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Posts Tagged "God's Word"

Showing the Gospel to Our Children

October 09, 2015
By Chelsea Carrier

One Way to Show the Gospel to Our Children

Chelsea L. Carrier

 

Recently I went on the annual high school trip to Doe River Gorge. On the first night we had a bonfire on the railroad tracks, and the headmaster led a hike above the gorge. No flashlights were allowed. We were to stay between the tracks and follow the headmaster’s voice and the person directly in front of us to avoid falling over the edge of the cliff. Most kept saying they couldn’t see their hand in front of their face, and I had to agree. The only thing I could see was the phosphorescent mineral on the tracks, an occasional glow worm, and the stars. Fortunately, I was right behind a young man who, despite his quiet demeanor, had the thoughtfulness to communicate each step.

“Watch your step here, Miss Carrier. Go a little to your right. Now back to the left. Watch the rails.”

He was only a few steps in front of me, but when walking in pitch darkness, the next step is all that really matters.

On our journey through life, hopefully with Christ, we may feel at times as though we are only one step in front of those following us. We may not really know our own next step. We are in just as much confusion as they.

As a young teacher who is still single and has no children, I often wonder what wisdom I could even offer my students. I’m still a student myself in so many ways, constantly having to seek counsel. But what I find from my colleagues and mentors is that we are all learning. Sometimes we are walking behind someone, sometimes beside, and sometimes just one step in front. But God uses all three. As I continue to learn through my own imperfections and contemplate the incarnation highlighted in our theme verse for the year, John 1: 14, I’ve determined that one of the best ways to exemplify the gospel is through my own brokenness.

Many situations and ideas come to mind with a word as broad as brokenness, and I’ve been contemplating this term for well-over a month now. After brainstorming on my own and discussing this word with a friend and colleague, I’d like to share the following three aspects of brokenness:

  1. human limitation
  2. consequences of a fallen world
  3. consequences of sin

 

In other words: being human. With the exception of Christ, who was fully human and yet never sinned, part of the human condition is experiencing all three forms of brokenness. In this post, I’ll only focus on the first one.

As I’ve developed relationships with students over the past four years, I’ve learned a few ways to “come alongside” students as we struggle with human limitation.

  • Sharing with them that I’m not a math person, that I had a meltdown while taking the ACT for the first time, that I was the kid in college who always had her hand up, not because she knew the answer, but because she had a question, that I got mad at my mom for making me rewrite a paper in high school, that I’m just plain tired this week--those are the things I have to weave in my conversations with them.

 

  • Asking for help passing out papers, opening a door, or cleaning the classroom--those the small ways to show them I am not above receiving help.

 

  • Allowing them to pray for me on a bad day when I can no longer hide it--those are the moments when they realize that I am human.

 

I don’t have to share every detail, and I’m not advocating the glorification of past struggles or complaining as a perpetual victim or martyr. That’s not truly sharing brokenness. But even scripture is filled with examples of godly people honestly sharing their brokenness with others for the encouragement of others and glory of God. This is the story of the gospel: the God of the universe so loved the world that He accepted the vulnerability of becoming a man, and while He never sinned, He suffered as one who had.


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 4:5-8)


Work Cited

The ESV Study Bible. Ed. Lane T. Dennis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. Print.

 

Why Broken Stories Matter

May 22, 2015
By Dane Bundy

Why Broken Stories Matter

 

     A few weeks ago, in rhetoric class, my students and I finished studying a number of short stories to look at persuasion’s role in fiction. Among the stories, “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne evoked the most rewarding discussion (maybe the year’s best). At first it didn’t look like this would be the case. A number of students found the lead character wretched: a man who is obsessed with creating human perfection. His obsession ultimately produces a dark narrative that concludes with little redemption in sight. It is a broken story.

 

     Daniel Taylor in his work, Tell me a Story, places stories into three helpful categories: whole, broken, and bent. He defines a broken story as one in which good is portrayed as good and evil as evil, however, in the end, good is not victorious, but evil is.

 

     When I think of a broken story I first think of the book of Judges. At this period in biblical history, the Israelites have worked themselves into a downward spiral of rebellion. Though we see glimpses of redemption from time to time (Ruth comes to mind), the story of Judges ends with the haunting lines, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (21:25). Gulp.

 

     Over the last couple of years, I’ve thought a lot about the purpose and value of broken stories. Shouldn’t Christians feed themselves on what Taylor calls whole stories? He defines whole stories as tales in which redemption takes place and good (not evil) is victorious.  The Bible itself is a whole story. We may also include Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.

 

     At Cornerstone, we don’t limit ourselves to whole stories. Actually, we read plenty of broken tales, ranging from the Greek or Shakespearean tragedies to the dystopian novels of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.

 

     I admit, broken stories are dark and unnerving and difficult to navigate at times. Have you ever had a grand piano dropped on your chest? I have: the afternoon I finished 1984. I was hoping, and expecting, Orwell would use Winston to expose and topple Big Brother; instead our hero is consumed by it.  

 

     If you let them, broken stories will burden your soul.

 

    Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that broken stories may serve an important purpose: they affirm what it’s like to live in a fallen world. Often it is the righteous who suffer and the wicked who prosper, and some people never experience a happy ending.

 

    However, broken stories may stir significant questions.

 

  • Why did the villain win? What did the villain want? Is there hope the villain will ever find redemption?

Why is this character the villain?   

  • Why did the hero fail? What did the hero want? Is there hope the hero may conquer the villain?

Why is this character the hero?

 

     A couple of these questions led our rhetoric class to consider man’s pursuit of perfection. However, the bell rang and the students left with no answers, just a handful of questions, terribly applicable to their own lives.

 

     Why does man seek perfection? Will he ever attain perfection? Is anyone perfect?

 

     Good literature asks questions like these, questions that apply to my students, but also you and me, and, for that matter, all who are human. Storytellers have a high calling: to tell the truth. They turn their backs on their craft when they sugar-coat or misrepresent what takes place in the world. The author of Judges, and the author of every book in the Bible, fulfills this high calling. Because of this, when we read Scripture, we read about murder, rape, depression, persecution, and betrayal.

 

     The Bible does not sugar-coat, because God always tells the truth: our world is a broken one. If you are human, you are broken. If you are human, you will never attain perfection. Left alone, we will never muster a happy story. It’s true: evil will always win.

 

     My students must hear this. I must hear this.

 

     If I don’t listen, I will never understand what’s about to come next: God became man and carried our burden of brokenness. Indeed, it was so heavy, it broke the god-man in the most violent fashion. But, after three days, God delivered justice, destroying evil in blinding glory. God made it clear: the only way to wholeness is through the god-man. This is the good news.

 

     The broken stories of human existence matter because they can lead us to the whole story of the Gospel, and as a teacher at Cornerstone, I am called to help my students understand the road from broken story to whole story. What a privilege it is.

Part II: Ten Things I Love About Mock Trials

May 12, 2015
By Dr. Faith Acker

Ten Things I Love about Mock Trials: Part II

Faith Acker

 

In my last post, I discussed five traditional benefits of mock trials. They are a wonderful pedagogical tool, provide great practice for real-world situations, and help students learn to think and to express themselves more clearly. These are all good academic defenses of mock trials, but the mock trial structure also has some less traditional benefits.

6.  Objections! The trial process is filled with rules and structure, as well as opportunities to challenge others who do not follow this structure. Learning how to challenge or contradict other people respectfully is one of life’s most important lessons. If practiced in secondary school, it will help these students in college (especially if they enroll in secular colleges), their careers, and even their relationships. While I don’t advocate shouting “Objection!” at a classmate, employer, or spouse, I do encourage my students to raise questions—and talk through the answers—not only in the mock trial process, but in all our English classes.

 

7.  Pathos reigns supreme. Trial arguments require not only logos (clear logic) and ethos (appeals to standards), but pathos. The most persuasive opening statement in the world still must survive the emotional appeal of a bereaved witness pleading for the other side. Trials, of necessity, include all forms of rhetorical appeal, students must learn to identify (and respond appropriately to) whatever rhetoric the world offers them.

8.  We study opposing views. Learning to understand differing schools of thought is an important part of the classical education, and both mock trial and debate allow students to anticipate and analyze differing opinions. My ninth graders are currently working on a mock trial of Creon (from Antigone), and at least two of them are annoyed that I’ve put them on the “wrong” side. Defending both sides of a given position is at the heart of the classical (Socratic) methodology, and it will also help us—as Christians—practice respect and discernment.

9.  Trial preparations are frustrating. Life is full of unexpected complications, such as the closing statement that mysteriously deletes itself the night before a trial, the witness who does not remember key details, or the irksome lawyer who makes repeated objections. Learning to deal with frustrations with grace is an important part of life; it is an especially crucial part of Christianity. We are called upon to live our faith not only in the blessed times, but also during the trials, and the annoyances and panics that plague long and complicated projects (such as mock trials) offer safe opportunities to practice appropriate responses.

10.  Trial preparations enable grace. Life is full of unexpected complications, and these also allow others to show us grace. Many of my students are (like me) fiercely independent and self-motivated. As Christians, we are expected to live in community, and in addition to serving others, we also sometimes need to allow others to serve us. During our Lancelot trial, one of my most independent students (who has many great skills, but is not the most accomplished typist) was driven by necessity to ask for last-minute typing assistance from a classmate. For her (and for me), learning to accept help with grace and gratitude is an important spiritual lesson.

As a teacher, mock trials require extensive (and sometimes exhausting) preparations and planning, but their benefits are tremendous. They are challenging and exciting in the moment, and some of these benefits will (I pray!)  last these students for decades.

The Word Became Flesh

April 14, 2015
By Chelsea Carrier

The Word Became Flesh

A few weeks ago during dismissal, I sat at my desk for a moment and watched my students leave. Usually I join the students in putting up chairs and gathering my belongings before I grade papers, email parents, and discuss teaching strategies with colleagues. My eighth graders had started one of my favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird, and already several of the kids had come to me saying how much they liked it and how far ahead they were. But something didn’t seem right, and as I watched my my students leave, I wondered, How many of them actually get it? I wasn’t so much concerned with whether they grasped who wrote what book or why a character made a certain decision or what a hyperbole is, but who Christ is, what the gospel is and means. After the last student shut the door, I couldn’t help crying, which (at least this time) turned to praying. I opened my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and flipped through the chapters we were reading about Scout’s first day of school battles with the new teacher, Miss Caroline:

Atticus stood up and walked to the end of the porch. When he contemplated his examination of the wisteria vine he strolled back to me.

     “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—”

     “Sir?”

     “—until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” (39)

Since my first time reading Mockingbird, I have appreciated Atticus’s simplicity and wisdom, but as I read these lines again, I realized I had a new opportunity to share the gospel with my students.

The next day, I had my students write journal entries (funny or personal—their choice) based on the following prompt:

            I just wish (insert a person here) would understand…

When they finished, I told them we would be rewriting the entries from the other person’s point of view. Then I shared Atticus’s words with them, along with the following verses:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

I then asked them, “Who climbed in our skin and walked around in it?”

We talked for a few minutes about how the God of the universe, who wasn’t under obligation to create us, much less understand us, came down and climbed into our skin, walked around in it, and then died for each person in the room. With that grace and knowledge, we ought to walk around in other people’s skin because Christ chose to do the same for us. Climbing in someone’s skin can be:

  • as simple as imagining you are the person and reflecting on the situation,
  • as convicting and compassionate as prayer,
  • or as practical as physically doing whatever it is the person does--whether it be washing the dishes, watching the kids, or helping with homework.

 

As I read the student’s journals, the ones where they had to write from a different point of view, I noticed that most of these entries sounded more like letters. Some of the letters had to be hard to write, as they were from the perspective of someone who had offended or hurt the writer in some way. The beauty came from the students’ insight and compassion. The letters were characterized by an ability to give any offending parties the benefit of the doubt, not excuses, but a realization that we are humans broken by sin.

Scout never could understand Miss Caroline or the Cunninghams.

I may not understand a student’s inattention.

You may not understand your son or daughter’s mood swings.

And we won’t understand until we imitate Christ and climb in each other’s skin. Whether we remember, forget, or even fail, we can rest in the truth that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

 

Works Cited

The ESV Study Bible. Ed. Lane T. Dennis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. Print.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1982. Print.

Latin's Not Dead

April 09, 2015
By Tracey Carrin

Why Study a “Dead” Language?

Amo, amas, amat…amamus, amatus, amant.”  This is the mantra of every current and former student of Latin. Last week, as my 5th grade class chanted this verb, a hand shot up to ask a pressing question:  “Why do we study Latin since it’s a dead language?”  Well, young one, I’m glad you asked!
 
How can something so ubiquitous be dead?  (ubiquitous, from the Latin ubique, meaning everywhere)  Latin is a language (language, from the Latin lingua, tongue) that is hard to escape.  Its remnants (remnant, from the Latin remanere, to remain) litter our English language like shells on a beach, each one a wonder to find and investigate (investigate, from the Latin investigare, to track or investigate).  I propose that this language is far from dead, but vibrantly alive in the language we use every day.
 
True, Latin is not a modern spoken language.  The Roman Empire from which it sprang has long since disintegrated.  However, the Romans left behind ideas that shaped Western civilization, including their prolific language.  The structure of English comes mostly from German (as well as many of our monosyllabic words), but even so, 60% of our vocabulary has a Latin origin.  An even higher percentage of our words that are two or more syllables come from Latin.  There are two main reasons for this abundance. 
 
First, in the 4th century, St. Jerome translated the Bible into the vulgate (or common) Latin. Then in 1382, John Wycliffe translated that work into English.  At the time, English was a new and somewhat underdeveloped language.  Words like propitiation and sanctify did not have an English equivalent, so the Latin words themselves were adopted into the malleable English language.  A thousand Latin words slipped into our language through the door of the Wycliffe Bible.
 
The second reason we have a generous amount of multi-syllabic Latin-based words is that all of academia in Europe knew and communicated in Latin during the Enlightenment.  It was the international language of the well-educated.  New ideas created a need for new vocabularies in science, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy, and thus found their expression in the “dead” language of Latin. The academic preference for the common “lingua Latina” spawned vast amounts of vocabulary.  Today the fields of law, medicine, and science are filled with Latinate lexicons.
 
But why do we study Latin today?  Are there still good reasons, even if you will never become a doctor, lawyer, or scientist? Educator Dorothy Sayers, whose essay The Lost Tools of Learning has inspired the resurgence of classical education in our country, offers us this startling perspective on the importance of Latin during a 1952 speech entitled “Ignorance and Dissatisfaction,” given in Cambridge, UK, “...If I were asked what, of all the things I was ever taught, has been of the greatest practical use to me, I should have to answer: the Latin Grammar.”
 
Classical education fosters sound thinking, writing, and speaking.  These skills are not merely philosophical niceties, but benefit the student in practical ways.  Latin has a positive and profound impact on the acquisition of these skills. 
 
At first glance, you may wonder, as my young student did, "Why do we study Latin since it's a dead language?" As we look closer at this language of weighty influence, we realize that Latin is not dead.  It's immortal.

 

Citations:
 “The Adventure of English: Birth of a Language,” BBC Documentary, 2003. YouTube, 2014.
*Note: This is a wonderful series, but due to some language and content, parental discretion is advised.

We’re All Mad Here: Keeping Faith in the Logic Stage

February 12, 2015
By Chelsea Carrier

My eighth graders just finished reading Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Some of the kids loved it. Others were disturbed by the absurdities. Many of them asked questions. Lots of questions. Their logic radars were on high alert, but to their frustration, there weren’t always explanations.

 

I realized that I could have helped them pick the story apart, but I really didn’t want to overanalyze, therefore killing the story. So I began to ask myself: Why read nonsense literature? What’s the place of nonsense in the life of a Christian? Then I remembered something I had read a few months ago in Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, a contemporary of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien:

 

The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of today discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world….

 

The general fact is simple. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion…To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain….

 

The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason. (30-31 and 34, emphasis mine)

 

I shared these quotes with my students, trying to emphasize that while I want them to develop good reasoning, ask questions, and seek solid answers, I don’t want to squelch their faith. That is not the purpose of logic. At the end of the day, there are some things that are simply beyond our understanding. We are finite beings living in a world created by an infinite God.

So we read chapters from the book of Job, tracing his suffering, God’s sovereignty and goodness, as well as God’s “answer” to Job’s questions. As one student pointed out, God’s answer was really more a series of rhetorical questions. Finally, we read Job’s response:

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you make it known to me.’

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;

therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42.2-6)

 

 

In the madness of our lives, all we can sometimes do is choose to rest in the truth that God is good, He is sovereign, He loves us, and He is not obligated to explain Himself. And somehow, once we have that perspective, we are comforted. At least for a little while.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009. Print.

 

The ESV Study Bible. Ed. Lane T. Dennis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. Print.

The Blessedness of Ordinary

January 22, 2015
By Edie Wadsworth

"In His incarnation, Christ has knit creation back together and sanctified our flesh, our mundane.  He has redeemed for us all the 'actual textures of physical life' and granted us the 'full extent of the  mysteries of the incarnation and all that flows from it, and all that make our mortal life fruitful once more."

"The incarnation took all that properly belongs to our humanity and delivered it back to us, redeemed.  All of our inclinations and appetites and capacities and yearnings are purified and gathered up and glorified by Christ.  He did not come to thin out human life;  He came to set it free.   All the dancing and feasting and processing and singing and building and sculpting and baking and merrymaking that belong to us, and that were stolen away into the service of false gods, are returned to us in the gospel.”~Thomas Howard

You know the list.   Laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, some crafting, and  even the noble task of rearing young children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.   It's quite noble work but it's so easy to despise it.   To wish it away while daydreaming about grandiose plans and schemes of some lofty new year’s goals & a big important job where your work is highly valued.

But my life doesn't look like that most days.

Most days, I'm here doing ordinary work  in a never ending cycle.

Washing the same dishes, cooking the same food, folding the same load of laundry, over and over again.

But today, I choose to relish it.

I hold the laundry tight and inhale extra long and think about the love that is modeled when a woman washes the same clothes over and over, day in, day out----almost touching something sacred----this washing and consecrating of materials things for a noble and good purpose.   Lingering in the renewal that comes from being clean.   My heart aches for that washing too.   Perhaps it's a blessed thing, this daily rhythm of life.

We love the grand scale, the best days, the shiny things.  

But what about all those ordinary days?  Where is God then?

He always chooses the ordinary things to do his greatest work.

He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

He chose ordinary fishermen.

He comes to us in the most humble of ways.

He gives bread to feed us, water to wash us, a baby in manger to be the salvation of the world.

He is no despiser of the small days.

It is in them that we see the key to life.

Not in falling in love but in loving everyday,  with clean socks and warm soup.

Not in that one blissful day of childbirth but in the birth of each day, one a time, where the daily routine teaches us to depend on our Father,  who has made no provision for tomorrow---but only today, in this daily bread.

Perhaps this thing I've come to dread----this daily drudgery----is in fact my greatest teacher, in disguise.

Teaching me to live in this moment.  With these children.  And this sacred work.    It's really all there is.

Today is the day of salvation.

So, I hold on tightly to little hands.   And I stir the soup.   And I fold the towels.

And I say thank you for this work, this calling.

And for this blessed ordinary day---where grace and mercy rain down and turn water into wine, drudgery into vocation, and curse into blessing.

Why Failure is Acceptable: An argument against perfection

December 16, 2014
By Faith Acker

As I write this blog post, my desk is piled with books and papers and ungraded student work. My coffee mug huddles timidly (only because it is empty) in the shadow of an enormous stack of papers I am supposed to grade and checklist of tasks I am supposed to complete (including this blog post).

I do not feel either efficient or productive.

When I originally drafted this post, it told a story about the importance of asking questions, and of resting in uncertainty. Cleverly linking this to my previous post, I pointed out that the questions The Odyssey raises allow us to appreciate the limits of our knowledge, defined by the all-important phrase “I don’t know.”

Since that draft, I have noticed that my own pride is not focused on right answers, but on efficiency and timeliness. For my students, “I don’t know” is often a mark of failure; for me, “I can’t do that” is the downfall of my pride.

It is easy, particularly in school, to become entranced by the idea of perfection. My students desire the all-elusive “A+,” and I selfishly long both to see them succeed and to seem efficient and productive in the process. Each week, my students strive for high grades and correct answers (and I applaud them for this), while I struggle to return tests and papers and quizzes in a timely manner. We focus on these goals, but they are ultimately irrelevant.

Far more important than my students’ grades are their questions and, even, their failures. I long to see them rest in the security of God’s omniscience when their own strength fails them. Similarly, in my own life, it is far more important that I learn to be humble and to rest on God’s strength than that I complete all my required tasks by the deadlines. (Did I mention that this blog post is late?)

Much as Christians want to understand God and His world, we are limited by our frailty. When I have failed to check off all the items on my list of daily tasks, I fail. I hate this, but when the day ends and I leave my teetering tower of uncompleted work, I go home not as a failed teacher, but as a sinner loved by God. When my students forget the facts they have learned, or (more typically) don’t pause to read the directions, they can relax in the comfort that God knows all things (and created the ultimate directions). Even as we admit our ignorance and feebleness, our

God reigns supreme.

As midterms loom, my own weaknesses become more and more evident, and my students become more and more panicked. This year, I hope to rejoice in my failure instead of wallowing in frustration, because it is—as all things are—an opportunity to see God work in me.

The One Thing Our Kids Need

December 09, 2014
By Edie Wadsworth

The sun was pouring into the east sky, scattering orange like a blanket over everything.  She was sitting in the front seat, unable or unwilling to look at me, her head turned decidedly away and her body clinging to her side of the car sending its message loud and clear.  Was there a tear in the corner of her eye?  I don't know because I was too angry to ask.  We were on our way to a social gathering and I just needed her to get over herself already.  What I was really secretly thinking is that I wanted her to show my friends how pleasant my teenager was, how smart and well adjusted, how sweet and kind to be around—all of which would translate into some imaginary points for me.  What I didn't want was for her to sulk through the whole thing and make me look bad.

And we were running out of time, because we were almost there and neither of us seemed capable of moving toward reconciliation.

Why was she even sulking?  I couldn't for the life of me figure it out and I was too stubborn to ask—maybe too afraid that I had done something to cause it.

So, I lost my patience and basically demanded that she play the part.  I didn't yell but I was harsh.  I bulldozed right through the situation and got what I wanted.  It wasn't my best parenting moment.  We walked in and she pulled herself together. She was perfectly behaved.  She was engaging and courteous.  But, she was hurt and probably only I could tell.

On the way home, my heart began to soften and the guilt set in.  I wondered to myself at what price had I wrangled her obedience.  I thought back to times in my own life when I knew I was being valued for my performance, by what good I could bring to the table and I felt the sting of doing the same thing to this person I supposedly loved with all my heart.  We had a long talk about what had happened.  I apologized for being harsh, for demanding results.  She explained why she was upset and then apologized for the sulking.  It was pretty simple, in retrospect.  We are sinners who fail each other everyday.  The magic is in being willing to fess up to all the ways we hurt ones we love most.  She just wanted to be heard and understood.  But she didn't know how to ask for it and I was too full of my own selfish expectations to even ask.

Parenting by law or by sheer will will often get us the results we want but those results won't endure because they will begin a long and slow fracture of the heart. Just like in our spiritual life, the law requires us to be a certain way, to follow certain rules, but it does nothing to win our hearts.  Only love can do that. The law requires but love inspires.  The law kills but love makes alive.  The law leaves us empty,  despairing at all the ways we never measure up.  Love fills us to overflowing, and the overflow seeps out to everyone in our wake. This is the love we have been given in Christ, the God Man who came into our very flesh to be our perfect substitute in all things, even our failure to love rightly.

In turn, we have been given the tremendous, dare I say, impossible task of passing that love on to our children.  And for that, there is no shortcut—only a lifetime of living it out in the everyday mundane trenches of ordinary life, mostly confessing how painfully we fail at doing the one thing we had hoped to do well.

Love.

It never fails.   Even when we do.  Perhaps especially then.

Redeeming the Morning Commute

November 11, 2014
By Edie Wadsworth

 

It started before we ever got in the car.  She couldn't find her jacket or her permission slip and her socks were all dirty.  I never made it to the grocery store and the breakfast choices were slim to none.  It was Monday and we were running late, to make matters worse.  I was irritated with her shortcomings and she was irritated with mine.  So there we sat silent, each avoiding eye contact with the other, each wishing the ride to school were shorter.  I wheeled through the fog into the convenience store so she could get a nice healthy breakfast like pop-tarts or powdered donuts and she balked, saying she didn't have time to stop.  Great.  Now, I would have to feel guilty that she didn't eat.  I made an angry u-turn and an equally angry sigh.  She began to tear up.

When we got close to the school, I gave her my phone like every other day and asked her to read the Psalm for the day.  She read it in a broken voice.

"Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! 

In your faithfulness, answer me.

Enter not into judgement with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground;  he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.

Therefore, my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all you have done;  

I ponder the work of your hands;  I stretch out my hands to you;

my soul thirsts for you like parched land.  

Answer me quickly, O lord, for my spirit fails.

Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down in the pit. 

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in You I trust."   (Psalm 143:1-8)

And then we said the Lord's prayer in unison like we always do,

Our Father, who art in heaven

Hallowed be Thy name,

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

Forever and ever, Amen.

And with the very words of God himself we are restored to fellowship with each other.  She wipes her eyes and I hug her tight before she gets out of the car.  

So simple, so powerful.  

Just a few life-giving words and the prayer that Jesus gave us to pray.  His Word creating faith where there is doubt, love where there is strife, forgiveness where there is sin—the morning commute and all its stress redeemed by better words than we would ever think to say.  

And tomorrow, we'll do it all over again.

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