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)

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.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Cultivating a Life-Long Love of Learning (Part 1) ~ Education is an Atmosphere

Suitcases are coming home from camps and summer holidays stuffed with smelly laundry and souvenirs. While backpacks are getting filled with bright new binders, crisp white paper, and coloured pens. We are trading long summer evenings with cooler nights as the crickets’ chorus of chirping plays softly in the twilight. Children’s sandy toes and sticky fingers, sun-bleached hair and freckled faces will all get washed and scrubbed fresh and clean. Parents and children are all getting ready for the first day of school whether they want to or not. It’s that time of year. Pool gear will be swapped for school gear.

Before we jump into another year of schooling, it is beneficial to scan our environment and examine our lives to ensure we provide a rich and nourishing education for our children.

All around us children are craving knowledge. They have a natural curiosity that is evident in the endless ‘whys’ and ‘hows’. Children are born to learn and need to have their minds nourished as well as their bodies. This is an area that is near and dear to my heart.

I have had the privilege and responsibility to provide and invest in the environment of my children’s education. Every year has presented new challenges, taxing obstacles, and demanding hurdles.

Every year we have learned in an atmosphere where mistakes are common, failure is a tutor, grace is poured out, patience is essential, forgiveness is continuous, and love is unconditional. Every morning, God’s mercies are new—they never come to an end.

And so, we live and learn and love. Everyday learning alongside one another: learning to live an abundant life and needing every ounce of God’s grace that washes over us.

As we head into another year of learning, I’ve been re-reading and reminding myself of the philosophy of education that has shaped our years of learning. The last few years of heart failure, open-heart surgery and a difficult recovery has left me depleted.

I need gentle rhythms and peaceful seasons to permeate our home where our children live and learn. It is time to go back to a quieter life: where we will have space to breathe and room to grow.

Charlotte Mason was born in England in 1842 and died in 1923 and has become known as an innovative educator. Well ahead of her time, many teachers still use her philosophy of education today. She has been a mentor and has greatly influenced learning in our home as well as thousands of other families in the world.

Miss Mason taught that there are three main instruments of education. She strongly believed that: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

The first instrument in education is atmosphere. The atmosphere in education refers to the realm of relationships. Mason suggested, it is in the relationships the child has with God, with his parents, or her teacher, his peers, her learning, or with himself that real learning takes place.

Children learn from real things in the real world. 

In her book, “A Philosophy of Education”, (p. 158) Charlotte Mason wrote:
 “Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe, --the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making.”
The primary focus of our children’s education is that the child learns about God and His world. This provides an atmosphere that does more than exercise the mind, but it nourishes the heart. This atmosphere is built up as relationships are built up. Charlotte Mason considered the atmosphere in education to be the “thought environment”.

We build up this atmosphere—this thought-environment—by setting a feast before our children, but also by taking a back seat at the right time and getting out of the way of real learning that takes place because the Holy Spirit will guide the minds of the children into His glorious truth. 

We, as parents, teachers, home educators, grand parents, have the power to help our children by investing in an environment that fosters questions, cultivates wonder, exercises the mind and nurtures the heart. If we have the power to help, we also have the power to hinder with an environment that stifles questions, chokes wonder, starves the mind, and damages the heart.

Charlotte Mason further clarified what she meant by atmosphere in her book, “A Philosophy of Education” (p.94) when she wrote:
“When we say that education is an atmosphere we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child environment’ specially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere both as regards persons and things and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the ‘child’s level.’”

What is the atmosphere in your home? What rules your life? For what are you reaching? 

We can invest in the atmosphere of our children’s education by eliminating stress, emphasizing co-operation, encouraging our children instead of nagging, motivating them with loving affirmation, and learning alongside our children. By investing in these ways in our children’s education we find that we are putting less emphasis on merely achieving good grades and making a living and place more importance on developing the character of our child and living a full life.

Children need to learn respect, responsibility, and resourcefulness more than they need standardized testing. Children need to learn attentiveness, obedience, and truthfulness. Children need to become critical and creative thinkers.

Their curiosity must not be squelched by boring lessons and long lectures.

Children need to learn how to live in the world they are in by interacting with other people and things in their own environment with much time to play, be active outside, tumble, run, shout, and be encouraged to use common sense.

Charlotte Mason, directs our attention to what our focus should be, in her book, “School Education” (pp 170-171):
“Our aim in Education is to give a Full Life. — We begin to see what we want. Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. ‘Thou hast set my feet in a large room’ should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking — the strain would be too great — but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest . . . The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care?”


As the new books are cracked open and young lives are being shaped, it is time to once again examine if we are setting our children in a large room where life can be explored in a rich way, where the atmosphere is saturated with what is true, pure, lovely and of good report, and in which we are more concerned to ask of our child: how much does he care?

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