Monday, March 16, 2015

Stoking the moral imagination

Recently my eldest granddaughter and I have been reading chapter books together.  Since she is in southern Arizona and I am in northern New Mexico, we have breakfast dates: she eats her breakfast while I read to her via Hangouts or Skype.  We have completed The Tale of Despereaux, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian this way.  And now we are working on Little House in the Big Woods.

My sweet 4-year-old has never before imagined a world without refrigerators, or where you butchered pigs to get bacon, or where your only doll was a corn husk and you dreamed of a real doll.  She is learning about these things through Laura's eyes in the little log house at the edge of the Big Woods.  And today's lesson included me finding and lighting an oil lamp for her, and telling her that her own Grandma Shirley, my mom, would love a phone call to tell her about plucking chickens when she was a young girl on the farm.  What wonderful family times together!

Stories have such a broadening affect on us: we travel in our mind's eye to distant times and lands, and live in the shoes of others, facing their problems and joys. It is not only about pigs and oil lamps we learn, but about courage and failure, strength and weakness, wisdom and foolishness.  And we exercise the muscles of our moral imagination, as author Vigen Guroian says, We begin to build our copia of ideas from which other ideas, if well-watered and exposed to good light, will sprout.

What a privilege it is to read to my granddaughter, and stuff her full of new ideas, stoking the fire of her moral imagination.  I can't wait till the other grandchildren get old enough to join us!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Come join me!

What a journey our lives are!  We traverse busy, populated places and isolated places.  We begin epic journeys without realizing it, and those big plans we make purposely often get turned aside when we least expect it.  While we cannot always tell what is ahead around the next bend in the road, we can look back and get glimpses of what God has been about in our lives.  Giving talks and leading discussions is one of those opportunities to look backwards, see with a broader perspective, and do a little evaluating.

I have a couple of exciting opportunities to do just that coming up in the next couple of weeks, and I invite you to come and join me, Gentle Readers!

On Thursday, March 19th, I will be speaking to young homeschool moms in my hometown.  If you are in Northern New Mexico and want to join us, leave a comment or e-mail me for details.  It is a privilege to share with younger moms regarding where my journey wandered and what became of me and my family along the way.It is a story about the goodness of God to redeem my sin and bless me despite it. And I hope to encourage these young women coming behind me to trust Him with their journeys.

And on Friday, March 27, at 2 PM Eastern (12 noon my local Mountain time) I will be leading a discussion online about something I am quite passionate about: worldviews, or why understanding the philosophy of just about everything is really practical and necessary to living a Christ-centered life. This is a free "Great Ideas" discussion at the Harvey Center-- you just have to register to save a spot and get the link to the online, live discussion.  You can register using the form at the bottom of the page here,  and find more info here.  

I appreciate your prayers, as always, Gentle Readers, and invite you to come join me.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

TBT: Meeting Elsa

In honor of this week's birthday, here are some pictures from the weekend we first met our dear daughter-in-love, Elsa.  I knew we were in trouble when my eldest son, Ben, who had never noticed anything about women's clothing in his life, saw her waiting outside her dorm and said aloud, "Oh good-- she is wearing that cute little denim outfit."  I looked at him and said, "Who are you and what have you done with my son?"  

Hope you had a wonderful birthday, Elsa.  You bring much joy and blessing to our lives!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rambling thoughts about integration

As I write this morning, I am listening to some news analysis about the Oklahoma University fraternity that chanted their racist pledge on camera recently.  I am glad to see such racism universally condemned.  How were  these young men allowed to lead their privileged lives without confronting questions of moral virtue until young adulthood? It ties in well with my recent ponderings about integration.

I have not been thinking of integration as the opposite of racial segregation, though it certainly is that, but in terms of our current educational model of separating everything into differentiated subject area studies, and what that leads to.  When we learn "English" as separate from "history" or "logic" or "composition", we miss a huge aspect of what education ought to be about.  The whole concept of a "university" was that all things were brought together, not separated.  When we view our world as separated into categories that don't overlap, we have failed to educate the whole person, and we have made it impossible to educate in a way that develops moral virtue. When "ethics" is its own course, and never meets "math" or "business", we should not be surprised at the moral failure evident among us. The young men mentioned above are a result of our culture's disintegrated education, disintegrated families, and the tendency to sin which exists in all human hearts. What a tragedy.

An integrated education aimed at nurturing virtue cannot cure all that ills us.  It can, however, shine light in dark places, and call forth that which is good and beautiful and true,and, by implication, help us to name the evil that lurks in our own hearts.

Monday, March 02, 2015

On students as fledglings

I recently reread C. S. Lewis' Abolition of Man (or more exactly, listened to the audio version of this, which I had previously read.) I always marvel at Lewis' logic, laugh at his wit, and ponder the truth he shares. The whole "men-without-chests" metaphor here has long been a favorite with me to describe the results of progressive or modern education.

What really struck me and left me pondering this time, however, was what he said about good teaching prior to progressivism.  He describes this teaching as flowing seamlessly out of a philosophical and moral ethos that was unskeptical of the notion that there was, indeed, right and wrong, good and bad, a moral wisdom to be preserved.  He contrasts this type of teacher with the progressive teacher when he says:

They did not cut men to some pattern they had chosen. They handed on what they had received: they initiated  the young neophyte into the mystery of humanity which over-arched him and them alike. It was but old birds teaching young birds to fly.
~C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, part 3

What a great definition of teaching:  A good teacher takes the fledglings under her care and does nothing more than prepare them and kick them out of their comfortable place. It implies a transmission of humility before God and a teachable spirit that must be modeled, and is at the heart of all real and true education.

A good teacher fledges her charges. I like that.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Grammar for the win

This morning we heard an excellent sermon from Ephesians 6.  But the part of the sermon I keep ruminating over is a point of grammar.  Verse 10 of that chapter says:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might."

In this verse, the command to "be strong" is actually in the passive voice.  For those of you who have taken composition with me, you know what that means.  It means that the action is not being done by the subject, but being done to the subject.  I sometimes call the passive the voice of victimhood to help my fledglings remember that in passive voice the subject is the victim of the verb.  So, according to my learned pastor, instead of a straight command to do something here, to "be strong," the sense of this verse is more along the lines of "Be kept strong."

Now that may seem like a superfluous difference of trivial semantics to you, Gentle Reader, a mere trifling with words.  But the difference here is huge.  If this verb is active, I am left in sheer exhaustion of resources.  How can I be strong in and of myself when the slings and arrows come my way?  But if I am to be kept strong, ah, then I can sink into the arms of Christ, and trust Him to keep me in perfect peace. I am a victim of His grace and protection. And that is a huge difference.

Grammar: it is not just for English teachers. It makes theologians of us all.