Trinitarian Blessing

We can not escape the grace of God. Father, Son, and Spirit—this God we serve is with us as our foundation, our protection, our all. Do not fear.

Weekly Verse: 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Weekly Catechism:
Q:How many persons are there in God?
A: There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Our memory verse this week is a benediction—in fact, a specifically Trinitarian blessing—that emphasizes God’s love, the grace we enjoy because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the fellowship or communion we experience because of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. (And our catechism focus is also on the Trinity.) There is unity here, yet diversity. Paul’s blessing ascribes specific blessings to the operation of each person in the Trinitarian Godhead. The finite human mind can wrestle with the doctrine of the Trinity for more than a lifetime: it is a mind-blowing truth, which remains a mathematical mystery for us. Jonathan Edwards noted, “I think [the doctrine of the Trinity] to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries.” But it is comforting and practical to the core. We can basically sum up Christianity this way: we come to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. And in this verse we remember the fullness of God in how He redeems and blesses His people with grace, love, and fellowship.

There are many ways to apply this, but one way that I find comforting is the reminder that we can not escape the grace of our God. Perhaps this is a terrifying reality for some—but for those of us who find our safety, security, comfort, and refuge in the Trinitarian God, it gives us every reason not to fear. His grace reaches us no matter where we run! The grace of God is before us, behind us, above us, beneath us, with us, and for us. It is this gracious God who is our foundation, our refuge, our protection. We His children do not need to fear. We have His grace, His love, and His fellowship. He gives us Himself in grace and love while enfolding us into communion with His family.

If anyone has experience with this inescapable grace of God, it was Paul. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 is Paul’s testimony of this:
“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

You remember Paul, right? Paul was a blasphemer. A persecutor. An insolent opponent. He was ignorant and unbelieving. He proclaims his dire sinfulness! But here’s the thing. Even Paul—who was Saul at that time—could not escape the love, grace, and communion of our Triune God. And Paul invites us to give honor and glory to the only God, the King of the ages, because of His mercy and patience and faithfulness.

Why did the chief of sinners receive love, grace, and communion from God? Because the grace of our Lord overflowed for Paul with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. And this ought likewise to be our comfort and our hope, it ought to drive away fear and doubt. Our Lord Jesus Christ has grace for you and for me. Our God loves you and me. And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit reaches and embraces you and me. This is indeed a blessing. This is our firm foundation. This is encouraging. And it ought to give us hope to face trials and strength to climb mountains.

Sweet Paideia

One week ago, my sweet little girl decided to make a surprise for her new friends at ballet. She has been trying to find ways to connect with the girls in her new class this year, which is difficult when they are not allowed to talk or giggle during class (they are very focused on their poise and form and classroom respect), and with all the weird restrictions our state has over gatherings… honestly, it’s almost surprising that we are allowed to have classes at all. Praise the Lord, we can! But how to overcome the obstacles of our current culture’s mania when my little girl just wants to hug and talk and smile and be close and interact and pursue fellowship… let’s just say, it has been a bit of a fickle pickle to iron out.

She started with writing letters to a couple of her fellow ballerinas, and then at the next class after that, one of the moms pursued a conversation with me to tell me how incredibly timely and kind the letter-writing gesture had been. Our daughters came out of class then, and spent the next fifteen minutes giggling and talking and dancing on the studio patio.

So her next creative idea was to bake cookies for her classmates as a special surprise. She had all the ingredients set out, found a recipe she wanted to use, and waited all day for me to have the time to help her. It went beautifully until she was adding eggs… and unfortunately dropped an entire egg — including the shell — into the mixer — while it was beating. Immediately, I turned off the preheating oven and broke the news that that was my last pound of butter and cup of brown sugar, so we would have to wait a week to make cookies for her class. Cue the tears! I may have briefly considered the possibility of using tweezers to scrutinize the bowl of dough and try to pull out three hundred shards of eggshell like so many splinters…

She sadly got into jammies and brushed her teeth, all the while blinking back tears that desperately wanted to wash her freckled cheeks. I climbed into bed with her to scratch her back and have a conversation. What makes this the hardest tonight? She replied, my friends won’t get to have cookies tomorrow! I smiled at her and said, but maybe there is a reason why God wants you to bring cookies NEXT week. Maybe one of your classmates is really going to need the encouragement of a kind gesture and friendly gift at that point. God knows all the details of the things we can’t even imagine.

She looked at me, fairly satisfied. And so for the last few days, she had mentioned now and then how she wonders what her new friends are doing, going through, enjoying, struggling with — and she is hoping that bringing cookies to them will be a timely blessing.

We bought more butter. And brown sugar. And this time, we will crack the eggs into a cup before pouring them carefully into the mixer set in its off position.

~~~

When we were discussing the idea of making cookies as a gesture of kindness and friendship, Evangeline said that it seemed like a Christian thing to do: to make something lovely or delicious without someone expecting anything, and to just bless them out of nowhere. And I think she’s exactly right. This is the kind of gesture a godly paideia longs to produce. An 8 year old little girl who can articulate on her own that making cookies for her ballet classmates can be an embodiment of “virtues like the fruits of the Spirit.” When I asked her which fruits she thought cookie-baking and cookie-gifting might embody, she smiled and said, “love and joy definitely; peace like fellowship between new friends; I had to have patience because of the whole eggshell problem last week; kindness and goodness are like giving a special surprise to someone; but I’m not sure I can find faithfulness and self control…” I reminded her at that point that she has a very faithful pursuit of trying to be friendly and to generate actual friendship with these girls. And while we laughed at self control because we can’t mention that virtue relating to cookies without Frog and Toad immediately coming to mind… (tell me you know that kid lit reference!), it is also true that Evangeline has had to pursue self control in class not to giggle and chitchat with these new friends, which honestly is what urged her to try finding more creative, out of the box ways to connect with classmates.

I think this is the kind of moment where I really want to be purposed in pointing out that glimpse of paideia. Recognizing that something as simple as homemade cookies… and as complicated as ruining the first batch of dough, thus needing to wait an entire week before trying again… can bring about a sweet conversation about philosophical paideia intersecting with practical paideia… that is a beautiful step for me. It’s my friends at PaideiaSoutheast.com that help urge me onward and upward in this continued conversation. And I am finding that the more I open my eyes, asking myself how can I glimpse paideia here?, the more easily I see it. Godly paideia fleshed out and lived to the fullest.

So this is the sweetness of a little Christian girl, giving of herself for the enjoyment of others. And I praise His holy name.

Glimpsing Paideia

I have always loved the word paideia. It’s a word I kind of grew up on. Having been raised in the Reformed Christian tradition, Greek and Hebrew and Latin words are not unfamiliar to me, although I have never even considered the option of studying one of those languages to the point where I were fluent or able to translate anything. But when it comes to original languages, especially used in Scripture, I have a longing to know the translation and the etymology and the various definitions and applications of a word. Paideia was one of those words introduced to me from childhood, thanks to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I think it is fairly safe to say that all children raised in a Christian household have been taught Ephesians 6:1 from a very early age: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” and many of us probably even went so far as to have memorized verses 2 & 3 on its heels: “Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” But I think it is less commonplace for verse 4 to be memorized and catechized in our families: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

As a parent, it can be tempting to bark Ephesians 6:1 without first washing ourselves in the gentle command here to parents (fathers specifically). DO NOT provoke your children to anger. Rather, DO bring them up in the paideia of the Lord.

That’s where we see the Greek work paideia.
Biblical translators have a variety of different English words they use in our English Bibles, but they are just insufficient for the height and breadth and depth of what the Greek word would encompass.

Britannica says:
Paideia, (Greek: “education,” or “learning”), system of education and training in classical Greek and Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) cultures that included such subjects as gymnastics, grammar, rhetoric, music, mathematics, geography, natural history, and philosophy.

Merriam-Webster shares this definition:
1: training of the physical and mental faculties in such a way as to produce a broad enlightened mature outlook harmoniously combined with maximum cultural development
2: the ideal development envisioned or attained by paideia

And John Piper shares the Greek here:
Fathers . . .
bring them up (ektrephete auta)
in the discipline (paideia)
and instruction (nouthesia)
of the Lord (kuriou).

John Piper continues by saying, “This word [paideia] signifies the actions a father takes to give his children the abilities and skills and character to live life to the glory of God. It is not synonymous with teaching. It is more full and more active.” (emphasis mine)

I have previously written here about paideia as well: how it is the complete enculturation of a person (or society), which is not limited to religion or education, but includes all aspects of training, education, nourishment, nurture, instruction, discipline, and enculturation! The Greeks were endeavoring to raise fantastic little Greek citizens, for which they used the term paideia: but our endeavor as Christian parents is of raising faithful Christian citizens of heaven, using that same all-encompassing term paideia.

But talking about the philosophy surrounding and supporting godly paideia isn’t the whole story. It needs fleshed out! It isn’t enough to simply say, “raise your kids in a decidedly Christian way, and voila, there you have it!” A friend of mine from Paideia Southeast was telling me recently how it feels like raising her kids in the paideia of the Lord is like driving a train down the track… but she is currently laying the track upon which they are driving! And it is exhausting to lay the track while driving the train. And sometimes we don’t even know what other well-used train tracks look like, so we are planning the path of the track while laying it while driving down it. Whew! How much more of a blessing it is to be driving down an already-laid track, or at least to have another track nearby for reference and recommendations.

How do we actively pursue the paideia of the Lord as we raise our children? What are some simple ways for starting out on laying that track? Where are visuals to remind me that it looks different in different families? I am looking now for glimpses of paideia around me. Specific instances where I see godly culture being cultivated both in my home and in the homes of others around us. In pictures, in books, in conversations, in posts online. I want to recognize it myself, point it out to my children, and share it with my friends. The paideia of the Lord.

Oh, may the Lord give me eyes to glimpse His paideia in palpable, practical application so that I can walk in faithfulness for the furthering of His kingdom. Amen.

King of Kings

Who is the King? How do we know? We have talked about the lordship of Christ over all things, and how pursuing His paideia proclaims the dominion of the Lord over all aspects of life and education and worship. Words like lordship and dominion are related to this idea of kingship and kingdom. So who is the King? Jesus Christ is King! And even before Scripture uses the name of Jesus, in the Old Testament we see God as the King of all gods, the King above all gods, the King of all the earth. It seems to me, and from a Bible search I did in my Olive Tree app, that it is in the Psalms of the Old Testament where we really see God described as King. So on the heels of all the histories in all the books before this section of wisdom literature, where earthly kings come and go, where allegiances are won and lost, where God’s own people ask Him for a human king rather than following Him alone—it is here in the Psalms, which were largely written by King David, where we see the language changing to that of God as King. Is it David’s humility and understanding of his own imperfections & inadequacies that lead him to recognize and articulate the need for seeing and believing and embracing God’s Kingship?

Throughout the book of Psalms, the Creator God is proclaimed as King of all the earth and a refuge to all who trust in Him; there is a lot of kingly description and kingdom depiction through the songs and poems of this book. Let me just read off a bunch of these for you:

Psalm 5:2 “Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to You do I pray.”
Psalm 9:4 & 7 “You have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment… the Lord sits enthroned forever; He has established His throne for justice.”
Psalm 10:16 “The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations perish from His land.”
Psalm 11:4 “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”
Psalm 44:4 “You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob!”
Psalm 45:6 “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.”
Psalm 47:6-8 “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.”
Psalm 68:24 “Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King.”
Psalm 74:12 “Yet my God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”
Psalm 84 – “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord… even the sparrow finds a home at Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God… For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”
Psalm 93:1-2 “The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; He has put on strength as His belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.”
Psalm 95:3 “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”
Psalm 103:19 “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.”
Psalm 145:1 “I will extol You, my God and King, and bless Your name forever and ever.”
Psalm 145:10-13 “All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and all Your saints shall bless You! They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and tell of Your power, to make known to the children of man Your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”

And that is just a brief overview of one book in the Bible. The Old Testament prophets all prophesied the coming King. I love all the kingly passages in Isaiah specifically: chapters 9, 43, 44, 52… and if you listen to the music of Handel’s Messiah, you can find some of that culminating in a beautiful way. Zechariah 14:9 says that “the Lord will be king over all the earth.” Of course it all culminates in Revelation, where we read in chapter 19 that Jesus, the Word of God, is clothed in a robe and crowned with many diadems, and he ruling the nations – “and on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

So what’s the point? Why did I just list off a whole slew of Scriptures without much commentary? Because the Word of God is living and potent and true. This is where we find faithful description and depiction of the God we serve! The King who reigns. The King of Kings is in charge of all other authorities – all leaders, including earthly kings and emperors and presidents – they are all under His dominion. Even their wicked ways will serve the Lord (Proverbs 16:4). Our God, the great King over all the earth, is the one who both raises up and removes human kings and leaders (Daniel 2:21 and Psalm 75:6-8).

So as we study history in the Bible and throughout the ages—this year, in particular, the Middle Ages—may we recognize the Kingship of the true and living God over all other dominions and authorities. May we trust Him and glorify Him for His ways which are past our understanding. May we walk with circumspection, understanding that He is our King, we are His people, and the faithful work He has given us to do here and now is to proclaim His reign and expand His kingdom. May His will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. This is how we honor Him and acknowledge His Kingship: recognizing who He is, and where He reigns, and living as those who respect His authority and dominion while promoting the peace and stability of His reign.

1 Timothy 1:17 “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 6:15-16 “He who alone is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”

Collective, week 2

Another beautiful week of educating my children in a purposed place of nourishment, focused on the paideia of the Lord. While the weeks and days pass with plenty of hiccups and speed bumps, those are not the things which take paramount place in retrospect. Looking back, what comes to mind are the moments of pursuing joy, story, music, fellowship, and wisdom. What a grace this is!

I give a lot of credit for that (especially beyond the practice of grace, repentance, and forgiveness regularly) to our routine of Collective. If you haven’t read anything about what a lot of homeschooling moms call “Morning Time,” please allow me to highly recommend my friend & mentor Cindy Rollins’ newest book, A Liturgy of Love. This very sweetly, beautifully, winsomely describes and defines what my family pursues in our Collective hour both on our own at home most days but also now every Wednesday at our co op, Paideia Studies.

I would love to share with you what we have been enjoying in these settings. It is so hard to succinctly share it in just a simple blog post. There is no way to flesh it out and give it dimension, complete with scent and sound… but this is at least a tiny glimpse.

Paideia Studies Collective, Week Two:

Devotion: Questing for Truth—discussing the council of Nicaea, the Nicene Creed, and the theme of needing to divide words and the Word with valor & verity.

Verse: Psalm 86:8-10, 15 “There is none like You among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Yours. All the nations You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For You are great and do wondrous things; You alone are God… But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Catechism: New City Q1-2
Q. What is our only hope in life and death?
A. That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
Q: What is God?
A: God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in His power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through Him and by His will.

Creed: Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;
who, for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin, Mary,
and was made man;
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered and was buried;
and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;
and ascended into Heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father;
and He shall come again, with glory,
to judge both the living and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and Giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son;
who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified;
who spoke by the Prophets.
And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church;
we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
and we look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Hymn: St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Psalm: 117 (canon by Dr. Erb) and 3 (to the tune of Amazing Grace)

Poetry:

In Praise of Dancing by St. Augustine

I praise the dance, for it frees people
from the heaviness of matter
and binds the isolated to community.
I praise the dance, which demands everything:
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.
Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people,
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling.
Dancing demands a whole person, one who is
firmly anchored in the center of his life, who is
not obsessed by lust for people and things
and the demon of isolation in his own ego.
Dancing demands a freed person, one who vibrates
with the balance of all his powers.
I praise the dance.
O man, learn to dance, or else the angels in heaven
will not know what to do with you.

from Altus Prosator by St. Columba

Mighty powers of our great God
make the earth’s globe suspended stand,
its circle poised in the abyss
by God’s support beneath, and by
the Almighty One’s strong right hand.

Loop: Composer: Gregorian chant, Guido of Arezzo

Art: The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck, 1434

Home Collective, Week Two:
(in addition to what we bring home from co op)

Scripture:
Psalm (today was 49)
Proverb (today was 2)
John (today was 20)

Poetry:
(G) King Alfred’s War Song
(A) Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold
(E) The Wild Rose by Wendell Berry
(S) The Kite by Harry Behn

Song:
To the Word sea shanty (BibleReadingChallenge)
Psalm 69 (SacredPsalmody)
Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder (HappyHymnody)

Church History:
Radiant by Richard Hannula
Peril and Peace by Mindy and Brandon Withrow

Medieval History:
Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer
The Mystery of History II
A Child’s History of the World by V.M. Hillyer

Read Aloud:
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray

Quid est veritas?

Quid est veritas? (What is truth?) This is what Pilate said in John 18:38, as a sort of jest to Jesus after Jesus says that He is witness to the truth. Shortly before that, in Jesus’ high priestly prayer, in John 17:17, He prays to the Father for His disciples, “sanctify them in Your truth. Your Word is truth.” You can honestly spend hours poring over verses that talk about truth in Scripture. Verity. Steering away from falsehood and purging out heresy has always been a core tenet of Christian study.

Psalm 25:5
“Lead me in our truth and teach me,
for You are the God of my salvation;
for You I wait all the day long.”

One of the things we want to encourage here at co op is the pursuit of truth (along with goodness and beauty). To find truth, we need to divide words, and especially the Word of God, with valor and verity. Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”

One of the ways that a group of people tend to practice unity throughout Christendom, and continuing now in our time, is the corporate confession of a Creed. Last week I mentioned that the word creed comes from the Latin word credo, which means “I believe.” In a church, denomination, school, or co op, confessing a creed together formally helps us unite on truth. It was Saint Augustine who said, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” — and a formal creed can be a way of isolating what the essentials actually are.

2 Timothy 2:15
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who does not need to be ashamed
and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

In 325Af, a council was held in Nicaea to address heresies from Arius, who failed to affirm the full deity of the Son of God. Arius taught that the Son is a created being, is not eternal, is a lesser god, and does not share the Father’s essence or nature. Back in the early 2nd century, Tertullian had provided the Church with the formula that God is one substance consisting in three persons, but he had not given the world a complete understanding of the Trinity. Perhaps this is because it is a mystery! The concept of the Trinity continues to puzzle even the greatest theologians and faithful Christians. Bruce Shelley says in Church History in Plain Language, “the great merit of the creeds is that they left the mystery intact.”

But the fuss that was made over Arius’s ideas caused great strife and division, even riots. The center of all this was Alexandria, Egypt, where Arius was a pastor. The Roman Emperor at the time was Constantine, and he couldn’t escape the threat of what was going on in the Church because it was overflowing into other areas of life and politics as well. So Constantine called an empirewide council at the city of Nicaea, in Asia Minor, saying that “division in the church was worse than war, because it involved eternal souls.” More than 300 bishops attended, debated, and eventually denounced and condemned Arius’s view. But they realized that wasn’t enough: they needed to compose a creed to have a unified statement of belief on essentials. All but two bishops signed the finished statement of faith. Those two were exiled, along with Arius.

It is a blessing and encouragement that the Nicene Creed, which expands on what was formulated in the Apostles’ Creed in the early 2nd century, is still affirmed today in churches around the world. When questing for truth in theology, Scripture is obviously always the ultimate and complete authority. But things like catechisms and creeds are additional helps in boiling things down to essentials and definitions.

As we go about our pursuit of knowledge and wisdom here at co op, it is our hope to not only seek truth and speak truth, but to do all of this in an atmosphere of unity in essentials, liberty or diversity in non-essentials, and charity in all things. May we ever sharpen one another in godliness and good fruit, spurring one another on toward love and good works, deepening in our discernment of Truth.

1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech
but with actions and in truth.

Family Business

Proverbs 16:3
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

One year ago today, Olive Tree Bible Software officially became our family business. On a day when people around our country are reminded of a travesty and horror that fell upon our nation twenty years ago, I want to take a moment to ponder the goodness of God in His continued faithfulness to His people and to honor the husband God gave me.

Steven has labored for Olive Tree since early 2009, originally working in the basement of the company’s founder. It was a small business, but growing. There was obvious blessing from the Lord in paving the way for technology to be used in encouraging His people to study His Word, and my husband was eager to participate in the development. Using his background in both biblical studies and computer technology, he spent the next few years cultivating skills and passion for the particular niche of Bible study technology on smartphones and other personal tech devices.

While Steven moved up from position to position, gaining leadership skills and dabbling in just about every aspect of the company during his first five years at Olive Tree, he eventually took the position of running the company, even when it was owned by HarperCollins Christian Publishing. I don’t remember the first time my husband ever mentioned to me that it would be really neat to own Olive Tree himself, but it seemed like more of a pipe dream for a long time. Not that working for a huge corporation doesn’t have some blessings and benefits, but we really missed the small, local, family run business culture that the company had had the first few years. Steven never seriously thought about leaving the company to start something different, but there was a definite longing for business ownership and small business culture—to be free from red tape and city bureaucracy, to be able to focus on the particular vision for Olive Tree rather than be pulled in multiple directions under the larger umbrella of a big publishing house with agendas outside of our own company’s vision.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands… so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

It was early in 2019 when the conversation changed, and the discussion of owning Olive Tree ourselves became serious. No longer a simple pipe dream, but a strategic plan. While I am not at liberty to share all the ins, outs, ups, and downs of the process, it was quite the journey. Involving our parents from the beginning, and our children once the sale closed, it became a generational endeavor. Closing dates got pushed back more times than I can remember, particularly because trying to get all the legalities lined up with all the proper boxes checked at the right times felt like shuffling a deck of cards in a tornado. It was a real test of faith and fortitude. One of the trickiest parts was that this enormous project on our part literally had to be kept secret, under wraps. Only our parents knew. Employees, friends, prayer partners, our siblings, our children… keeping this huge thing quiet was a real challenge. Not because we can’t keep a secret. But because we legitimately know the value of shared burdens and partnered prayer. Our children got the short end of the stick, but thankfully the Lord is incredibly gracious to us, and they are fully engaged and supportive. It was hard for them when there was stress or tension in the house, meetings and appointments we couldn’t explain, etc. Now we have sons excited to intern for the company and continue the vision themselves, longing to wear the mantle of the family business when they are grown.

But it wasn’t until a year after we thought the sale might close that it actually finally did. Thanks to the crazy kafuffle of a virus that shut down our entire economy, things like small business loans were frozen and business trips to sign papers were no longer allowed. The funniest things put speedbumps in the way, and we could do nothing beyond simply holding out our hands to give all the details to the Lord, trusting His timing would be perfect, even when our deadlines and timelines were continually bumped and erased and bulldozed.

One year ago, my husband stayed particularly late at the office because it was finally happening. All kinds of details with technology and finance and passwords and passcodes had to be switched at the end of business day on September 11, 2020. And on Saturday, September 12th, we were suddenly (at the end of a long, drawn out, unpredictable process) the owners of a small family business intent on sharing the Word of God with others.

So now my husband works from home, has about twenty employees, and deeply loves the work he pursues. He loves technology. He loves Scripture. He loves providing for his family. He loves the intimate, somewhat crazy culture of the folks who work for him. And I am delighted to support and assist him in what small ways I am able. There are sacrifices and hopes, difficulties and rewards. It is good work, a good heritage, and we praise the Lord for putting work into our hands that we can share with every neighbor for the furtherance of His Gospel.

Colossians 3:23-24
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

I am proud of my husby. And I am grateful to our Lord.

Paideia Studies, Firsts

First year, first day, first class. We started it all off by gathering as families in a sanctuary. There’s nothing more symbolically appropriate than embarking on a new journey by first marking that first step with worship. The Doxology came first, a benediction for students & teachers came at the close, and some contemplation of good, true, beautiful things came in the middle.

As a type of convocation speech, this is what I shared for the families as a morning devotion on our inaugural co op day:

The first thing to orient our minds today is just a brief meditation or defense of Classical, Christian, catechistic education. And this is because that is what we are meeting at Paideia Studies to pursue.

In brief, Classical refers to the old paths of scholars who have gone before us—as opposed to the newer socialist method of education that has been promoted by government education over the last hundred and fifty years. Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” One of the main pillars of Classical education is its aim to equip the students to learn for themselves. So our aim here at co op is not to give you all the answers, or to teach you things to regurgitate onto tests. We aim to give you a love of learning and an atmosphere in which to have socratic, godly dialogue. By the end of even just this one school year, we long for you to have increased in knowledge, but also in understanding and wisdom. This education is not about mere information, but about the Christian life and the lordship of Christ over all things. Psalm 103:19 says “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.”

The term of Christian flows naturally from that, doesn’t it? And even our youngest students can probably tell us what it means. What does it mean to be a Christian? To belong to Christ, to bear His name, to believe in Jesus. So the education we pursue here together is a Christian education in that we acknowledge that everything about us belongs to Christ and ought to carry His banner. Romans 8 tells us that “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit… You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you… if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness… All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God… The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs.” Hopefully, you will find that everything we study here together will be approached and discussed in light of the Gospel, the Creator, and the Font of wisdom which is God. Again: we long for you to increase in knowledge, but also in understanding and wisdom. Why? Because this education is not about mere information, but about the Christian life and the lordship of Christ over all things because the Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.

The third term I would like to present to you is catechistic. Is anybody familiar with the word catechism? What does a catechism do? What is a catechism for? A catechism teaches by two means: question/answer and repetition. It is for the embracing of truth, the memorization of truth, and the embodiment of truth. But then the question arises: if we learn by repetition of questions and answers, is that overemphasizing mere parroted knowledge? I will answer that by reading you what Moses was commanded to tell the people of God. Deuteronomy 6:5-9, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” A few chapters later, Deuteronomy 11 lists off that same catechistic pattern. So that sounds pretty repetitive! There are certain things that God deeply wants etched permanently on the hearts of His children. And we desire to pursue this in imitation of God our Father.

Our ultimate prayer as Christian families gathering to pursue education together ought to echo the prayer of Christ in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

And ultimately the way we will seek to cultivate this in ourselves, our families, and our co op goes back to Proverbs 1. “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”

Benediction:

Lord God, your Spirit of wisdom fills the earth and teaches us your ways.

Look upon these students. Let them enjoy their learning and take delight in new discoveries. Help them to persevere in their studies and give them the desire to learn all things well.

Look upon these teachers. Let them strive to share their knowledge with gentle patience and endeavor always to bring the truth to eager minds.

Grant that students and teachers alike may follow Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life, for ever and ever. Amen.

Consider the Lilies

Matthew 6:25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

My children and I enjoyed a quick jaunt into a store this week to purchase a few last-minute things as we prepare to embark on a new school year with a new co op and new friends. Gluesticks, construction paper, and some pants-without-holes. Who knew that little boys needed new pants once they’ve been handed down three or four times? 😉 This gave me a neat opportunity to chat with the kids again about why we dress the way we do.

Does it matter how we dress our bodies? Yes and no. I love how people use 1 Samuel 16:7 in conversations about clothing… when it’s not actually talking about clothing, but physical features.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'”

This verse is often taken out of context, but reading it in its actual context clarifies that it’s not about what we put on or don’t put on. It is talking about not judging a person for their physicality. The Lord knew that David was young, small, ruddy, handsome, and had notably beautiful eyes (1 Samuel 16:12). This was not going to be the stature of someone the people expected to be anointed to take the place of Saul.

So is it true that the Lord looks on the heart? Absolutely! Praise the Lord, and amen! He cares not about our size or our beauty or our raiment.

But if that verse isn’t really talking clothing, then is there someplace else in Scripture that DOES? Interestingly, clothing is actually mentioned a lot throughout the Bible! In fact, from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, we see clothing playing a prominent role. Genesis basically jumps right into it by starting off with complete nakedness, God names it very good in its context of perfect creation yet untainted by sin, and then we quickly find leaves and animal skins being repurposed into coverings for humans after the fall. Historically, right back into biblical record, clothing told you something about the person it clothed: their status, their occupation, their gender. Even the color of their clothing may have an indication: just look at references to white and purple in the Bible.

Different clothing communicated different things: royal robes, sackcloth, leather belts, clothing of a prostitute. What they wore communicated something. And that fact has not changed with the passage of time. What WE wear also communicates something. Ought we to be anxious about that? Absolutely not. Jesus exhorts us NOT to be anxious about what we will ear or wear, because when we walk in faith and pursue wisdom, the Lord provides.

Luke 12:22-32
“And He said to His disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

There ARE, however, a few basic standards which we can see woven throughout Scripture, and which ought to continue to be guiding us in clothing choices with wisdom. Dressing according to your gender (Deuteronomy 22:5), recognizing clothing as a basic need (1 Timothy 6:8), pursuit of modesty (1 Timothy 2:9-10), not judging/condemning based on attire (James 2:1-9) are some basic underpinnings that we can infer from Scripture without legalism but with freedom.

I confess that I do not ask myself these questions upon waking before I pull on my clothes each day, but I do think they are worthy of consideration more than just occasionally:

What am I trying to say or accomplish by how I dress and what I wear? Does my clothing illustrate my surrender to the Lord? Does my clothing represent my belief that Christ is Lord of all? Does my clothing enable me to profess honor and reverence to God and humility toward man? Am I practicing modesty and discretion? Do I dress with dignity and strength? Do my clothing choices agree with what God declares about my gender? Is my heart content and cultivating godliness? Are my clothing choices consistent with the transformed thinking that ought to accompany my transformed soul?

Another thing, which is perhaps less easy to cite by chapter & verse, is how clothing throughout Scripture helps us see the occupation of the person. And this is a practice which has continued through the centuries, even today. In a hospital, you can tell who are the medical workers and who are the patients or visitors. It is easy to discern the difference between military personnel and civilians. In historical practice, it has been easy to tell who the pastor/priest/leaders are in a church because of their particular raiment.

Peter Leithart says, “clothing is a sign of a position in the world, a position in society.” He argues that even in our casual, glib era of modernity we do still believe in uniforms. “If someone knocks on your door claiming to be a cop, we expect them to be wearing a police uniform. If a judge shows up in jeans and flipflops and begins to preside, we think somebody else has taken over.” I agree with his logic about the appropriate nature of uniforms for certain offices. You would not work in the garden wearing formal garments, you would not wear a swimsuit to a wedding, you would not wear pajamas to a job interview. Different clothing ought to be designated to different offices. Different vocations require different uniforms.

What about the office of education, then? What about the vocation of a student? How ought my kids to dress to reflect their status as students, as children, as Christians? What clothing choices might best reflect our conviction to bring them up in the paideia of the Lord?

There is an essay by Douglas Wilson (listen to him read it aloud to you here, or snippets can be found here) about school clothes which I find very winsome and provocative in the best of ways. I commend it to you, not only for these following quotes:

“Of course, we should dress for comfort, but the biblical view is that we should also dress of the comfort of others. Today our natural tendency is to dress to suit ourselves. In another era, students would dress to make themselves presentable. Now students want to dress to make themselves at ease. The former generations thought of others; we now insist on putting ourselves first.”

“The Christian approach is incarnational and insists on discipling the whole person. Everything is to be brought into submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, and every thought is to be made captive, every collar obedient, and every pair of slacks honoring to Him (2 Cor. 10:4-5).”

“The triad we want to urge in classical Christian education is truth, goodness, and beauty. When it comes to aesthetic issues, the Christian world is horribly compromised. One of the tasks of the Christian school is to help bring us out of this aesthetic relativism by teaching students to love that which is lovely – in music, in painting, in poetry, in drama, and in dress. Whatever is lovely, Paul says, think on this.”

“Left to themselves, the students will establish their own informal dress code. This is another inescapable concept: It is not whether there will be cultural enforcement of dress standards, but which standards will be applied and by whom.”

“Young people today are desperately trying to vandalize the image of God that they carry about, despite themselves, in their bodies.”

“The wearing of clothing that does not fit, does not flatter, and does not proclaim the lordship of Christ is commonplace, and unbelievers will frankly acknowledge that this is the statement they are trying to make through their appearance. They are trying to proclaim the autonomy of self, and while they are at it, they are declaring how miserable such autonomous selves are.”

“Imitators of the world’s culture from within the church know everything about the world’s culture – except what it means.”

“This desire to fit in or to be thought cool is not a new phenomenon. The Bible calls it worldliness (1 John 2:12-17). All this is bad enough as a phenomenon within the broader Christian world. But for the board, administrators, and teachers of a Christian school, to be culturally clueless is disaster.”

I just love that last fragment: to be culturally clueless is disaster.
So how do we pursue enlightenment regarding our culture? How do we discern between worldly culture and godly culture when it comes to clothing? How ought we adorn our bodies in a home (or church or school or co op) where we actively proclaim the lordship of Christ and pursue His paideia?

This is a conversation I am eager to share with others. To banter and dialogue. To sharpen one another. I don’t have the answers. But I am seeking to grow in wisdom and grace and loveliness. I long to be more like Christ. May I know what garments to don, and when to set them aside to wash the feet of the people I serve. May I consider the lilies.

Culture, 2

If you are forty years old, having never been taught to swim, do you think you might have a slight disadvantage at the beach compared to a twenty year old who just learned to swim? And what about the five year old who has been at the beach every day since their second birthday, splashing in the waves and learning to float? What if you were born into a family who not only visits the beach every weekend but also has a swimming pool in their own backyard… and your parents taught you to swim at the same time they taught you to crawl, walk, speak, and potty train?
It might all come down to swimming skills… but it legitimately plays out differently depending on when you were tossed into the water, and how long you’ve been splashing, floating, paddling, treading…

Were you just recently tossed into the waters of educating children at home? Or has this been something as natural to you as making your bed in the morning? For me, it is the culture in which I was brought up. It is the habit I have cultivated for decades—first as a home educated child/student, and now as a home educating mother/teacher.

In talking with my new friend (mentioned in this post), she commented that it seemed easier for me to grasp and apply many of the principles—and some of the methods—we read about this summer in a long-distance book discussion group. She wondered aloud if it was because these were not new concepts to me (as many were to her), but rather familiar snippets that could honestly have easily been written by or about my own childhood experiences with education… not to mention my children’s experience now. The culture my friend was raised in was not the paideia of the Lord. The culture I was raised in was the paideia of the Lord.

It is easier to pass on an already-existing, thriving, familiar culture than it is to begin a brand-new culture on your own. Somewhere in the middle is the option of adopting a culture with which you are somewhat familiar, and which someone else can assist you in cultivating.

This is where the sourdough comes in.

I have a small container of sourdough starter in my fridge, which I have fed and kept and used and shared for a decade or so. But I did not start from scratch with it—that blessing was handed down to me from my parents. Back in the 1970s, my dad was intrigued by the idea of sourdough and he wanted to pursue that for his future family. So he read and researched and talked to sourdough folks, and learned that he could start a brand-new sourdough culture on his own. He set out a flour and water paste in a warm area, and waited for the natural yeast in the air to settle in. He knew that it could happen, and he hoped that it would happen… but starting from nothing takes time and faith and grit. (Things my dad has never lacked.) Long story short: natural yeast from the air landed in the paste and began to multiply. It began to bubble. It grew lively. It grew pungent. It grew efficacious. It did what culture does: it multiplies, spreads, takes over.

Scripture talks about yeast—using the word leaven. Some of the contexts and connotations are negative, some are positive. But the ultimate point of all the Scriptural examples is this: leaven leavens! Don’t be surprised when the culture being cultivated multiplies. It is inherently contagious, because that is the way God created it.

This applies to many kinds of culture—in my home, we see it most readily in sourdough and homemade yogurt… and in Christian paideia.

I was raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord under the leadership of Christian parents (and multiple generations of Christians before them), who knew they wanted to build a family culture of education and worship and structure based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.
My husband (also raised under the principle of the Lord’s paideia) and I now seek to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, continuing to build upon the foundation we already have beneath our feet, to perpetuate a family culture of education and worship and structure based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.
My friend at a completely different spot on the map, with a completely different background (spiritually, educationally, familially), is seeking to raise her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, starting from scratch to build a culture of education and worship and family structure that is based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.

I did not have to catch the leaven on my own. My parents spent decades doing that work—in their parenting and educating, and in their sourdough. They passed along to me what work they had spent their lives doing, and I simply continue it, building upon their shoulders. I am parenting and educating similarly (but not identically) to the upbringing I received—the culture I perpetuate now in my home is not unlike the culture in which I was raised. I also have the sourdough culture in my fridge which is from the original culture my dad caught a decade before I was born. (We do actually joke that the sourdough was my parents’ first child.) And I can share a lump of the sourdough with someone else who wants to cultivate that habit and blessing and keep the leaven alive. Taking a bit of my sourdough would be an easier start in the art of bread baking than if you caught your own natural yeast the way my dad did. I can walk you through how to feed it, keep it, cultivate it, use it, and share it. But giving you an hour long introduction to sourdough culture is equivalent to you reading a book on a particular education/parenting culture. It is easier to continue cultivating a culture when you were steeped in it yourself. Extra grace and patience is needed when culture-cultivating!

Culture is alive, efficacious, contagious, potent.

We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.
-Voddie T. Baucham Jr.

Thankfully, we do not have to stay in a particular culture. God created us in His image, not in the likeness of tiny microbes. So we can choose to cultivate something new by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just because you came from a particular culture does not mean you can not take a lump from somewhere else and cultivate something new. It is simply harder to purge old leaven than it is to cultivate new leaven. (Corroborate that with Scripture!)

Start from scratch with nothing but raw ingredients and a heap of faith and grit!
Or take a lump from a culture you admire and want to perpetuate yourself.
Or continue the culture you already have and love, by nurturing it regularly and keeping it alive with fresh cultivation and courage and patience.

Stand fast! Be brave! Be strong! Let all that you do be done with love!

Raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That is the principle of Christian culture which we need to cultivate, perpetuate, and share. There may be many methods of pursuing this—but pursue it we must. The Lord requires nothing less. Our children belong to Him. We need to care for them according to His principles, in His paideia, and for His glory.