Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Piper on Mental Health

"While I was a student at Wheaton College, a very wise and deep and happy teacher of literature, Clyde Kilby, showed us and taught us this path to health. Once he said, 'I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.'

"He had learned the deep significance of this outward-oriented self-forgetfulness from C.S. Lewis and drew our attention to it often. Mental health is, in great measure, the gift of self-forgetfulness. The reason is that introspection destroys what matters most to us--the authentic experience of great things outside ourselves."

from "The Clouds Ye So Much Dread Are Big With Mercy--Insanity and Spiritual Songs in the Life of William Cowper", The Hidden Smile of God by John Piper, pg. 112

Photo by Nelson~Blue

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tolkien on Choosing Books for Children

Ray Van Neste (whose blog, The Children's Hour, I highly recommend to parents of young readers) quotes J.R.R. Tolkien: “A good vocabulary is not acquired by reading books written according to some notion of the vocabulary of one’s age-group. It comes from reading books above one.”

In other words, don't be afraid to read the more difficult books with and to your children. Help them develop a taste for and skill with vocabulary.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Tension in Good Teaching

I'm reading an excellent little book, "Teaching to Change Lives" by Dr. Howard Hendricks. This stuff is good; if you teach in any capacity, as a parent (and all parents teach), Sunday School teacher, public school teacher; or if you have any desire to learn more about teaching, get a copy of this book. It's easy to read, engaging and filled with rich, quotable nuggets of wisdom. Chapter Two of the book, "The Law of Education," deals with the tension a teacher must create in order to stir up learning. In explaining why tension is a necessary component of good teaching, Dr. Hendricks begins with psychologist Abraham Maslow's four levels of learning:

1) Unconscious incompetence--the learner's beginning point, the basic level where everyone starts... where you're ignorant and you don't know it.

2) Conscious incompetence--now you know you don't know. How do you find out? Usually somebody tells you but occasionally you discover it for yourself.

3) Conscious competence--you've learned something, as when you first get the hang of driving a car, and you're consciously aware of it as you do it.

4) Unconscious competence--you're so competent you don't even think about it anymore.

Hendricks goes on to explain that the art of teaching--and the difficulty of learning--is getting people to place themselves at the beginning of that cycle, to plunge to the bottom, so they can begin the learning process. There is no growth, no development, no true learning, apart from the tension that must come as people are made aware that they don't know. Tension is absolutely indispensable to the process.

I see this as so very true in the Church in our day, in the area of Christian discipleship. I lived many years not knowing that I didn't know. Only the bittersweet providences of God awakened me to my true condition. I'm so thankful to Him for creating the tension that I needed in my life to show me that I needed to become a true learner. And I am convinced that in many ways I am still at the first level, where I don't yet know that I don't know.

A good teacher will imitate the Master Teacher by helping someone get to the place of seeing that they need to learn. It's an exciting and humbling prospect, that we are given the privilege of participating in changing hearts and minds, in changing lives. May we desire to do that to the very best of our ability, to the glory of God. This little book by Howard Hendricks will be a great help in that direction.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Giving Us Words to Express Experience

God's word, among all the other benefits it gives us, gives us this one: a language to talk in, a framework to give voice to our experience as Christians. Work in biblical counseling has helped me understand this even more.

Truly the Bible is sufficient. It provides every description of the way of God we need to know, interacting and intersecting with our own desperate human condition. I was trying to articulate what my former neglect in pursuing holiness has to do with my resoluteness now to declare His truth to all generations. 1 Timothy 1:16-17 gave me the language to say it in this morning: "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost (of sinners) 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 ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."