Archive for October, 2012

Was God the Original Montessori Instructor?

October 29, 2012

We are currently spending a lot of our time keeping our 15-month-old grandson, Colt. His aunt Erica, the daddy’s sister, lives with us, and the 3 of us tag-team to interact with this little bundle of joy and neediness to bless his life, and have ours blessed in turn.

Last night, Erica was researching on the internet some pointers on interacting with Colt, and came across some items about how it is done in the Montessori system. One of the things they do is to try to “get onto their level” by keeping things low, having their sleeping mats on the floor, 15-inch-tall work-stations for them to play and learn at, having adults get down onto the children’s level to relate to them, etc. A short while after she told me this, it dawned on me: That’s exactly what Jesus did: He came down onto our level.

So, I thought, in what other ways does God operate in the Montessori model? I looked at the Wikipedia article, and here are some thoughts about possible parallels:

  • “Mixed-age classrooms”: God puts “baby” Christians in with “teen-age” ones and “mature” ones. Each different “age” learns lessons both from the other age-groups, and from the interacting.
  • “Student choice of activity within a prescribed range of options”: How true is that of our lives! Each of us has choices, but not unlimited ones. And how we grow is determined by how we apply those choices. And in the final analysis, though the range of our choices may appear to be very different depending on who we are and where we come from, ultimately, our choices about the things that matter (values, ideals, etc.) are very similar.
  • “Uninterrupted blocks of work time”: In the final analysis, each of us has to deal with our aloneness. No one can take it away from us, just as no one can experience death for us. We are given our aloneness to learn to “work” with the One who gave it to us.
  • A “‘discovery’ model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction”: How often have we wished God would just make things clear??? Instead, we have to learn from the “materials” we are given to work with—the people, the circumstances, the challenges, the limited revelation over time…you fill in the blank—what are the “materials” you’ve been given to learn from?
  • “Specialized educational materials developed by…[the] instructors”: Perhaps in eternity we will see just how “specialized” the “educational materials” are that have been developed by our Instructor Himself! It is obvious (to those with eyes to see) that we are being taught in unique and individualized ways, learning things that are so precious to us that they can only be shared with our Teacher, coming to know our “hidden name” as something precious, to be treasured.

The emphasis on “independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development, as well as technological developments in society” sound similar in scope to the relationship with our Father and the challenges of developing our individual and unique giftings within the context of the historical situation we are placed in.

Whether Maria Montessori knew Father God or not I cannot answer, but it appears she certainly was able to tap into His heart in developing her program!

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Learning to say the most precious word in the universe

October 29, 2012

Learning to say the most precious word in the universe.

Margin, Poverty, and Honor

October 24, 2012

It is difficult for someone who lives hand-to-mouth to act honorably when faced with a choice which involves what they consider survival. I had a guy—we’ll call him Joe—working for me, 3 weeks away from finishing a big job, who was lured away by a competitor offering the prospect of longer-term employment. The competitor made it clear that his offer would not be there in 3 weeks. As a result of Joe leaving, I finished the job myself and made a mistake which ended up costing me a few thousand dollars, a mistake which, quite probably, Joe would not have made.

Joe lived in a rented mobile home. I don’t really know much about his situation beyond that, but I do know that most of the guys in the trade I’m in (electrical specifically, but it applies to much of the construction trade) are less than a month away from disaster financially. I know—I’ve been there. When you have that kind of margin—or, should I say, really don’t have any margin—it’s difficult to remain loyal to someone, or to act with integrity. You have to make decisions based on the pressures of the moment, and the prospects (as you see them) for the immediate future. You may say that you are honorable, but 99 times out of 100, the dollar will trump principle.

The dollar will also erode honor in one who is well off, or seems to be, but for different reasons. There is not the desperation there, but greed in its insidious manner gets hold of desire, and the greedy man finds himself justifying every decision based on financial outcome. Some who are well-off see themselves just as close to disaster as Joe did, even though in a financial crisis they could probably sustain themselves indefinitely (admittedly at a lower standard of living). The mindset of poverty is again at work in such cases—primarily through perception, which becomes reality for the perceiver.

Maybe that’s why the writer of Proverbs said,

Two things I ask of you, O Lord;

do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches,

but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

and say, “Who is the Lord?”

Or I may become poor and steal,

and so dishonor the name of my God.

“Neither poverty nor riches.” It’s hard to walk a line of balance in such a way as to avoid either extreme. But essentially, it comes down to attitude. True wealth is far more a matter of mindset than it is of possessions. The one who has the most possessions may feel totally impoverished—someone–Rockefeller?–once quipped, when asked how much was enough, “MORE!” On the other hand, the poorest man may own the wealth of the world, if he truly believes it so in the core of his being.

$100M Man

October 19, 2012

In October 2007, at a men’s retreat I organized and led on “Marketplace Christianity,” I had an intense prayer time on the Sunday morning, sitting in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace. I wept and interacted with the Lord, and felt he told me he had 3 commissions for me, 3 words for me to follow.

1)      Love my wife as Christ loved the Church, and set himself to present her “spotless and without blemish”

2)      Build a $100-million business (I’m assuming he meant gross, and it seemed to mean $100 million per year, as that would be how I would measure a business)

3)      Mentor men

You have to understand that, at that time, I had been in business some 14 years full-time, but was already 55, having gotten somewhat of a late start on entrepreneurship. (In my early adulthood, I specifically chose to have jobs that I could leave at the job when I went home, and would not even do “side work” in electrical, my chosen field.) In addition, even to date, we have never grossed even close to half a million, and the nature of electrical contracting is that it is non-repetitive (if you’re getting called back on the same job, it’s not usually for a good reason, and it usually costs rather than profits) and difficult to “automate” (each job tends to be unique, and the combination of people interacting on a job is endlessly unique and often difficult to navigate).So, I am now 60, and still wondering about that word. Parts 1 and 3 seem to be processes not readily quantifiable, and more of a process than an end-goal, but part 2 is definite and specific, measurable, a sort of True/False question.

I woke up early this morning (3 am) and lay in bed trying to go back to sleep, and this word came to mind. And in the process of mulling it over, I felt I heard Holy Spirit say, “I can give you a 100-million-dollar business anytime. But I can’t do it until I have made you into a 100-million-dollar man.” That really set me to thinking.

What is a 100-million-dollar man? Western Judeo-Christian culture emphasizes the infinite value of one soul. Quite a number of people who have encountered the person of Jesus in some emphatic way have felt that he said to them, “If you had been the only one, I would have died for you.”  In light of that, even $100,000,000 would be paltry sum.

Of course, there has to be more that is meant here. I’m not sure I have the answer right now. It’s definitely something I’ll be praying about. I’m sure it’s about character, probably about capability, definitely about attitude. Whatever it means, I want to be headed in that direction.

The Appalachian Trail is 2,178 miles long, somewhere in the range of 5 million steps. Who knows, this journey may be a “trail” of 100 million steps or even 100 million miles. Still, it can only be walked one step at a time.

October 15, 2012

Who Is “The Man In The Box”?

I just finished reading Andrew Toy’s new ebook, The Man In The Box. I got my copy over a month back, but saved it for when I was on vacation so I could read uninterrupted. And I was not disappointed—I finished it in a day. I had a hard time putting it down.

But since then, I’ve been having a hard time figuring out, “How do I write a review? What do I say?” The fantasy portion reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, George MacDonald’s Curdie books, though not as intensely fantastic. It reads like a Pixar script (and I know Andrew is a big fan of Pixar movies, so this is intended as a compliment).

The plot revolves around Robbie Lake, just laid off from a 11-year job perfectly suited for him (a book editor). While involved in a less-than-honorable enterprise, he hurriedly has to hide in a large box, and inadvertently finds himself in an alternate world, one he had created as a child. It has since evolved into something more sinister, darker, and, he discovers, on the verge of extinction. Some of the characters there tell him it is prophesied that he will come back and save them. But the more time he spends there, the more difficult it becomes to navigate both worlds, since he can’t do both at the same time. And therein lies his dilemma: He would love to save his fantasy world and become its hero/god, and attempts to spend as much time there as possible, but reality and duty keep calling him back to the one he knows is really real, which includes his wife, his 7-year-old son, his 15-year-old daughter, and before it’s over, his father. So he has to make choices, and ultimately, he knows, it will come down to The Choice.

If Robbie were older, I’d say he’s having a mid-life crisis. But the more I think about it, the less I like that simplification. There is more universality here. Robbie comes close to being an archetypal figure. He is Everyman, and his box is everyone’s “box.” Robbie is Willy Loman. Robbie is Jean Valjean. He is Bunyan’s “Christian.” He is Jekyll and Hyde, or Dumas’ Man In The Iron Mask, or Luke Skywalker fighting himself in the cave or struggling to deal with the truth about his father, or Frodo with the ring. He is a type of our fear and our faith fighting each other. And ultimately one must win.

We all feel boxed in at times in our lives. How do we handle it? One good way is vicariously. Whether or not the characters make the right or the best choices, we can, through books and movies, experience a simulated “box” and ask ourselves how we would deal with the same situation. And sometimes, just sometimes, we can take lessons back that help us deal with our own real-life boxes.

Andrew’s book should be out on Amazon soon. Check it out. And you can even preview the first few chapters free on his blog, http://adoptingjames.wordpress.com. While you’re there, why not check out why he named his blog what he did, and why he writes?

NOTE: Andrew provided a free copy of this ebook for the purposes of review prior to release.

Where Is The Battlefield in Spiritual Warfare?

October 1, 2012

Where Is The Battlefield in Spiritual Warfare?.