The Wonder of Learning


She’s heading off to preschool this week.


This eldest child of mine, so full of excitement and curiosity, is beginning her journey of learning.

Although I suppose she’s not just beginning, is she? She’s been learning since the moment she first entered this amazing world.

This thought makes me wonder about the idea of learning. If all of our life is to be made sacred, one seamless piece of fabric that is woven around God, how should learning fit in?

I am reminded of wisdom I read recently: 
Education is the atmosphere we breathe, the envelope of wonder that surrounds us, held by the gravity of our daily habits. ~ Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience


Is this learning? Simply being in awe of God’s world, desiring to discover as much of it as we can? Perhaps if we remain in awe of God, we naturally gain a zest for learning. Perhaps if we possess that sense of wonder, we become a “creative, thinking, exuberant person who spills with the joy of learning” (also Ann Voskamp).

It seems, as I explore what learning should be and as I re-visit my thoughts about all things being sacred in our daily lives and in the world around us, that learning is, at least in part, simply staying awake in the moment. It is exploring, being curious, holding tightly to that sense of wonder in God and His handiwork.


If so, than learning should happen in every moment rather than being confined to certain hours of schooling. Are the lines that we draw between school and the rest of our lives artificial and wrong?

This idea fits in with other things about which I have pondered. The entire fabric of our lives should be sacred, seamless, one piece woven around praising and thanking our God. 
For in Him we live and move and have our being. ~ Acts 17.28

Earth is crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit around it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude. 
~Elizabeth Barret Browning


My latest issue of Mars Hill Audio Journal arrived this week and caused me to wonder if they had anything to say about learning and knowledge. I found an essay by Ken Meyers in which he speaks of universities and discusses the importance of knowledge to our faith:
We can begin by regularly reminding ourselves that the God who saves us is the God who made us and all things, that our message of redemption only makes sense in the context of the bigger story about creation. Our God cares about all aspects of our lives, and thus the renewing of our minds is as needful as the cleansing of our hearts.

He also says this: 
Loving God and neighbor requires knowledge of the truth about God and the truth about the many challenges and opportunities of human experience in the world God has made.

The importance of knowledge to our faith is something we as a church don’t seem to talk about very much.

In fact, as I think more about it, knowledge and faith often seem to be held up by the church as incompatible or, at the very least, two very separate things, with faith being the essential piece to our salvation.

While I am thinking through these things, our Sunday class (does anyone call it Sunday School anymore?) is studying II Peter.

Our teacher points out that Peter seems to say that knowledge is essential to our faith. Through knowledge of God we have grace and peace. Through knowledge of God we have everything we need for life and godliness. Knowledge sits right between goodness and self-control in Peter’s list of important qualities to seek.

But what sort of knowledge? What does Peter mean by this word?


I dive into my Strong’s.


Oh. There are two different words used in this first chapter of II Peter.


The first one, the word that gives us grace, peace, everything we need, is epignosis (precise/correct knowledge) which is related to epiginosko (to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly, to perceive who a person is).


Relationship knowledge.



The second word, the word that Peter urges us to add to our faith along with goodness, self-control, perseverance  godliness, brotherly kindness and love? This word is gnosis (general intelligence, understanding, implying science).


Creation knowledge.



Aha.


Once again, all is related, all is woven together into one beautiful, seamless fabric.


Learning, gaining knowledge, is a large part of how we weave the various parts of our lives together into a seamless, sacred whole. Not something to be relegated to school-type hours.


We seek for epignosis, to become thoroughly acquainted with God, so that we may have everything we need for life and godliness.


We seek for gnosis, general understanding about the world He has created, so that we may keep from being ineffective and unproductive in our epignosis of our Lord Jesus Christ.


May we remain in awe of God and retain our sense of wonder in the world (including its creatures, human and otherwise) He has created.  May we continue to pursue knowledge in every moment of our daily lives and turn that knowledge into praise and thanksgiving, into loving of all those around us.


art credit: Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer 

My Default

“Stop!” I yell. “Just stop it!”

My eldest runs sobbing down the hallway to her room, fleeing the unholy wrath of her mommy.


I watch her go. My head slumps and my heart breaks. I did it again.

Hurled anger at one of those I love most rather than gently bearing love.

Why do I do this? Why do I consistently make wrong choices? Why is it so hard to choose the right way?

How can I read God’s words of love to me, His child, and then turn around and choose to offer anger to my own children?

And it is a choice. Ann Voskamp, in One Thousand Gifts, says:

Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? That Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way? Why else get angry? Isn’t it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me up into the full life I really want?

I’m a curious learner and I want to know why.

Why does my nature seem stuck in a default of sin? Why am I so easily led into believing that Satan’s way is more fulfilling than Jesus’ way?

Why is it easier to believe Satan than God?

I ask our pastor and he points me to Romans 5:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…

So because of Adam, I really do start life with a disadvantage, with a default of disobedience? How is this fair?

Again, Pastor, in his letter, offers a way to understand:

God chose Adam as our representative, just as we choose our representatives in government. Just as we are bound by what our congressmen sign in our names, so we are bound by what Adam did for all of humanity.

I stop reading. I am still not liking this. Did God choose poorly? I didn’t get to vote on who represented me in this matter of sin and death!

Reluctantly, I keep reading and Pastor points me to the rest of Romans 5:

…if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! … how much more will those who receive…the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ … so also through the obedience of the one man, the many will be made righteous.

how much more


through Jesus Christ

Yes, God chose Adam as our representative. For all I would like to blame him, I know that no other human would have done any better.
And God chose Jesus as our representative! We are not simply restored to our own faulty, pitiful righteousness, we are raised up to Christ’s righteousness!

What a gift. What grace.

When we say “yes” to Jesus, our old nature is gone and we are a new creation (2 Cor 5).


Why do I still find it difficult to obey? Why do I still choose anger rather than love?

Because I forget. I do not steep myself in Jesus. I do not surround myself with His words. I do not ask Him to change my heart.


I will continue to ask. I will find more ways to hide His words in my heart and let Him change me.

When I forget, I will ask again for grace.

I walk to her room and hold her close. I wipe away her tears and ask her to forgive me.

She nestles in close to my heart and I breathe thanks for this grace, this gift of a child who is able to offer God’s grace to a weak Mommy.


A mommy who chooses, at this moment, to offer words of love.

Source/credit for paintings: Creation of Adam by Michelangelo; Christ of Santa Maria sopra Minerva by Michelangelo

An Old Question

May we have another conversation?
How about an old question today?
A question as old as humanity.
What is my purpose?
Why am I on earth and what am I supposed to do while I am here?
The ancients spent time on this:
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
~ Genesis 4.2
Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. ~ Genesis 4.20
His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.
~ Genesis 4.21
Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. ~ Genesis 4.22
They figured out what to do while here on earth. 
What about us? What about all of mankind as a whole?
This is what has been in my mind lately:
Perhaps we have a dual role, we humans. A dual purpose, given to us by God Himself.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness… ~ Genesis 1.26
Let us make. We are created, a part of God’s creation.
In our image. We are God’s unique counterpart, His representatives here on earth.
Perhaps we could try to work through the idea of being God’s representative first?
Being made in God’s image brings with it certain responsibilities.
The second part of Genesis 1.26 says that God decided that we were to rule, have dominion over, all living creatures.
David echoes this in Psalm 8:
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.
This has, unfortunately, been used too often as an excuse to plunder the earth and destroy it.
Instead, as Jeremy Begbie says in Resounding Truth:
as God’s image bearers, humans are to exercise God’s wise and loving rule within the world; to use more modern language, we are to be wise stewards of the earth, caring for it and protecting it in a way that reflects and embodies God’s rule over his creation.
We are also to spread God and His love to the rest of the world. We are to work to speed up God’s future goal for creation, to bring healing, restoration, hope and peace.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. ~ II Corinthians 5.18-20
Israel was supposed to be a picture of this. Israel was called to be God’s people, accomplishing God’s purposes for humanity in and for the world. They had experienced God’s rescuing power and love and were to be His way of giving that love to the rest of the world.
I wonder what would have happened if Israel had obeyed. What would our world look like if they had acted as God’s representatives?
This is a painful question.
Israel’s purposes were but a shadow of our own.
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
~ II Corinthians 3.6-9
What would our world look like if I were acting as God’s representative?
What would my neighborhood, my community look like if I were caring for and protecting our world, if I were sharing God’s rescuing love with the people around me?
I will confess. Different.
Things have gone wrong and many live in alienation from one another and in purposeless and destructive living. I want to be different. I want to live in the image of God.
We can only do small things. Being mindful of the way we treat our natural resources, sharing our garden and our baked goods with our neighbors, helping another child get the food, education and spiritual learning she needs…
I will continue to think through this, trying to imagine what it looks like to act in the image of God. Will you help me? What if we all made a small change or two? Perhaps our world would look different.
Come back next week? Bring your coffee and stay awhile. I enjoy talking over hard things with you. Even if we come to no conclusions, I think it is helpful and good. We can continue with the other side of this: being a part of God’s creation.

Worldview

May we continue the conversation?

If our daily lives are to be centered around Christ, if we are to build physical reminders of Jesus into our daily routines, if all that we are and all that we do is to be made sacred, then how does that idea expand to include the world around us? Is the world around us, the culture in which we live, also to be made sacred?

I read “Resounding Truth” and ponder this:

This book is concerned with…gaining theological discernment about music…It is concerned with how God’s truth might “sound” and “re-sound” in the world of music.

My mind begins to whirl. Should I attempt to view music through a godly perspective? Even purely instrumental music? If in this, than in what other realms should we have a godly worldview?

Literature? Politics? Art? Philosophy? Science? Technology?
Should everything be interpreted through a God-window?

I suppose that there is nothing outside of the lordship of Jesus.

I think through this a little more.

Are we asked to view everything in our world through a godly framework? Are we called by God to actively think through issues in our world, to read and listen, pray and ponder the things in our culture that are relevant in the world?

It would certainly be easier to stay focused only on my home, my daily routine.

Easier, however, is not generally what God calls us to pursue.

Paul says in Colossions 3.17:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks for God the Father through Him.

Whatever you do. This certainly reinforces my thoughts about consciously bringing God into my daily life. This doesn’t, however, necessarily translate to God asking us to actively pursue an understanding of and engagement with our culture.

I continue to wonder and seek God in this as I move through my day.

I sit at the computer and see that I have received my Mars Hill Audio Journal in my in-box.

Mars Hill’s stated purpose is to help Christians thoughtfully engage their culture.

They make the argument (rightfully, I believe) that a layer of “Love your neighbor as yourself” is to

pay careful attention to the neighborhood: that is, every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised, where neighbors are either edified or undermined. Therefore, living as disciples of Christ pertains not just to prayer, evangelism, and Bible study, but also our enjoyment of literature and music, our use of tools and machines, our eating and drinking, our views on government and economics, and so on.

Considering a godly perspective on technology and economics is a newer idea for me.

Paul certainly engaged the culture when he spent time in the marketplace in Athens, listening to and speaking with the philosophers of the day. (Acts 17)

As artists, my friend Kati and I have discussed this issue from the perspective of making quality art and engaging the artistic community where they are in order that art may be pervaded by Christ.

Should there be any realm of human endeavor that is not pervaded by Christ?

The host of Mars Hill says it this way:

But it is nonetheless imperative for us to be active in the culture, not because we are saved, but because we are created. Pursuing an understanding of and engagement with our culture is necessary for Christians because we must first bow to God as Creator, to thank him for the goodness that remains in his fallen creation, to live creatively, that is, in keeping with the patterns and norms he has established for creation, even as we eagerly await the advent of a new creation.

Meanwhile, life in this created sphere has meaning and value. God bestows blessings even on the unrighteous. He gives wonderful talents and abilities to those who hate the mention of his name. These blessings are what we mean by common grace: the gratuitous gifts to the just and the unjust that sustain and enrich the life shared by the wheat and the tares.

C.S. Lewis also argues that God asks us to bring Him into all branches of human thought:

If all the world were Christian, it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now–not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground–would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether.

I must conclude that God does, indeed, ask us to actively pursue an understanding of and engagement with our culture. As I pursue this idea of holistic living, of considering everything to be made sacred, I must go beyond the walls of my home, beyond the walls of my church.

I will keep reading and listening, praying and pondering.

Will you continue the conversation?

If you want a bit of Further Reading on this, here are two essays:
Christianity, Culture and Modern Grace
Christianity and Culture

Made Sacred

Her Daddy and I are her sun and moon. Her world revolves around us and she depends on us to keep her life whole.

When one of us is away, she begs to know where we are and what we are doing. She loves routine, this two-year old of mine, needs to know that her Daddy and I are constant and will keep her world whole, will keep it from falling into pieces.

I, on the other hand, seem to delight in fragmenting my world. I want to divide my life into pieces.

A place for household chores and yard work and a place for reading my books.

A place for my husband and a place for my children.

A place for friends and a place for family.

Neat and separated.

For surface organization, perhaps, this brings contentment. Yet daily I willfully ignore my own Sun and Moon Who could knit my life back together into a beautiful whole. I continually forget about inviting Him into certain places of my day.

There is no joy in places of my day that do not include Christ, only weary tasking and resentment over un-acknowledged work.

How can this change? It has become such habit to separate out my day between sacred and secular.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6.5-7)

How can I allow God to knit the secular places of my life back into the sacred?

How can the whole of my daily life be made sacred?


I am inspired by Brother Lawrence, the dishwasher:

“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

Yet unlike my Eldest Child, I don’t allow God be constant, keeping my world whole. I speak as though this were my desire. I sing “in my life be lifted high” yet don’t act in physical ways to keep Him present during my chores, while reading my books, in my daily interactions with my family.

I have places. Some are sacred and some are secular.

I long for my world to be whole. For all to be made sacred.

I pray for wisdom. I seek answers and ideas. I have found a few.


The rest of the passage from Deuteronomy:

“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut 6.8-9)

God desires for our lives to be made wholly sacred.

He knows how forgetful we are. He knows that He created us as physical beings. He knows that we need physical and constant reminders.

Ann Voskamp
shares her family’s practice of reading the Word at every meal. They eat the Bread of Life while they break bread together. Perhaps this is another layer of meaning to “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22.19)

After all, Jesus was sharing a meal at the time.

We are just beginning to join in this sharing of Bread at mealtimes.

We try. We fail. We begin again.

We forget. We are ashamed. We begin again.

Liturgy is a foreign and almost forbidden word to us. The idea, however, intrigues me. Set times in your day for going to God. A discipline of regular prayer that keeps us rooted in the sacred at all times, in all of our places. I discovered this version of a book of Common Prayer. We have not tried this yet. Perhaps the little ones are a bit too little still.

Small changes. Little steps. Will you help? Share how God is teaching you to weave your days into a sacred whole?

We yearn and pray for all that we are and all that we do to be made sacred.