail to even connect every day things back to their source.  This has an impact on our soul – we conveniently buy products, not considering what has gone into them and what choices were made along the way.

Helping us to step back and to see the beauty contained in the natural resources around us is the intention of the 100 Mile Art Project by Christopher Van Donkelaar. Christopher is an iconographer and also works in technology for the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools. He created a painting by collecting all materials from local sources, painstakingly making everything needed to paint the picture from a 100 mile radius around Cambridge, Ontario. Christopher explains what he was trying to accomplish through the project:

Six months of work in creating colours which could have been bought at an art store for less than $200!  But, this project was not about the finish; rather it was about a journey.  Ultimately, the answer to this question is found in the iconic prototype I chose to paint as the culmination of the exhibition: Adam naming the Animals.  Let me summarize:

Adam Naming the Animals by Christopher VanDonkelaar. This painting is the culmination of the 100 mile ART Project.

Adam Naming the Animals by Christopher VanDonkelaar. This painting is the culmination of the 100 mile ART Project.

God creates everything.  Then, He calls Adam to come and appreciate the especially beautiful animals.  Adam’s appreciation is more than just a hands off, nod-of-the-head; his appreciation is participation.  God asks Adam to add something beautiful to His work by giving it a name (as anyone who has had children will attest to, naming is a very special work and I am never sure if such naming is a response to what I see, or newly shaping/changing of what I see by circumscribing it; I suspect both are true).  There seems to be an unconscious shift in our thinking today, in response to the abuses of the industrial model, which nature is at her best when left alone.  But with this scriptural example as proof, we know that our calling, even before the fall, is to interact with our environment and shape it through appreciation.

Beyond this original premise, I really learned a lot from doing this project: The place of convenience in our culture has reached a level that is very problematic and seems to be the root of many of our current issues.  I learned that working hard to achieve something makes it impossible to waste the achievement.  My family and I have many old-order Mennonites where we live, and I think their quilts point to the same truth.  When creating a shirt requires you to grow a crop of flax, process it into linen (a very arduous process), and dying it using herbs, the worth of such cloth is guaranteed.  And, when the shirt can no longer be worn, it will inevitably be reused and cut into smaller strips to create a beautiful quilt.  Likewise, each colour I created during this project became unthinkable to waste.  Lastly, it was a lot of fun giving worth to something considered worthless.  There are many other thoughts and reactions that have come from a broad range of people, from scientists, teachers, environmentalists, etc., and each has brought with them a little revelation of their own.

The project isn’t finished, either!  I am continuing to explore different regions and reporting what I find through my website.  These self-collected coloured pigments are also becoming increasingly the backbone of my commissioned art works.

You can view how Christopher made each color as well as his beautiful icon paintings at his website.  (Please pass this information on to your art teacher!) Christopher is prophetically teaching us and our students to understand creation more deeply and appreciate it more fully – helping us to praise our Creator in the process!

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Filed under Biblical worldview, classroom, creation & environment, image of God, student outcomes

Is the picture in balance?

Do your teachers know Piaget, Kohlberg, and Erikson better than Cavaletti, Stonehouse, Fowler, and Dean? Are your teachers as equipped to nurture student faith as they are to help students reach academic success? Do your teachers possess a common foundation in distinctively Christian philosophy and classroom practices that nurture faith? Do you believe that a high quality faith-integrated, truth-revealing curriculum is the highest need in schools that bear the name Christian?

Do you have a plan to equip your teachers to nurture faith? Perhaps a start is take 5 minutes at your next faculty meeting, ask them how they have been equipped in the two ways shown below, and then discuss the results.

Equipping for Academic Instruction -List the top 5 ways your teachers have been equipped to help students reach academic success. young-male-teacher

Equipping for Faith Nurture  – List the top 5 ways your teachers have been equipped to encourage student faith development.


Filed under distinctively Christian, leadership, mission measurement, staff development