Feature Article – The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Gregg Strawbridge
Educational Helps – by Laurie Detweiler and Ned Bustard
The Lexus and the Olive Tree
Summer is near,
and during these days it is windy in
Where are we on the voyage to our educational vision? If we climb to the crow's nest on our ship and take a wide look, we are in the midst of a sea of cultural change. We live in a time of unparalleled prosperity in many respects. Many drive a Lexus, which has become for some a kind of symbol of prosperity. Yet, a not-too-penetrating look at our society will find many crises just below the surface of our ordinary lives. Perhaps some already feel the strain of this on several levels, educational, familial, economic, and spiritual.
A shared area of
concern is education. Perhaps the reason why you are reading this is because
you have seen the crisis of modern education, especially in American government
schools. I need not remind you of the
infamous words of the “Nation at Risk” report which said, “If an unfriendly
foreign power had attempted to impose on
We also see all
around a crisis in terms of family, as well. Our families are the primary
context for education, yet American families have undergone radical changes. A
1. Fathers’ vocational choices which remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
5. A steady decline in the extended family.
6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
8. The isolation of children from the work world.
9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.
If we think
through this list, most of them touch us and our families quite directly.
Because of the last factor, the study described the current
beneath the surface of the
We also live in a sea of changing religious views. One example is the so-called “emerging church.” This is a movement away from traditional (and contemporary-styled) churches. It involves unchurched and “post-churched” people experimenting with a non-dogmatic conversational approach to faith. One prominent writer describes himself as, “post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.” The whole groundswell is bound up with a postmodern outlook which no longer sees the static structures of society as stable. This leads to a radical kind of individualism which desperately seeks community. While critics point out how this leads to unorthodox theology, relativism, and syncretism, my concern is to observe that we clearly have the winds of change blowing. “The times, they are a changin'” (Bob Dylan).
To the winds of
change, which wail at our children, our families, our future, and our faith,
how should we respond? In a word, “We are to be steadfast, immovable and always
abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. ). The Scripture says, “Blessed is every one
who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your
hands, You shall be happy, and it shall be well with
you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house,
your children like olive plants all around your table . . . Yes, may you see
your children's children. Peace be upon
There is a blessedness to happy labor and a blessedness to a happy home that give us hope, regardless of the surrounding change. When the storm winds of change blow around us, we are to draw nearer together and batten down the hatches. According to the Psalm, the product of the fear of God in our lives is fruitfulness, regardless of the changes around us. The image of fruitfulness is not a Lexus, but an Olive Tree. Our children are pictured as olive plants around the table. It may take as long as forty years for an olive tree to mature and fully produce fruit. Olive trees are long-lived, with a life expectancy of as much as five hundred years. They’re tenacious, easily sprouting back even when chopped to the ground. The fruitfulness that we must be after is a long-range crop.
During the school year, we often do not have time to fully assess where we are on our raising fruitful olive trees. Sometimes that is due to the business of life and making payments on the Lexus. Sometimes that is due to our own degraded routines which fail to cultivate the fertile ground of the olive plants and appreciate the blessedness of a believing home. Being mindful of changes all around us that affect us and shape us, the approaching summer is a wonderful time to reassess family life, relationships and our faith.
Our family will travel together for several weeks in June to see extended family members. The closeness of traveling together is an opportunity. We have already begun to think through what we will be doing to enhance and refresh our children in the process of this unique time. We can do all this knowing that our work in the Lord is not in vain. Still, we need reprieves. I trust that summer opportunities bring the kind of refreshment that hardworking educators, families and olive plants need.
Gregg is the pastor of Alls
Saints Presbyterian Church in
The Q&A section below answers a question about summer time reading. Children that are just learning to read, in particular, should definitely be encouraged to read over the summer. A three month break is much too long for a child to retain much of what was learned. When school starts back up in September (if you are on a traditional calendar), young students will have to spend extended time reviewing much of what they already learned. And it goes without saying that summer reading contributes to the habit of being a life-long reader. This takes developing good habits in young ones. My parents did a wonderful job with this. In fact, I now have a dream job where reading is my main occupation. Summer is a time to encourage children to read about things that interest them. Go to the library or your local bookstore and walk up and down the aisles till they see something that grabs their attention. All of our children were very different when it comes to reading choices. One likes Shakespeare, another fantasy, one always chooses sports. Just encourage them to read. On our web site you will find a file containing some coupons that will add incentives for those reluctant readers (the file will be available starting on May 3rd; our graphic designer is goofing off today.) Click here to access our download page. Then click on the Reading Coupons link under Free Helps. Children that are goal-oriented usually do well with this. Explain to the child that after they read five books they will have earned a coupon for a trip to the local ice cream shop, or maybe after ten books they are awarded a trip to go bowling. You understand the idea. Hope this helps, and enjoy the beginning of your summer vacation.
Study Guide for Letter from a Christian
Books attacking Christianity have recently been a mainstay on the New York Times bestseller list. Douglas Wilson, Fellow of Theology at
For the first two weeks of May, every purchase of Letter from a Christian Citizen (item #035-470) will be personally signed by Douglas Wilson. A free study guide for the book is available on our web site. Click here to download the guide. For further reading on defending your faith, and for a debate between Douglas Wilson and atheist Theodore Drange, go to the New Saint Andrews website at www.nsa.edu. Below are two reviews of Doug’s book.
Wilson has done the near impossible. He made me glad that Sam Harris wrote his
anti-God tract because it provided an occasion for Doug to write such a
literate, compelling, and engaging response. I hope Bible study groups and
Sunday school classes across the country set aside their normal lessons for a
few weeks and gather together to study and discuss
Craig J. Hazen, Ph.D.
Director, Master of Arts Program in
“Douglas Wilson has
written a book that can give Christians a place to stand in regard to Sam
Harris' book Letter to a Christian
Nation. The primary usefulness of
Dr. Leland Ryken
Professor of English at
Q. I am looking forward to receiving my new catalog. I am always excited when I see all the historical fiction, but never know what to order? Can you help me?
A. As you can tell, we love historical fiction. It brings alive those things that the children are memorizing. In the Veritas Press catalog, at the end of the description of many of the books, you will see a colored number. This represents the number of the flashcard that best matches the time or subject of that particular book. Choose a variety of books that go with about ten to fifteen of the cards throughout the year. Of course, you could save yourself time and get the Scholars lesson plans where all this is already done for you.
Q. I am interested in having my children read over the summer but don’t want to choose books from the catalog because I want to save them for school. Any ideas?
A. One of my favorite memories from my own childhood was buying books as we traveled in the summer. Whenever we went to a museum, I always was allowed to purchase a book in the museum store. Then I had it to read as we traveled to our next stop. Also, many libraries have summer reading programs for grammar school children that provide incentives for reading. Book clubs are a great way for teenagers to learn the enjoyment of sharing a good book.
Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two Williams is Here!
been waiting for the third installment of The Monroe Family Chronicles, it’s
here. Click here
to see or order it. This fictional series covers the history of
April Contest Winners
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Online Sign-Ups Continue at Rapid Pace
We are amazed at the number of students registered for online classes. If you are thinking about registering students for some classes don’t wait too long—they are filling fast. For information on the offerings, click here.
Dr. Leland Ryken will be the featured
speaker at the 2007 Teacher Training Conference July 18–20 in
Those who choose to take advantage of this foundational learning opportunity will leave invigorated with clear tools, methods and plans to teach and administer a classical Christian education in their school or homeschool. We will also be offering Latin-in-a-Week July 16–20th. If you did not receive a brochure, send your name and address to email@example.com.
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