Friday, May 15, 2009

Created to be creative

We are a homeschooling family. As of yet, only Number One (and now* Number Two) are being formally homeschooled, but I am already beginning to see a serious issue with both our focus and the focus of our chosen curriculum. I believe that this issue exists in our public schools today as well. The issue is that creativity, or rather, the practice of thinking creatively and the act of creative discovery, is being overlooked and placed in a secondary or even tertiary position in relation to the the general gathering of knowledge.

Sir Ken Robinson, author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative and a well-known expert on education and creativity, spoke at the 2006 TED Conference about this subject. He believes that there is no way for us to prepare our children for the future without giving them the ability to be creative in their educational processes and allowing them to use their gifts as they move through those processes. The story he uses to illustrate the importance of seeing what our children can become is the story of Gillian Lynne as a young girl, being nearly diagnosed with something like ADHD. Gillian’s mother takes her to the doctor because Gillian cannot sit still and the doctor, very kindly, shows her mother that Gillian was made to dance, not sit. Gillian is now a renowned dancer and coreographer. He goes on to say that the education system of today is designed to produce one kind of individual: the university professor. University professors live in their heads (weighted to one side), not in their bodies, like Gillian does. Do we want our children ending up like a professor, or like Gillian? You can watch the video of Sir Ken’s talk on the TEDTalks website.

The thing is this: We are made to be creative. God implanted in each of us the creative spark. Every day we make choices that will either feed or starve the ember that we hold inside. Every day we make choices that can do the same to others in our lives. Look around you. Every physical thing you touch has been created, by either divine or human means. Do you want to extinguish such a power in the name of degrees and business and occupations? I doubt you do. Neither do I. So what’s person to do? I propose that it is time to take action and consciously choose to grow ourselves and our progeny creatively. Here is a short list of things you can do to begin:

  1. Set time aside for you and your children to be creative. There’s nothing formal required here, just put the paper and crayons down in front of your two-year-old. Better yet, sit down with your two-year old and draw and color to your hearts’ content.
  2. Point out great design, art, dance, music, nature, etc. to your children to make them aware of creation. No trip to the museum is necessary. Good design is as close as your local Target or BMW dealership. Art is everywhere. Put a Rogers and Hammerstein DVD in the player to enjoy great music and dance. Take walk and look, look, look.
  3. Read about great creators. “In the beginning…” Now that’s CREATION!
  4. Cook with your children. The act of creating a great meal or dessert is just as creative and inspiring as writing a poem or song. It is a process that requires preparatory thought and executional grace. Plus, you get to eat whatever you cook!
  5. Listen when your child says “When I grow up, I want to…”. You cannot overlook this fact: When we are young, our hearts have clearer visions of the future than our minds. When we are old, our minds attempt to control and manipulate the innate desire of our souls. Children transparently transmit their desires into the world. Do not, do not, crush their hopes.

*Originally written June 30th, 2006

A name set in stone

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to "introduce" (a Primitive Baptist term for a short talk before the actual sermon) and spoke to the congregation on the subject of "names". The key scripture behind my talk was Revelation 2:17 which was brought to my attention by Hugh MacLeod's (@gapingvoid on Twitter) wonderful post The White Pebble. The scripture, from the King James translation, reads: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."

Names are of the utmost importance. My wife and I considered each name for each of our children very carefully, turning them over and over in our minds, putting first and middle names together until the right combination was found. Sometimes names come from family. Number One Son was given the name of his paternal grandfather and my middle name, which turned out to be his paternal great-grandfather's full name (obviously, this was not something I was aware of). Sometimes names come from other sources of inspiration. Number Two Son was given the first name one of the few good kings from biblical history and the first name of a few of our dear friends as his middle name. Number Three Son was given the nickname of my grandfather and uncle as his first name, but we call him by a different nickname that suits his personality now. Number Four Son ... okay ... you get the point. Biblically, we see that God gives men different names at turning points in their lives: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. Names, to God, are covenantal and prophetic.

As the Catholic monk illuminates in Hugh's post (see above) there's another name that God's children possess: a name written in, not on, a white stone. That name, being a gift of God (The Spirit), is good. It is very good.

Recently, my wife attended a Community Bible Study session where they held what has come to be known as "cardboard testimonies". I had not heard of the term before, so my wife showed me one on YouTube and I was moved to tears. The idea is this: on a piece of cardboard, you craft a sign. On the front of the sign, you write (in letters big enough for an audience to see) what you saw yourself as before conversion and, on the back of the sign you write what you see yourself as becoming after conversion. Once the sign is made, you walk up in front of the congregation and present first who you were and then turn the sign around. The effect is very powerful and further illustrates the importance of names. You see, the old thing written on the carboard is the old name you call yourself, and the new thing written on the cardboard is a new God-given name you call youself. So the name in the stone isn't the only name God gives you, but it is the final name God will give you.

The names we call ourselves are one thing, the names others call us (or assign to us, rather) are another thing, and then, as the monk said, there is that name God gives you. The monk was right in saying that the stone is what we should think of when the other voices in our life: our family, our friends, our self, are calling us names that don't align with who God calls us to be. The elect are called "children", "brethren", and "saved", among many other blessed names. We need to employ those names as filters when we hear other names being called.

The name in the stone is special, no doubt, because it is a secret only you and God may know, but the stone itself is truly the most amazing part of The Spirit's gift. Here, in a few words, you see an accurate picture of Christ, the rock of our salvation. He is the stone. He is pure white. He hides us within His grace and love. He protects our special name in His mercy. The stone is of the greatest value because it does not have the name written upon it, but rather in it, which is representative of a sure salvation for His loved ones.

Oh what joy to know the name The Lord would call me! Oh what a precious picture is the name in the white stone for us His chosen ones!

May God richly bless you.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Now for something completely different!

We're now nearly halfway through the year and things continue on, but The Lord, while always faithful, is not without a sense of humor. On March 31st Anji's ultrasound revealed that the latest addition to our family will be female. Now, to some families that may not come as much of a shock, but to one with a (current) 5-to-1 ratio of males to female(s) it can be. (That ratio does not include the dog, in case you were wondering).
This revelation has sent both Anji and my minds abuzz with new thought patterns. Girls, first and foremost, may wear pink on occasions other than Easter. Girls, we are told (by liars, no doubt) are "easier" than boys. Girls, we know, have dissimilarities in many other ways: some obvious to the casual observer, some not.
The news of our newest's gender also deeply disturbed Number One Boy, who has spent way too much thought on the necessity of the girl having her own room, girl toys, and the various accoutrements common to the fairer sex. He sees her as interloper in a distinctly masculine environment. He will undoubtedly be her greatest protector and supporter among her siblings as the years pass.
So we anxiously await her arrival in August and pray for her and her Mama's health constantly.
In other news:
-We (with Dad and Mom's help) put up a playset and basketball hoop in the backyard.
-Number Two and Three Boys are playing soccer. I am coaching. It is hilarious and great fun.
-Anji was sick, sick, sick during her first trimester. Maybe because Biscuit is a girl? Nonetheless, she is much better now and is beginning to really show.
-I am still employed and have recently returned from Illinois.
That about wraps it up. Further updates to come, no doubt, but if you're on Facebook be sure to befriend Anji for a more real-time view of our goings-on. Until next time may God bless you and keep you.