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Posts Tagged ‘God’

I was in the car quite a bit this week, so I had the chance to listen to a good chunk of the book Quiet by Susan Cain.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I listened with great interest as Cain’s work on introversion has much to say to many spheres of our lives – including education.

 In the first part of the book, Cain discusses how in the early 1900s, culture shifted from being concern with character – something that anyone can work to improve – to being obsessed with performance, appearance, and personality. This perceived importance of  personality developed as society began transitioning from working on the farm with family and neighbors to working in urban areas with strangers. To get along and succeed they were encouraged to improve their personality – to be more outgoing, friendly, and appealing.  Dale Carnegie, who grew up as a shy farm boy, discovered that those with great speaking ability were often successful. He began to study speaking at College, became very good at it and went on to teach it to others. Eventually writing the famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  The modern obsession with personality continued. Young men and women were encourage to develop charismatic personalities to attract a husband or wife. Now the strength of character was replaced with a bubbly personality.
Further, schools began enforcing this line of thinking. Introverted kids were labeled as a problem and were encouraged to be more outgoing. According the new thinking, to be successful in business and in life, kids would need to break out of their shell and be more outgoing.  So schools began to warn parents when students spent some time alone, instead of with their fun-loving peers, apparently concerned that they would be socially awkward and not able to survive the social demands of the new economy.  Although Cain didn’t mention the home school movement,  I think this is particularly interesting as a homeschooling dad. Why? Perhaps the number one argument against homeschooling is that kids will struggle socially.

The “social argument” regarding homeschooling seems to be predicated on the same basis as the personality emphasis of the early 20th century:  In this new age, you need an outgoing personality to succeed. Character matters little.  Never mind the fact that some of the greatest contributions of our age were from introverts as Susan Cain points out in her book (think Einstein, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, etc.) It is also interesting that many older people in our culture lament the lack of respect and manners in the youth of today.  Are these not social issues?  Yet these social problems persist even though the vast majority of the student population attends public school.  (Just for the record, I’m not saying all public school kids turn out to be disrespectful. Nor am I saying that homeschooling is for every family)

Kids indeed can learn social skills in homeschooling – they can learn manners and respect for all people, regardless of age or what they look like. These character traits are the old virtues that all children used to be taught.  You don’t need an outgoing personality to show respect. You just need character and some good habits.  An outgoing personally does not guarantee success, nor is it the mark of genuine godliness.  And if God created a child to be naturally introverted, then what business do we have to try and force him to become more “outgoing”? Perhaps the “social argument” regarding homeschooling is really about our culture’s bias toward the extroverted  and gregarious.

Regardless of whether a family chooses home school, private school or public school, parents need to ensure that their children have social skills. Is is possible that home-schooled children don’t get enough social interaction? Yes, its possible in some cases, but this concern is overstated.  Sometimes, we act as if the traditional school is  the only place in society where children can encounter other children.   Is it possible that traditional schools can be harmful to children socially when there is pressure for them to be more outgoing, more friendly and to do whatever possible to fit in with the crowd?  In another words, if a child is a born introvert, parents need to ensure that their child’s educational environment is developing the strengths that often go along with introversion – deep intellectual abilities, independence, and creativity.  In many cases, education environments may be working against these strengths, and in fact label them as weaknesses.

Many children are able to perform well, especially in front kids who are their own age.  But this is exactly what it is: a performance.  Wouldn’t it be better if our children were educated and nourished as the individuals that God created them to be –  whether introverted or extroverted – instead of pressured to conform to the personalities of their more bubbly peers?

It is true: Our children’s social skills are very important, especially from a Christian perspective.  But what kind of social skills? Regardless of educational choice, perhaps we need to stop, be silent, and think: Do we want our children to grow up and be performers in front of peers,  or men and women of character, treating everyone with respect?

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Pietro Perugino - The Adoration of the Magi (E...

Pietro Perugino – The Adoration of the Magi (Epiphany) – WGA17259 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this week following the Epiphany of our Lord, we remember the revealing of Christ to the gentiles.  It is truly good news that the Jewish Messiah would come not just for Israel, but for all nations. We are all recipients of this grace.

Those wise men who came from the east were the first non-Jews to see the Christ.  The folks in Israel had not really paid much attention to this baby who was destined to be King of the Jews. However the Magi from a far away pagan land traveled hundreds of miles under the guidance of a star to see this child.  They were so excited to see this child that Matthew records that they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”  when they got close to Jesus. When they came into his presence they fell down and worshiped him.

When King Herod, King of Judea,  did find out about this child, he was not happy to hear about one who had “been born King of the Jews.”  He did not worship him; he declared war on him. Attempting to eliminate any threat to his throne, he had the infant boys of Bethlehem murdered.

As the gospel of John says, “he came unto his own, and his own did not receive him.” Many in Israel did not recognize the majesty of Jesus, while many pagans from around the world came to believe in him as their Lord.  This is not to pick on the first century Jews; we too fail to see the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

Far too often, we pay little attention to the King in our own midst. We strive for control of our own lives, and often buck against any perceived threats that would undermine our own little kingdom. When we are confronted with the news that the true King is here, we must be careful not to rebel against him as Herod did. Of course, we wouldn’t go to the extremes that Herod did in trying to eliminate the threat to his position. However, even our simple ignoring of his presence is really the same as rebellion against him.  He is a kind and gentle king, but he is still King.

Rather, God wants us to gladly bring him our worship and treasure as the Magi did.  This requires time and effort –  just like the Magi’s long and hard trip across the hot desert. However, the payoff will be worth it, as Hebrews says, “he rewards those who seek him.”

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12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though December 25 is past, Christmastide is just getting started. This season of the church year is also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas (yes, it appears there actually was some reason to have a song called “The 12 Days of Christmas”).  These Twelve Feast Days run from Christmas to Epiphany on January 6. For more on the Twelve Days see the Wikipedia  article.

It seems as though the Twelve Days have been largely forgotten by many, including myself. At any rate, there does seem to be value in observing all twelve days of Christmas.  As I mentioned in this post, the Christian season Advent is ignored by many, and is swallowed up by Christmas of commerce.  On Christmas day we celebrate, and then its over. As Christians, we want to keep Christ in Christmas, but if we’re honest, most of us will probably admit that the events of December 25 often draw our minds to many things beside the Incarnation.  It might be helpful if we used the slower pace that usually comes after Christmas Day for continued celebration and reflection on the coming of our God in the person of Jesus Christ.

For the advertisers Christmas is over. They now begin a new marketing strategy to keep us in their stores through the cold and dark months of January and February. For the Church, Christmas is not over – its just getting started. We take this time to rejoice in the God of our salvation and to shine as lights in witness to the Joy he has brought to the World!

 

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Here is Zephaniah’s vision of “God with us”

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. – Zephaniah 3:14-15 (ESV)

Zephaniah calls for rejoicing and singing when God comes to be among his people.  The birth of our Savior is about God becoming flesh  and dwelling among us us. What does it look like when God comes? The prophet says, ” he has cleared away your enemies.”  This is more than a birthday – it is the day of God’s victory over our enemies.  Our enemies of evil and death were destroyed through the death and resurrection of our Lord.

Because our enemies have been defeated, we have no need to fear evil, for the King of Israel, the Lord, is in our midst. We our not a people to be caught up with the media driven fear mongering, for we have the Prince of Peace as our Lord.  We do not rush to our guns for our security – we remember that God is with us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As the Psalmist says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

But also, “he has taken away the judgments against you.” What judgments? Earlier in the passage, the prophet rails against unfaithful Israel, calling her rebellious and defiled, “she listens to no voice, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD; she does not draw near to her God.” The prophet calls for repentance and humility or else judgement: “I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.”   When God come to be with his people, he will forgive the sins of the humble, and remove the judgment against them and will leave a contrite people that will “seek refuge in the name of the LORD.”

So sing aloud and rejoice this week, God has come and he is in our midst!

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A vision of God

When Jesus was born his visitors, the shepherds and the wise men, were filled with a sense of awe and reverence for this new born king. Matthew records that even the wise men, royalty in their own right, “fell down and worshiped him.”

If the Advent season is preparation for God’s coming, then Isaiah chapter 6 is essential for understanding what kind of God it is that we expect to come.  When Isaiah catches a glimpse of the Almighty on his throne he is totally shaken.  At the sight of God in his heavenly court, He says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of host!”   According to this passage, even the heavenly seraphim covered their faces the whole time they were in the presence of the Lord, crying “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of host; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

As we anticipate the coming of our King, a vision of his majesty and glory would be helpful in our Christmas celebrations. Then we can sing with the Angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is please!”

 

 

 

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