Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reflections on Easter

I love Christmas...I love the tucked-in warmth of family time and gifts and the focus that we place on love and human kindness. It is my favorite, in a sense. Every year when Christmas comes I am so happy because of the mystery and the miracle, and let's face it, there is such an element of humanity there--God becoming flesh and being born--mom in labor, baby arriving and guests coming to visit, and then the high drama of parents fleeing for his life and the life of all humanity, all so we can have the next holiday.

But then there is Easter. Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, Lent and Ash Wednesday...this 40-day anticipation. It is not tucked in. It is not even necessarily happy. It is public, and visible, and painful if entered into fully. It is an acknowledgement of the end of life, the truth of who we really are and the judgement that we deserve. It is an identification with the reality that we are sinners, and for 40 days Jesus faced intense temptation on an empty stomach, face to face with Satan and proved that he was not. So for 40 days we remember.

And then this man who was not a sinner, who had a mother, who had a family of brothers and sisters, a huge following and the weight of the world on his shoulders is falsely accused, beaten and brutally murdered, betrayed by one of his closest friends. Good Friday. Good because he laid himself down for us. Horrible in the reality of what we did to him. True story.

Then Saturday. Silent. Waiting. Knowing the end of the story but imagining all that must have been going through the minds of his family and friends. Waiting for Sunday because of longing to hear that one word...

Throughout Lent the word "Alleluia" is omitted from the liturgy. For the purpose of reflection and a reminder of the gravity of our sin, we do not celebrate. We wait.

Last night I had a dream that I was in a church with people that I know and love all around me and it was Easter morning. We were singing the hymn "All Creatures of our God and King" which has a refrain of "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia" in it. I found myself nearly swallowed in the Alleluias, the highest word of praise. The truth. I could not help but close my eyes, raise my hands, and in the moment was aware of fact that every single person there was compelled to worship in the same way. We were lost to ourselves and completely surrounded by the Truth of the Resurrection!

There is this unspeakable joy that overcomes me every single year on Resurrection Sunday. It is not a time to be tucked in with family and celebrating humanity. This is for public display! This is running through the streets and preaching material! This is the end of death if you will claim it, the end of suffering if you will believe it, the beginning of eternal life if you will have it! This is freedom! There is no law or regulation or ordinance that can defeat it. There is only the hope that we now have, and the joy that nothing can overcome us if we are in Christ. Nothing.

Alleluia. Easter is my favorite. Every. Single. Year. Forever and ever and ever. Alleluia.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Everything in its Season

Ecclesiastes 3:1
For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.

This is one of my favorite chapters of scripture. As I move through life, I have learned more and more that there are seasons for things. Everything we traverse is part of a season and as sure as winter changes to spring, so do seasons of life. Whether it be in life, death, sickness, growth, laughter, quietness, or passionate pursuit, the season will change. There are seasons in learning as well, and we must not force children into a season where they are not. In fact, we cannot force them. Trying to do so only frustrates, and I know this from painful experience with my own kids. 

Right now I find myself in a season that has me pondering our purposes. In the outside world I hear a cacophony of noise about education--Who is best in the world?  How do we test? Should we standardize? Guess what--you don't have a choice in the matter! It's happening! What about college? Should everyone go? Do you have to go to be marketable? What does that mean, anyway???

Much of education seems to be tied to the sense that inner peace is somehow connected to the inevitable job at the end of the educational tunnel, and if you can't get a job, then all is lost. Check all the boxes, and at the end you can be churned out into the marketplace to satisfy someone else's whims and answer to their demands so you can take home a lousy paycheck and buy some Ikea furniture.

Much of this external cacophony can put pressure on parents who homeschool, and especially those who choose a different path than what is typically prescribed by school systems. Classical educators and unschoolers and eclectic Charlotte Mason types, or any other "type" of home schooler that there is cannot be a stranger to the unnerving sense that overcomes from time to time that says, "You're kids are freaks and will never be able to support themselves. What on earth are you doing to them?" 

Ah, but then there is this moment...

I was sweating and fretting because I wasn't having my son do enough writing, though I wasn't entirely sure what "enough" meant. I was trying to cram him through a curriculum that he hated, and when I considered what I would be feeling were I to do the curriculum, I would hate writing too. I had to evaluate what my objective for him in writing actually is. In fact, my objective is for him to be an effective communicator. So I backed off and decided to watch and wait, and yes--I even prayed about this. Then this happened...

After a particularly lively conversation about The Wanderings of Odysseus with our Tapestry of Grace Dialectic co-op kids, one of them piped up with, "Could we write a paper that compares the gods and heroes?" 

Me: Stare. Blink. "Uhhhhhm...Yes. Yes you can. I think that is a great idea." And so began our journey of writing applicable, difficult academic papers. All the kids agreed that this was something they wanted to take on, something that they want to learn how to do, and four papers later (in two months' time) have turned out some tremendous work. They have tackled the very difficult comparison / contrast essay twice (though normally I would never start there!), a biographical essay, and the art of effective summary. They have not balked, complained or winced when given difficult critiques, but have embraced them and applied what they learned to the next paper. They have asked to receive grades, and I have given them with the understanding that I will be honest in the assessment, to which they all nodded and said that they wanted it, even if it wasn't a "good" grade. 

None of these kids were being forced to write above or outside of their particular skill or age level up to this point. All of them have been allowed to develop at their pace and in their strengths. Now that they are ages 10-13 and very much in that dialectic stage where they want to interact with information on a deeper level, they have no qualms about asking how to do it. Straight up. Honest. Just like kids, but this time more like young men and women who truly want to know...

For everything there is a season.

It showed me once again, that I really don't need to worry. I have asked for wisdom about how to do this, and watching and waiting for my children's cues for readiness has proven the best course more than once! Each of these children has a season, and we cannot create it for them. We can only model, model, model what Godly, wise, healthy living is, and provide the guidance for them along the way. It is not my job to make my children. It is my job to guide them. When they are ready, I must be prepared to meet them on the path and show them the way, even when the season changes unexpectedly, brings storms and turmoil, and when there seems to be a drought. Watch and wait. Listen the the voice of the Lord who has placed me here for this very purpose. Be faithful. diligent. prayerful. loving. kind. compassionate. merciful. every season.