Friday, September 17, 2010

God's Spelling Lesson

I hate work sheets, fill in the blank type of questions. I think those kinds of things kill the capacity for true thinking. They require mental regurgitation, and that is a useful skill too, but in a day when every kid has an iPod in his pocket with access to the world wide web of information, it seems to me a less necessary skill than it used to be. It may also be that I am rationalizing my own inability to remember salient facts, but the point is, I am more prone to delve for deeper conceptual understanding in educating children.

And that is how we approach our daily Bible study.  Any smart kid quickly figures out that if you answer "Jesus", "prayer", or "Bible", you will likely get almost every Biblical question at least tangentially correct. I try to push Asherel to stretch for a fourth response when possible. Yesterday we were looking at a verse from Matthew 21-
"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."

I asked Asherel what she thought the whole passage that verse was buried in meant, summarized by that verse.
She didn't answer immediately, which is an affliction I have noticed in all my kids and my husband. They all take long pauses so that I am not even sure they heard me. If I am willing to wait, sometimes take a nap or have a snack while waiting, they do almost always eventually respond but our school days are too busy to wait an hour for answers to each question.

So what I often do is jump in and frame the question more carefully to speed things along. In this case, I explained the context of the paragraph, how Jesus first is shown overturning the  tables of opportunists selling sacrificial animals in the temple itself, berating the people that His Father's house is not a den of thieves, but a house of prayer.  He then passes a fig tree, and notices not a single fig is growing on it. He rebukes the fig tree , and in an instant, it withers. He tells his amazed disciples that they could do this and more, if only they would not doubt.

"What are the main words in the verse?" I then asked Asherel.
"Believe, receive, prayer," She answered.
I was excited that we were moving at a reasonable rate through this passage. I was thinking of all the places this study could take us- what does it mean to "bear fruit" for the kingdom of God, and what is the implication and link of the withered fig tree, and of Jesus' exhortation not to doubt? Why were the stories of greed, misuse of God's temple, and the unfruitful fig all linked in the chapter of belief and receiving? Which one of these amazing conceptual flights would my brilliant daughter choose to fly today?

"So," I summarized, as I have found that is sometimes another little tool to make the interminable pauses a little more terminal, "Believe, Receive.  What is God telling us?"

"I before E, except after C," answered Asherel.

And while on first blush, this is not quite the answer I was looking for, it is not a bad answer. God does give us rules. The rules are not meant to confound us, just like spelling rules are not meant to confuse us. They are all there to help us, to guide us, to keep us on the straight and narrow path of righteousness and ...literacy. We are free to break them. But when we do, we don't bear fruit, we don't nourish the world around us, and in the end, we may as well wither away. And the key to following the Rule Giver righteously is don't doubt, trust in the one who gave us the rules that they will lead us to the place we are meant to be, and He will bring us everyplace we are meant to be. Every word that He sends us will begin to make sense and we will have eyes that see, ears that understand, and we will be healed....And I strongly suspect we will have eternally perfect spelling.

Matthew 21:21-23 (New International Version)

 21Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."


  1. Asherel has a great sense of humor!

  2. Thanks Carol, yes she does. When she leave home, I will have no more material for my blog.