Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Valleys of Sorrow and Peaks of Joy

I’ve lived more life at home this past year than ever before. It’s allowed for more solitude and stillness. I've been forced to slow down this year, and this carved out space is where loneliness tries to settle. I’ve faced impossible options and made hard decisions. I’ve meditated on truth that leads to life. I’ve prayed for more faith. I’ve ached for the grieving and grieved what’s been lost. I’ve finished the day weary and grateful that I was kept through the night. I’ve had to let go of my grip on temporal things and hold more tightly to things eternal.

My heart has been broken at all the hurt and I’ve lamented as my patched up heart quietly fails and turns breathing into a conscious labour. As I’ve watched death aim to plunge through the middle of life, I’ve felt the ways we are no longer equipped to walk each other home. I’ve learned we don’t understand death even as it’s been poking around in our lives. I’ve watched humans put great effort into medical practice while our souls shrivel in misplaced trust.

I’ve been slow to speak and then I’ve spoken words I want to snatch back. I’ve heard silent voices make deafening noises in my mind. I’ve read varying opinions on life-changing measures. I’ve seen vastly different approaches to unknowns in life. I’ve observed we demand to be heard, and easily dismiss the hurting. I’ve witnessed humans bash each other and trash each other and we’ve all ended up crushed in the end.

I’ve noticed we’d rather be right in life than live life with empathy. I’ve wondered if our own rights matter that much after all. People talk about the end as though they know what’s coming. I don’t even know if tomorrow my heart will keep on beating. I’ve tasted soul-crushing sorrow and washed it down with sustaining sips of sweet joy. 

We don’t walk through trauma untouched. But, in our hurt, our pain, our grief, our sorrow, we can reach out to touch another. That’s where we pass around sweetness to swallow the sorrow. We don’t weep in the valley without mourning. In our breaking, our sickness, our sinning, we can look to Jesus. That’s where we know the highest peaks of joy and perfect peace that will protect our hearts and minds, body and soul. 

This past year has awakened us to things long buried. We can pull back the shroud and see more than sickness and shadows. In the sting, there’s a superior Light ruling in these dark days. Instead of wishing to escape this life, we can wholeheartedly embrace a well-lived life. Instead of harbouring despair, we can dwell in hope.

There is a refuge, a place of safety to let go of worries and fears when they overwhelm our souls. When we turn our eyes to the radiance of God’s glory—the Author of life who upholds all things by his power—our stories end with goodness tasted, love perfected, and hope fulfilled. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Deep Shadows and Golden Light

The autumn sun drops swiftly through the naked trees and the golden light spills into our living room cutting shadows in the gold pooling on the floor. The day is stretching out, ready to tuck itself into the night as I hear the tick-tock of the clock -- another indication the day is almost done. Sitting in the silence in the golden pockets of light, the metal click of my heart valve ticks faster than the clock above my head.

That heart valve that Dr David put in six years ago, that was supposed to let my heart keep on pumping blood for decades, is tragically closing in with scar tissue. That’s what doctors believe is happening without actually cutting into my chest and handling my heart once again. No one can tell how long it will take before the tissue growth will make the hole so small it will be impossible for my heart to pump blood to get oxygen to the rest of my body. It is casting shadows in my life and it’s reminding me that my time here, well, it could almost be done. I’m collecting days like a string of pearls, every one precious.

I turn the tragedy around in my mind like I try to patch up pastry that has too many cracks. The more I struggle to fix it, the more it falls apart in my hands. It will never look right. How can I process all the impossible choices ahead? Do I accept a rare complication or choose an irrational intervention? How do I hold it all together and stop the insides from pouring out making a mess of life? How do I dish out a sloppy attempt at living here when there is a glorious banquet already prepared in eternity?

The darkness creeps in and makes me choke. It's an agony that I can't swallow. I don't want the darkness. So I keep looking because I keep learning that in the darkness even the smallest flicker of light radiates hope. It is in the darkness that light shines the brightest. I look for the light. I'm flailing in the darkness. I look to the Light. I don’t know where else to look.

When you read the story of Scripture, when you crack it open right at the beginning, your eyes catch the first thing God created when He spoke into the darkness was light. And it was good. He separated the light from the darkness and “God called the light day, and the darkness he called night.”
(Genesis 1:5)

We are in the middle of the story right now. In the middle of the darkness and decay and death and we are all groaning. We are looking and longing for peace, for wholeness. We want all things to be made right. We don’t want hearts to stop and life to be taken too early. We agonize in the shadows. We rejoice in the glorious shining radiance of the Lamb who suffered and silenced death.

When you get to the end of the story, there is a final vision of that which is yet to come. It solves the riddle of life and death, of darkness and light. For all those who have looked to the Light of the world, turned and trusted in the Lamb who was wounded, “they will see his face . . . And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5)

The hands that keep time have given me just over half the years we have come to expect. I don't know how many more I will get to string together. I desperately reach out to grasp more pearls, yet just like the night swallows up the sun every day, it feels like they are slipping through my fingers. I know God has all my days all numbered and one day I will see his face and night will be no more. Until He calls me home, to find my final rest in Him, I will keep looking for the light in this darkness. As I live in Christ, trusting his death was death to all death, the radiance of his glorious shining feeds my hope.

Monday, October 2, 2017

In the Potter’s Hand

I took a lump of clay and held it in my hands. I slapped it down, aiming for the centre of the wheel and missed the target I had made. I gathered it up, and slapped it down again. I was closer, but still off. I placed it in the centre and then smacked it down hard to help the clay stick to the wheel. I pushed my foot down on the pedal and the wheel began to turn. I pushed it harder and the wheel spun faster and faster and the lump of clay flew right off the wheel. I started over and began to get a feel of the wheel, managed to centre the lump, and began to mould the clay as I pressed into it with my hands.

It was the second time I had sat at a potter’s wheel.

What I imagined my finished handiwork would look like was far more elegant than the final result. In a unique way, I saw the beauty in it. But, you can see that it was inexperienced hands that gripped the spinning clay, not the hands of a potter that has developed their craft and precisely guides the lump into exactly the masterpiece he has intended.

As long as I relied on the experienced potter to give me direction and assistance, I was able to produce a lovely, modest piece of art. Left to my own, my lump of clay would have turned to a sloppy, wet, mucky pile of useless mess.

The first time I sat at a potter’s wheel, I held back for not wanting to make a mistake. The second time, I was a smidgen more familiar with the wheel and the clay, and a little less inhibited by my own inner critique, but still hesitant to charge ahead with any creativity.

I held on to that lump wanting to create something beautiful, but quite clueless as how to accomplish it.

My first opportunity at a pottery wheel, I had intended to fashion a bowl, but when the walls began to break down, I reworked the clay into a small plate. Recently, I had this second opportunity, and I managed to form a bowl. Although it will be functional, a keen eye will easily detect it is not a symmetrical bowl.

We laughed together as friends, as we took turns to sit at the wheel and watched each of our personalities wrestle with various aspects of the whole process.

Both times I tried my hand at pottery, I have grown in appreciation for the skilled artist who crafts stunning artwork on the wheel; who takes a lump of clay and turns it into practical and exquisite handiwork.

When I sit at the potter’s wheel, when I hold a lump of clay in my hands, I recognize that I have more in common with the lump of clay being transformed into something beautiful than with the potter holding the spinning clay with tender care and a gentle strength in his hands.

I have had a taste of what it is to be a potter. As my friends gathered in the little pottery workshop we recognized, with gratitude, that we are the clay that is sovereignly held in the hands of the Potter.

There can only be one potter at the wheel.

Several times in the Bible, God is portrayed as the potter to demonstrate His sovereignty. And we, his people, are the clay.

In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 18, we see that God commands Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house. Jeremiah obeys, and finds the potter working at his wheel. We read in verse 4:

“And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”
And in verse 6, we see the word the Lord delivered to Jeremiah and the prophet tells the people of Israel:
“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

The prophet Isaiah also calls the Lord, “our potter” as to demonstrate His power. In Isaiah 64:8 we read: 

“But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.”
And Paul, in Romans 9:20-24, says:
“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
These truths are so magnificent that our human understanding falls short of being able to comprehend God’s ways. How foolish it is for the clay to contradict or talk back to the potter?

In a song of praise, Paul writes in Romans 11:33:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
We may at times think we are in the seat of the potter, fashioning a way for our selves, but don’t be fooled. God will do what is right. He will fashion the vessel according to his perfect will, just as He has done with the nation of Israel. And He will also build His church.

We may not understand it, but the truth is God is sovereign over all. He has a perfect plan for the world He made and the people He calls and redeems back to Himself.

Surrender to the potter, and trust Him as He continues to demonstrate His power and sovereignty in your life and in the world around you.

And join with Paul in Romans 11:36 with these words of praise:

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Friday, September 22, 2017

Don't Forget the Things Your Eyes Have Seen

I was in a foreign land thirty-eight years ago when doctors discovered a sarcoma in me the size of a grapefruit. That is a big tumour for a slip of a girl about to celebrate her third birthday. My dad and grandfather rushed me to the emergency room because I had popped a penny in my mouth and swallowed it and it lodged in my esophagus.

When they scanned for the penny on the x-ray, they found more than they ever imagined. They left me in the hospital that night and carried the bad news back to my mom.

I don’t remember swallowing the penny or spending the night alone in the hospital in England. I don’t remember flying home to Canada or meeting all the doctors that poked and prodded. I don’t remember being admitted to the Hospital for SickKids on that day in September.

I don’t remember the surgery that couldn’t get all the cancer.

I do remember lying very still on a hard, cold table while the doctors blasted me with radiation. I remember months and months of chemotherapy.

No one could say if all the treatment would even kill the cancer; a type of cancer that was so rare to even be found in a child. They drew up a plan for a three year old that was as aggressive as if they were treating an adult with a sarcoma.

My mom, she refused to take me down for my first day of radiation, just weeks after my surgery. I can’t blame her. I’m not sure if I could have subjected any of my three year olds to everything my body has had to endure.

My doctor called her on the phone and told her, if she did not bring me down to Toronto, I would not live. But, she had already been warned of the horrors of all the side effects. How do parents make a heart-wrenching choice like that?

Doomed if you do, but dead if you don’t.

That first appointment was rescheduled. And every weekday for the next five weeks they put me on that cold table in a large room with a big machine killing things I knew nothing about.

I still tremble when I think about that table.

For two years, my fight with cancer continued.

For the next thirty-six years, I have pressed on and I look back lest I forget what my eyes have seen.

No one knew back in 1979 that the radiotherapy they blasted at me as a 3 year old child would send me into advanced heart failure as a 37 year old mom of three young children.

It had already destroyed a lung and so the open-heart surgery I needed was risky business.

How can a body with 30% lung capacity manage on a heart-lung machine for over six hours? No one knew if it could.

Stepping up on to that operating table was a step of faith.

Faith perseveres by seeing “Him who is invisible” we are told in Hebrews 11:27.

My eyes have never seen God. I have never stood before a burning bush or stood at the foot of a mountain and see it burn with fire or heard the voice of God. But, I have seen His wonders; I have seen His glory displayed in my life. I have known the truth He has revealed in His Word.

I will give thanks to God for the great things He has done.

In Deuteronomy, Moses exhorts the children of Israel to not forget what the Lord God has done for them. They are once again on the eastern border of the Promised Land. Moses was forbidden to enter the land and he would die in the land of Moab before God would tell Joshua to cross over the Jordan and take possession of the land He was giving the children of Israel.

They have wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. And now, before Moses dies, he urges the people, with a series of sermons and prophecies, to obey the Lord God who is faithful, unchanging, and full of grace and mercy. God had demonstrated His power and love over and over and yet, it keeps slipping from their mind that He alone is God.

What slips from our mind can never lead to gratitude in our hearts. You forget his wonders, and next you will be forgetting God.

In Deuteronomy 4:9, Moses tells this generation of Israelites:
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.”
Don’t forget! Don’t forget what you have seen God do. Don’t let it slip from your memory. Tell it over and over to your children. Don’t give any room for any idols in your heart. God is good and faithful. God is just and holy. He alone is God. Do you know it?

John Calvin, in his commentary on Deuteronomy, wrote:
“the people must beware of shutting their eyes against the clear revelation of God's power, and therefore urges them to keep it in memory, because man's ingratitude is but too prone to forgetfulness."
We don’t know what we may have to face tomorrow.

We don’t know what the road will look like. It may look like the impossible. It may look like cancer or some other sickness, or a costly sacrifice, or persecution, or reproach.

It may look like the Red Sea, or the wilderness, or the Jordan River. It may part and you will step out in faith on the dry ground able to endure because you are relying on God’s promises.

Thirty-eight years ago the doctors found a sarcoma right beside my heart. Three years ago doctors rebuilt my heart, but they didn’t think I would wake up that night after the surgery.

For three years now my heart ticks loud like a clock in my chest. I can hear it keep time with a steady beat as if to remind me every moment of the day.

Before God had created the world, He knew my every heartbeat. He knows my days. By grace, He has brought me back to Himself and with His steadfast love will lead me all the days of my life.

I have seen God do great things. He alone is God. I will not forget.

I will tell them to my children and if it is God’s will, to their children.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Held in the Storm

It is after the storm passes. When the howling wind that pierced the heart hushes. The surging waves that smashed life to bits become still. And you realize you made it; you lived through it all. You survived. You are still standing.

That is when it hit me. Before the wild storm I thought I had living figured out--until life was almost snuffed out.

I fought and thrashed and floundered. Fought to live for my husband. Fought to live for my children. But when I had fought long and hard enough to keep on living, the frailty of life was too real and I became lost. Lost in the land of the living.

That is when I became afraid to live and scared to suffer anymore.

They say open-heart surgery can send you straight into depression. I fell hard. Into the darkness. Alone. I sunk to a seemingly bottomless pit.

I lost my way.

I lost my words.

I lost the wonder of life.

I became numb. Numb to the very thing I loved to proclaim: the goodness of God.

His grace was blazing like the sunshine splashing gold through the winter branches outside my window, but my eyes focused on the barrenness instead of the Light.

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

And, looking away from the shining radiance, I began to sink, like Peter out on the turbulent sea.

Fear held me hostage. Fear does that. It will hold you back and make you withdraw. And you may wonder why God seems so silent.

When Peter stepped out of the boat and fixed his eyes on Jesus he walked on the water. When he saw the wind, he was afraid. When he looked away from the Lord, he tried to flee the danger and ended up withdrawing from the very One who would reach out to help him. And he began to sink.

It is faith that looks to Jesus. Peter had faith. And yes, Jesus reprimanded him for his “little faith”, but not until after He had reached out His hand and took hold of Peter. He held him secure and helped him to trust Him more.

He had already told Peter not to be afraid. He had already told him to: “Take heart, it is I”. He had already bid him to “come”. He had already told him to walk out amidst the storm and trust him. And after Peter falters and flails around in the sea, after Peter looks to the waves and begins to sink, Jesus reaches out his hand and takes hold of Peter and they get back into the boat and the wind ceased.

His anchor held him--through the storm and after the storm.

"When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil."

So, when fear grips us and we begin to sink, the Anchor holds us. He has gone before us. He will not let go.
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever.” (Hebrews 6:20-21)
My eyes looked away. Depression clouded my sight. Fear crept in and all I could think to do was to flee, to withdraw. And I began to sink.

I cried out for help, like Peter floundering in the sea.

And when I looked up away from my troubles and fixed my gaze on Jesus, I knew He never let go. He reached out and He took hold of me. The winds ceased. Life sails on. And, it is not a matter of if God is silent.

He has spoken:
“ . . . in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high . . .” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

The storms, they come. We have been battered and beaten. But, we have been held. He reaches out His hand and takes hold and gently nudges, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Don’t look to the waves. Look to the One who made the seas and who has power over the waves.

“His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.”

And after the storm you realize, yes, you made it. And through it your faith is strengthened and your joy is sweeter. Fear turns to awe. The glimpse of the glory you saw, you can’t gaze on it, but you look to the King of grace.

The wonder of His sovereign grace opens your eyes to see His goodness, the display of His righteous power stirs words of praise, and the eternal hope found in Him leads you home.

“When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
In Him, my righteousness, alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”

Friday, September 8, 2017

Cultivating a Life-Long Love of Learning (Part 3) ~ Education is a Life

We spent the last week of holidays at the lake and tried to squeeze out every last drop of summer. The cousins drank it up like it would never come to an end. But, summer this year was vanishing as quickly as the mist on the lake in the early morning sunlight.

Some of the maple trees have already begun their annual change from summer green to autumn gold; their leaves dappled with orange and blushing bright red. Evening is settling in earlier every day, like it is trying to tuck summer in before it’s ready. The brisk night air is warning of the looming changes ahead. Change will come, you can be sure of it.

This morning our daughter walked down the drive as a round rosy sun snuck up through the clouds.

Life, it seems, can sneak up on you like that. You come to the end of a season and you find that the next season has already sprinted off with the baton. You hardly recognized the transition zone. Life just keeps racing on.

She walked down the street and vanished from sight. For twelve years, well, except for the one I was in the hospital barely alive after open-heart surgery, she has been learning at home.

This morning, after I snapped a picture, she walked right into a new adventure—a change of atmosphere, so to speak, and I had to catch my breath and keep trusting the Lord.

Her brother and sister, her Dad and I, stood with arms flapping our farewell and prayers lingered on our lips and my heart, it felt like it was getting silently squeezed right there on the driveway.

We walked back in the house, I wrapped my fingers around my half empty mug of coffee—the one with ‘Joy’ inscribed on the front of it—and the rest of us, we settled back into old routines and new habits. We dug out old lessons to review and cracked open new living books to read. I sipped re-heated coffee and joyfully considered the year of learning ahead.

For twelve years we have been learning that “education is an atmosphere; education is a discipline; education is a life”. It’s the philosophy of education Charlotte Mason advocated and we have been discovering.

These three instruments of education—atmosphere, discipline, and life—all braided together to weave a strong cord; each one as vital as the other to hold it all together.

We build up an atmosphere—the thought environment—that encourages relationships where real learning takes place.

Secondly, we diligently cultivate good life-giving habits in our children by laying them down rail upon rail, habit upon habit in which character is formed.

Finally, we spread before our children a large and varied feast to nourish the mind. Just like we provide nourishing food for their bodies, children need rich ideas to feed their mind.

Charlotte Mason, the British educator who has greatly influenced many teachers, parents and students, wrote in the Preface of School Education: “The mind feeds on ideas and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.”

This is the academic instrument of education, yet it is not made up merely of dry facts, predigested tidbits of information and dumbed-down books, but rather of living ideas obtained from first-hand personal experience.

Education is a lifelong process of one’s mind feeding on ideas that originate from God. We are to learn about God and His world.

Mason submitted, children learn in order to grow, to get ideas and to gain knowledge. Children will fill their bellies with garbage if that is all that is available and they will fill their mind with the same. Mason believed that children are persons that need to grow in knowledge.

And the way we should do this, she advised, is to freely sow ideas in the fruitful soil of the mind. An idea, she wrote, is: “a spiritual germ endowed with . . . power . . . to grow, and to produce after its kind. It is the very nature of an idea to grow.”

Mason challenged: “ . . . give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.” (Home Education, p. 174)

These ideas—the live things of the mind—are mainly passed on from one person to another, and when interwoven with experience and knowledge lead to growing concepts.

Children discover ideas in living books—books written by one author who passionate for his subject and written in a narrative or a story form. Real learning begins to take hold as the idea sown in the story grows in the mind. Anyone who has become friends with a character in a book, or has had the subject matter spark a fire in the mind, knows what a living book is.

Children also discover ideas in an atmosphere that lets them wonder and lets them ask why and lets them see how. Children need to be outside in nature—there is a feast for the mind when a child stoops down to study an ant or spider on the walkway; whey they observe a tree change in the seasons, drink from a glacier-fed waterfall, walk through a wheat field, listen to the spring peepers, watch a monarch butterfly unfurl from its chrysalis, or wade in the ocean.

Children digest ideas when they are given time to be silent and reflective on the living things they have read, given attention to, and handled. Let children be bored to allow time for the idea to germinate and grow. Let them run, and play unorganized sports, and invent games outside.

Charlotte Mason recommended four tests to apply to their children’s academic diet:
“ . . . children’s lessons should provide material for their mental growth, should exercise the several powers of their minds, should furnish them with fruitful ideas, and should afford them knowledge, really valuable for its own sake, accurate, and interesting, of the kind that the child may recall as a man with profit and pleasure.” (Home Education, p. 176)
Our children, especially today, need a nourishing feast set before them. The distractions are crushing, the amount of processed information is devastating, and all the while attentions spans are dwindling, and real learning is declining. It is up to us to present a feast, but it is the work of the child to deal with the idea.

We have work to do, a real labour of love. Mason encouraged mothers to seriously consider her children’s education. So, I challenge you today to ask yourself these same questions:
“‘Why must children learn at all?’ ‘What should they learn?’ ‘And, How should they learn it?’” (Home Education, p. 171)
Once you grasp that the mind has been created to grow and be renewed and that it feasts on living ideas that ultimately all come from God, you just may see that it is not so much what a youth knows when he has finished his formal education, but how much he cares. That is the learning that lasts a lifetime.

So, no matter what road your child walks down one morning to set off on a whole new adventure, it should be our goal to set our children’s feet in a large room. Real learning in life comes from relationship; build up these relationships. Invest in the atmosphere in which your children live and learn, lay down the discipline of life-giving habits, and nourish your child’s mind with rich ideas.

We need to set our children up to be life-long learners—to love to learn, to grow in knowledge about God and His world. This Truth will never vanish like the mist; it will not change like the seasons, it will stand the test of time and tradition and endure on into eternity.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cultivating a Life-Long Love of Learning (Part 2) ~ Education is a Discipline

Admiral William H. McRaven delivered a commencement speech to over 8000 graduating students in 2014. Recently, a condensed video clip of his speech has been bouncing around social media.

You want to change the world? Admiral McRaven says you can do it by beginning with one small and simple task. He explains how each day of his six month basic Navy seal training began with an early morning inspection in the barracks. The mundane task he was required to perform was to be completed to perfection. Corners were to be square, covers pulled tight and pillow and blanket were to be neat and centred. The task he was to execute each morning: make his own bed.

And, now, this edited version of Admiral McRaven’s speech has been floating around the internet three years later and viewers are commenting that they need to go make their bed so they can bring change to the world.

Everyone is eager to change the world with the hope of making it better.

But, you have to wonder, how in the world, have we arrived at this place that a short motivational speech on a screen is inspiring adults to go make their bed. In part, this challenge is just one of twenty clever metaphors being employed to influence the listener to go out and make a difference.

But, the comments are telling. We have dropped the ball when it comes to completing simple and small tasks to perfection. We would rather accomplish great and noble things. Or maybe we just prefer to watch a five-minute video. How many of us begin each day with such a mundane task as making our bed?

Stop and think for a second, this task, although mundane and simple, is not insignificant.

It has been said, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; Sow an act and you reap a habit; Sow a habit and you reap a character . . . ”

If the formation of character is the aim of education, then it must begin with building on the proper foundation with the right instruments.

The first instrument of education, advocated by Charlotte Mason, a British educator at the turn of the twentieth century, is atmosphere.

The second instrument is discipline. As Charlotte Mason explained in her book, ‘A Philosophy of Education’:
 “By ‘education is a discipline,’ we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body.”
Charlotte Mason likened this instrument of education—this responsibility of parents—to the laying down of the rails for a train. Parents and teachers are to lay down lines of good habits on which the child is to run the course of his life.

Charlotte Mason supposed in her book ‘Home Education’:
 “This relation of habit to human life . . . is perhaps the most suggestive and helpful to the educator; for just as it is on the whole easier for the locomotive to pursue its way on the rails than to take a disastrous run off them, so it is easier for the child to follow lines of habit carefully laid down than to run off these lines at his peril.” (p. 109)
The habits sown in the child will reap the character of the adult. As parents and teachers we can permit or encourage habits that will either be life-depleting or life-giving.

The formation of life-giving habits has the power to raise a child beyond his or her nature without destroying his or her personality. Charlotte Mason maintained that children are born persons, created in the image of God, and every child has the potential to be a “person of infinite possibilities”. Yet, children are ignorant and need to grow in knowledge.

These life-giving habits are tools in the spiritual, physical, moral and intellectual development of the child in the realm of relationships with God, others and oneself.

This is not new thinking. The apostle Paul exhorted in his letter to the Philippians that this is a life-long learning and practicing. He wrote:
“ . . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” {Philippians 4:8-9}
The things we have learned—we need to practice these things. Lay down the rails and keep the train on the tracks.

The discipline of habits is vital in the education of a child. Like a three-legged stool, the formation of habits nurtures the child toward growth along with atmosphere and feeding the mind with living ideas.

How do we lay down these rails on which the child can live out his or her life? How do the parent and teacher use the discipline of habits to encourage growth and development of the body, mind, and soul?

We start small and we build up. Miss Mason pointed to the three of the most vital habits to be learned: obedience, truthfulness, and attention. And we move on to respect, thankfulness, kindness, neatness, mental effort, imagining, thinking and more and more. Focus on one habit at a time and keep watch over the habits that have been laid down. When one section of the track is laid well, build on to the lines of habit to allow the child to grow with healthy progress.

Next, we need to be diligent. This is a process that requires discipline in the life of the parent and teacher as much as the child. Pursue excellence in an atmosphere permeated with grace.

Furthermore, we motivate the child with living examples of real people in his or her life or in biographical stories. Paul referred to an old proverb when he wrote to the Corinthians: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” The original Greek word translated ‘character’ suggests that character is based on or comes from habit.

Additionally, we must allow for natural consequences. To develop a healthy growth mindset, a child must come face to face with failure as well as successes.

Finally, it is essential we encourage rather than nag. Children need our loving affirmation, not false praise. Children need realistic expectations—not ones set too high or too low.

This is more than a metaphor in a motivational speech. It is wise to begin small by teaching a young child to make his or her bed, to pull the covers tight, to put their full attention to the task at hand. It is a simple thing, but not insignificant to lay down life-giving habits for a child to form the character of the man or woman he or she is becoming.

So tomorrow, when you wake up to a new day, be sure you sow one small habit—lay down another rail in the education of your child—to reap a great character. Do not miss this opportunity to be a living example and invest in the life of a child—a person with infinite possibilities.
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