Sunday, October 5, 2008

Poems in our Pockets

The woods and pastures are joyous

in their abundance now

in a season of warmth and much rain.

We walk amidst foliage, amidst

song. The sheep and cattle graze

like souls in bliss (except for flies)

and lie down satisfied.

Who now
can believe in winter? In winter

who could have hoped for this?
— Wendell Berry

Just this fall my eighteen-year old daughter Madeleine started college.  Early in September, she called to say, “Mama, guess what happened in my English class?”  The teacher asked us who was afraid of Poetry?!   And Mama!  All but two of us raised our hands.!”

Afraid of poetry are we.

Ranier Marie Rilke, a German poet of the early 20th Century, writes “works of art are always the result of ones having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further.  The further one goes, the more private, the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes and the thing one is making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible, and as nearly as possible, definitive utterance of this singularity."  (Rilke in Letters On Cezanne) 

This could hint at our fear of poetry.  All art can be a little disconcerting.  And no wonder!  In attending to it, and opening our self up to it, we are taken to the depths of another’s delights and sorrows and are often even then left hanging.

In seasons of deprivation, I have often found myself gifted with an unexpected providence; a sense of abundance internally in the midst of something restrictive or even devastating on the outside.  Our days seem laced with expressions of this.  Have you noticed?  People tell us some horrific story of life’s relentless blows and then describe the deep inner gifts that were given in time so that at the end of the day, they are grateful for the trial.

But rarely do we ask for the catastrophe, and surely it would be ridiculous to do so.  My mother had a cross-stitched quote in our bathroom that I read many days while growing up:  “If all of our troubles were hung on a line, you would take yours and I would take mine”.  This quip was beyond me and I could not say it honestly.  But now I see that our troubles are particularized and each, when received instead of only endured, creates gaps and incertitude that finally make me soft and supple enough to hear the tender voice of the Other, and put me into a posture to be tended by the Good Shepherd.

I have found that listening to poetry has a similar effect on me.  Listening to poetry extracts stillness from my ‘working breast’, as George Herbert calls it, and quiets my soul like a weaned child. I find that to keep in time with poetry, I must take deeper breaths and move my inner feet at a more deliberate pace. It is all a slowing down, a settling in; the preparation as significant as the hearing.  To rush off after hearing a poem read is incongruent with the form, and so I pause afterwards, like a comma or a Selah, and reflect.  To resume the activity or thinking that was going on before the insertion of the poem is to reenter changed by only a degree, but still, I enter more attentive and calmer, and might I say, truer?

At the end of the day, we will be grateful for anyone and anything that was given to make us more thoughtful, hospitable, restful, kinder; more receptive to Truth and Beauty and Life.  Could it be that in gifting our children and ourselves with poetry of all kinds that we are tasting of the very more of Eternity?

Some essential thoughts about poetry:  (What do you think?)

Poetry is meant to be read aloud.  What is not said is as meaningful as what is said.  Lyrical language (words thoughtfully chosen to ‘get at’ the idea of the writer) is the tool.  In listening, we are better able to take in the meaning.  Voice and pace and word all in one reading. 

In poetry, the form rises out of content.  The inspiration to write comes from an experience or thought first.  This is the rhythm of the Gospel:  First the gift, then the living.  First the grace, then the response.    Poets hear a cadence and wait for words that fit the meaning.

Poetry is related to poverty, often rising from being stripped down to essentials.  The idea is that much can be said with fewer words.  It is the beggar’s garment in the world of literature, where less is more and to be impoverished is to be enriched. 

It doesn’t take long to read a poem.  But it does take fierce attention. Stillness and presence are fruits of our attending to our current poet/friend.  In an age when most of us are exhausted with our ever doing, attending to poetry relieves and soothes us into remembering that we are human beings, not human doings, and that our glory lies in what is given to us not in what we earn.

Poetry Practices

Practice sitting still and quiet for a minute at a time.  This is a meaningful exercise for children as well as adults!  It becomes a game to see if you can ‘feel a minute.’

Let your resonance with one poet lead you to another….How the Holy Spirit must delight in luring us this way.   Madeleine L’Engle led me to  Lucy Shaw who led me to Jane Kenyon who led me to Donald Hall who led me to…

Many novelists or memoirists publish poetry as well.  Reading their poetry makes an internal conversation with them even more layered and personal.   This is how I have come to know Wendell Berry and Kathleen Norris.


Just days ago, my daughter relayed an’ uncorking’’ that occurred upon the reading of a poem.  While reading it she was surprised to find tears and clarity, stirring and rest, joy and the release of a latent sorrow.  All in one place.  All at the same time.

It seems that a childhood steeped in  ‘How I love to go up in the swing, up in the sky so blue.  Oh, I do think it the grandest of things ever a child can do’, and ‘’Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?  Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.” created capacities to hold the likes of Rainer Rilke or Wendell Berry or George Herbert. 

When my children were young we learned this poem by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers: 

Keep a poem in your pocket

And a picture in your head

And you’ll never feel lonely

At night when you’re in bed.

The little poem will sing to you

The little picture bring to you

A dozen dreams to dance to you

At night when you’re in bed.

So - -

Keep a picture in your pocket

And a poem in your head

And you’ll never feel lonely

At night when you’re in bed

May we each taste the gifts that come from being still and open to another in the garb of a poem?


Monday, June 30, 2008

On Time- an Unhurried Education

The idea of time and the way it shapes my teaching and learning has been rolling around in my head for quite a while now. Aware of an internal rushing that I was always managing, I have longed to silence it. This sinister voice, ‘get going, seize the moment, multi-task’ seemed cloaked as a virtue, but somewhere deep down I could hear, though the signal was weak, that it was really a vice.

We live in two time zones. We’re all familiar with Greenwich Mean Time and it’s ticking clocks, blinking digital numerals, various chronometers and alarms. But there is also what older voices might have dubbed “real time”.

There are four clocks or timekeepers that mark real time:

The body’s clock that measures when I am hungry or satisfied, weary or energized, sad, lonely, or content.
The day’s clock which is marked by the movement of the sun and moon, from sunset to sunrise, to noon. The waxing and waning of the day.
The season’s clock with spring, summer, autumn and winter.
The church’s clock which measures time with the liturgical calendar. While it is a way to pay attention to movements in the soul, it does so by paying attention to the other clocks, especially the rhythm of a day (vespers, compline, matins, dawn…), and of the seasons (advent, epiphany, lent, easter…).

Our view of time flows into the other postures we hope to cultivate. By adding attention to our senses we find that we are now gazing, scenting, savoring, listening and stroking…not just seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and touching Mindful presence adds so much more. No attending can be done in a hurry.

An Unhurried Education

From the inception of our school three years ago, I have been haunted by an idea I heard from Chip Denton of Trinity School , of an “unhurried education.” What an intriguing thought! Not knowing why, but in the true spirit of our impulsive response to being seized by an idea, we rushed out to put this quote under all of our clocks:

“He who is in a hurry delays the work of God.” (St. Vincent)

I think that each teacher knew it was an indictment rather than a description. There was something compelling about this thought and now, a few years in, we keep seeing ways that the mystery of this truth holds water and shapes our community of learners.

In paying more attention to GMT than to our other real time clocks, we have perhaps read the Scriptures words about time in a false way. Solomon had no watch on when he said that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. We feel that time is running from us, slipping away, and therefore read words like “redeem the time” and “teach us to number our days”, as a call to hurry up. We buy more elaborate calendars with bible verses on them while ignoring baby’s cries on our “Ezzo-esque” hyper-schedules. “Redeem the time” has come to mean “fill in every second of the day or you will miss opportunities”, often losing the gifts of the moment by either regretting how we missed the last one or dreading the oncoming one.

The idea of real time calls us to pay attention to each part of the day or year as it comes…in its own sweet time.

“Slow Movements”

Two organizations, awake to the frenzied, chaotic pace of current living, have added mindfulness to the areas of food production and travel. Carl Honore’, an Italian, conceived the idea of the Slow Food Movement one day while he was walking by the Spanish Steps in Rome, and saw the construction of a McDonalds across the street. (Frank and Pardis Stitt in my own community are part of this movement). Listen to some of their comments:

“Slow is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace; it’s about working, playing and living better by doing everything at the right speed.” (I can cook eggs in the microwave, but have you ever eaten them that way?)

“The Slow Food Movement was an organization that was founded to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interests in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes, and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.”

The Slow Travel Movement pays attention to the journey, not just the destination.

Antidotes for a Hurried Education


Not long after the school year began I remember sitting with a child, aware that the math concept was not attaching. I felt the inner angst, but knew that the habit needed in this scenario was not math propensity in the child, but an ability to wait in me.

Unhurried. Waiting. An ability to be inactive while expecting something.

The natural world waits with such grace. The quiet cocoon, the simple bud, the tiny seed…all beautiful in their silent, fallow forms. Each embody Job’s words, “waiting for my change to come.”

Jan Comenius was a Moravian Bishop who lived in an age of violence and exile. Born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1592, his own schooling was rigid, full of rote learning and harsh discipline. Writing about education and teaching filled his days. Themes including ‘a liberal education for all,’ an emphasis on atmosphere, the need for personal motivation in learning and direct experience were his directives. He wrote that Nature spoke to education in these ways:

1. Nature observes a suitable time.

2. Nature prepares the material, before she begins to give it form.

3. Nature chooses a fit subject to act upon, or first submits one to a suitable treatment in order to make it fit.

4. Nature is not confused in its operations, but in its forward progress advances distinctly from one point to another.

5. In all the operations of nature, development is from within.

6. Nature, in its formative processes, begins with the universal and ends with the particular.

7. Nature makes no leaps, but proceeds step by step.

8. If nature commences anything, it does not leave off until the operation is completed.

9. Nature carefully avoids obstacles and things likely to cause hurt.[3]

One can only imagine how deeply Charlotte Mason was informed Comenius. He was a champion of cultivating the inner landscape, and although he lived with many sufferings and deprivations in his lifetime, he was a man of expanded spirit and a gentle, compelling person. It was Comenius who said to “start with local, then branch out”, themes found in these slow, time-conscious movements.

Proportion and Rhythm

A richer view of time will help us live more proportionally- to work, live, and play at the “right speed”. Charlotte Mason said “we allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and the spiritual life of children, but teach them to that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.” This idea allows us to see the value of every dimension of life and pay attention to each. We can become full participants in life, instead of amputating sections of our being to make up more time.

The Rule of St. Benedict survives to this day primarily because its adherents find a view of life there that helps them live in proper proportion. Prayer, community, work, rest, food are all attended to in a rhythm that attends to each without neglecting the others. He was able to keep the dialectic between silence and community, leisure and work, being and doing, resting and waking, listening and responding. A large part of that was knowing that each has its due season, but also that each must be set aside to attend to others arenas. There is a time to take my work up, but there is also a time to set it down. “That’s enough for today.”

Hospitality, Openness, Lack of self consciousness

The ultimate hope is not so much seizing the day or enjoying the moment, as being present in the day and in the moment. This is the way to hospitality- to becoming open to others (people and ideas). This rhythm fosters the ability to say of any interruption, any suffering, “who knows what God has brought me in this child, this event, this thought, this moment?”, and to then give it my full attention.

The work of giving time to each person, idea or moment yields the fruit of increasing humility, a lack of self-consciousness, which Charlotte Mason says is the distinct “goal” of a life of abundance. How freeing to be so present to you that I forget myself? Then you are not burdened by pride and fear, and neither am I.

Listen to Jean Louis Servan-Schreiber in The Art of Time: “It is in our early years that we are most profoundly, naturally and intimately involved with time. Never again will we be as open as the child for whom everything is new and who can dream, and be surprised and forget everything else to benefit from the moment. Without the burden of a past, without a care for the future we live our childhood happily in the present, before our memories and our projects gnaw it down from both ends. The fundamental experience of the present, of the fullness of the moment, the intensity of feeling (joy/pain, pleasure/suffering) here and now is not that difficult to acquire since it is with the reach of every child. What is harder is to not forget it.” He is simply talking about recapturing what was once natural to us, a child-like view of the world.


So, in thinking about life ( i.e. education), perhaps I might pay more attention to time. The life of the soul and the life of community are deeply connected to waiting and to a steady, restful, yet attentive pace. My lesson plan says that we should be at a certain point, but what are all these young faces telling me? Why am I still working when the sun has gone down hours ago? Was it back in the fall when I last had coffee with my colleague? What do I learn from the long, bright days of summer and the shorter, darker days of winter? Does this season of the year call me to pay attention to ideas that I have neglected? What is my eight year old saying about my calendar, especially now that it has merged with my cell phone? Shall we take time this week to think about time?

Here is one final thought from Pierre Teillhard de Chardin:

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are all, quiet naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new, and yet it is the law of all progress that is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you. Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

So, tell me dear comrade, what thoughts do you have about all of this?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sampling from Our Bookshelf

Our Bookshelf

When Children Love to Learn
Teaching Children
Books Children Love
For the Children’s Sake
Educating for Life – Wolterstoff
Brain Based Learning
Alfie Kohn
Eric Jensen

Spiritual Formation
The Bible
The Book of Common Prayer
Offering the Gospel to Children
Godly Play
The Religious Potential of the Child
Sharing our Biblical Story
Images of God – Katherine Paterson
A Pilgrim People – Westerhoff
And You Call Yourself a Christian
The Christian Imagination – Ryken
Reaching Out – Nouwen
Will Our Children Have Faith – Westerhoff
Seeking God – De Waal
George Macdonald

The Mentored Life - Houston
In His Image – Brandt
Becoming Human – Jean Vanier

Language Arts
Reading Reflex
Doing Words
On Writing Well - Zinsser
Lessons that Change Writers – Nancie Atwell

The Handbook of Nature Study – Comstock
The Last Child in the Woods
Thornton Burgess
Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers

Handicrafts and Skills
Home Comforts


Shaping Stories
The Year of Miss Agnes – Kirkpatrick
A Passion for the Impossible
My Thirteenth Winter


Men • tors – trusted counselors or guides

“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves. “
E. M. Forster

Mentor Books:

When Children Love to Learn – edited by Elaine Cooper
Redemptive Teaching – Donovan Graham
For the Children’s Sake – Susan Schaeffer McCauley
Educating for Life – Nicholas Wolterstorff
Brain Based Learning – Eric Jensen

There are No Children Here –Alex Kotlowitz
And You Call Yourself a Christian: Towards Responsible Charity – Robert Lupton

Reaching Out – Nouwen
The Mentored Life – James Houston
Will our Children Have Faith? – John Westerhoff
Offering the Gospel to Children – Gretchen Wolff Pritchard

Mentor Schools:

Perimeter Schools including Parkview, Perimeter, and Intown/ Atlanta, GA
Ambleside School/ Fredericksburg, TX
Redeemer School/Winston Salem, North Carolina

Carraway Center for Teaching and Learning, LLC ( located in Nashville, TN educational consultant dedicated to helping educators/parents understand how learning occurs.

We are grateful for the mentor books and schools listed above. These authors and schools counsel, guide and shape us. They are our friends.

It is that my friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.” Helen Keller

Edwin Muir, Alabama Naturalist

Why do I tell you this little boy’s story of medusas, rays and sea monsters, nearly sixty years after the fact? Because it illustrates, I think, how a naturalist is created. A child comes to the edge of deep water with a mind prepared for wonder. He is like a primitive adult of long ago, an acquisitive early arriving at the shore of Lake Malawi, say, or the Mozambique Channel. The experience must have been repeated countless times over thousands of generations, served as sources of food and barriers against enemies. No petty boundaries could split their flat expanse. They could not be burned or eroded into sterile gullies. They were impervious, it seemed, to change of any kind. The waterland was always there, timeless, invulnerable, mostly beyond reach and inexhaustible. The child is ready to grasp this archetype, to explore and learn, but he has few words to describe his guiding emotions. Instead he is given a compelling image that will serve in later life as a talisman, transmitting a powerful energy that directs the growth of experience and knowledge. He will add complicated details and context from his culture as he grows older. But the core image stays intact. When an adult he will find it curious, if he is at all reflective, that he has the urge to travel all day to fish or to watch sunsets on the ocean horizon.

Hands on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge is what counts in the making of a naturalist. Better to be an untutored savage for a while, not to know the names or anatomical detail. Better to spend long stretches of time just searching and dreaming. Rachel Carson, who understood this principle well, used different words to the same effect in The Sense of Wonder in 1965: ‘If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of childhood are the time to prepare the soil.’ She wisely took children to the edge of the sea.

George MacDonald

The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is--not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say to make him think things for himself.

Communion of the Saints

“Next to God’s work and His blessing, I believe that Birmingham has taught me that friendship is one of the greatest things in life. It is the sweetest, holiest, and most far-reaching agency on earth. Friendship is based upon unselfishness and a desire to help someone – a trust in others more than in self. I accept the love of my friends not as a gift, but as a sacred trust imposed upon me. My friends keep me healthy, sound, and able with their love. They are my eyes with which I see, my ears with which I hear, my mouth with which I speak, my heart with which I love – they are my inspiration.”

Brother Bryan

Gifts Received

Esther de Waal includes the following quote in her book Lost in Wonder.

“Gift is the principle on which the Creator has based human existence; it is the most pervasive, even if little noticed, reality of our lives. We have life itself by others’ gift of procreation, pregnancy and childbirth. We are sustained in life by the good things of nature and by the labour, generosity and society of other human beings. We are educated by the self giving of our teachers. We are sustained constantly by gifts—love, forgiveness, reconciliation, pleasure. Our whole life is a fabrication of gifts received, and we ourselves contribute our gifts to the lives of others.”


“Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” I John 3:2

A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small

The chapel at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham calls itself ‘a sermon in stone.’ We took our students there recently on our excursion day and were overwhelmed by the symbols and beauty of its place. The children were invited to explore until a symbol spoke to them and then take time to illustrate it in their museum books. It was like a treasure hunt of sorts and we were all surprised by its effect. The chapel is designed to teach and remind at every turn. There are murals of the church year and shields for each of the apostles. The Trinitarian symbol made with the acacia’s everlasting leaves graces the ceiling. Four foundational preachers are carved into the pulpit. Every detail points to the Christian tradition and holds theological and historical significance. The chapel is designed to retell the beauty and excellence of our true and living faith.

I wonder if in a very similar way the Garden of Eden is designed for persons, to tell them who they are and what they are for. Picture a place of exquisite beauty, form and provision. This is a place where rule is by recognition, not dominance; where the atmosphere is infused with a sense of comeliness and aesthetic delight There is a rhythm/cadence/pace of living here that is unrushed and timely. A sense of proportions with variety and repetition, safety and adventure fills the space. Garden life was characterized by sleeping deeply and awaking to fitting work. Male and female were in sync, free of cold distance or clinging togetherness. Solitude and community ran parallel and were the dialectic of this place.

At our essence, this Reality is what persons are made to enjoy. We are ever leaning towards this sense of shalom, of suitableness, of wholeness. When we taste this we find deep rest and a sense of satisfaction. Our essences echo, ‘yes, now this is true and sincere.’ Although our days here are broken and full of suffering, we find that we often taste hints of this kind of care. This kind of kindness feeds our hope.

The personhood of children is essential to our understanding of education. We have seen that the habit of attention to a child leads to the recognition and particularizing of that child, with the fruitful sense that one is knowing and being known

A few months ago I heard James Houston, a dear mentor of our work, describe the four consciousnesses of persons. These would include our Cognitive intelligence where all can be substantiated, our Emotional intelligence where relating and sympathizing with another occurs, our Conative intelligence involving our will with desire and longing and our Spiritual intelligence linking us to the Father, Son, and Spirit and connecting us to others.

It is our understanding that when a person is recognized in all four of these arenas he will be most attentive and will feel the most tended to.

To attend:

To be attentive means to bring all four of these consciousnesses to the moment. When we are able to do that freely we retain and remember better. Attention given and attention received has a ripening effect on us. We are living creatures and it seems that when we are well tended we grow and are fruitful; when we are ignored or not recognized we shrivel and shrink. If people tend to us, but do not care for us, we experience it as manipulation. It feels like harshness instead of nurture. Attention must be laced with caring when living with persons.

Add attention to glance and you get gaze.
Add attention to hear and you get listen.
Add attention to taste and you get savor.
Add attention to touch and you get stroke.
Add attention to smell and you get scent.

Charlotte Mason said, ‘It’s not how much a child knows, it’s how much he cares that matters.’ One of our board members once retorted, ‘Well, I want my child to know and care!” I believe that what Miss Mason was saying is that if a child only knows but does not care, the learning will be forgotten or will become a knowledge that is idolatrous leading to pride. Caring and delight in knowing fosters humility and joy.

To recognize

Childhood is marked by a lack of self-consciousness. This innocence or humility is what Jesus is drawing our attention to when he says, “Unless you become like a little child…” It may seem inefficient to be patient with a child and to protect his freedom to be. But goading, enticing with rewards and comparison are all poisons to a child. It behooves us to recognize the child for who he already is instead of promoting postures and paces that will one day find him wearing a mask, pretending to be someone he is not or infected with hero worship, desiring to promote himself instead of be himself.

The seed in fertile soil is a fitting metaphor for recognizing the child. There is only so much effect we have. The essence of the seed, the child, is intact and already has an aim or bent. We offer soil nourishment, virile conditions, attentive waiting and a little weeding, and the child grows into all he is becoming. As we recognize the child we will see his particular weaknesses and fleshly ways. We help the child by fostering habits of attention, kindness, honesty, steady effort, and more. This promotes postures of truth and care where he is free to confess his selfish bents while still hoping and longing for more.

To particularize

C. S. Lewis said, ‘Affection is responsible for nine tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.’

Jesus always finds a way to particularize, set apart and convince the follower with a knowing that is past knowing. Think of how Jesus came to His band of men and women after the resurrection. Thomas could have been a real irritant with all those doubts. But when Jesus came to him, he spoke to those specific doubting parts of him. Thomas was convinced internally of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Note the way Jesus came to the scholars of the Emmaus road and the women at the tomb as well. All demonstrate particularizing and affection.

We want to be a people who wait alongside and enter in while Truth particularizes our children personally. An atmosphere characterized by presence (attention), hospitality (making room for our deprivations as well as our abundances), and care (entering into the reality of where one is) all put us in the way of particularizing to grow. When spending leisurely time with a child reading, listening to music together or taking a long walk one often senses this particularizing taking place. ‘Ah, ha’ moments, a special exchange of tender words, a knowing smile, a blush or sudden rush of tears. All of these and more speak to this wooing of Truth that comes along side of us to name and particularize us.

Knowing and being known

When attending, recognizing and particularizing with affection are present a deep sense of belonging is formed. Secure in the knowledge that we are seen and cared for, our lives grow in fruitfulness. This is a different word than achievement. Products need management to be productive while persons need grace to be fruitful. The giving and receiving of gifts is our commodity as persons. ‘What does it matter? Grace is everywhere,’ says Bernanos in Diary of a Country Priest.

As we see ourselves more in the role as midwives, bringing to the light of day something that already exists and as the farmer, sowing and nurturing a seed that already contains essential life, we will enjoy days of knowing and being known by others. This engaged knowing is the distinctive of Jesus’ pedagogy. This is not dry and dutiful knowledge but one laced with vitality, virility and verdancy. The heart, mind, soul and spirit we are after is one that hears, attends, understands and responds. Now I not only know as with an axiom, but I feel a caring responsibility for all that I have received.

Eugene Peterson said, ‘If we try to understand and form ourselves by ourselves we leave out most of ourselves.’ Pondering the idea of persons can lead to growth in ourselves and our learners, while neglecting these may have a shriveling and deadly effect. May we be persons who are open to God and others in freedom and mindfulness.

Looking Back to the Beginning of the Last Year

Spiritual Formation and Celebrations

It is our desire to be and to become a community of learners, full participants in all of life. At RMCS we recognize that it is Jesus’ presence, hidden and unseen that brings life, richness and rest.

Our last year was shaped by John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the life of St. Francis, Joan of Arc and Brother Bryan. This coming year we hope to add to our fellowship of saints’ with the lives of St. Martin of Tours, Amy Carmichael, and Fred Shuttlesworth among others.

Our year will be steeped in Psalms. This is our primary source for recitation and meditation. We will begin this year with Psalm 8. The practice of reading and responding to the rest of Scripture will be attended to by Bible reading in the classrooms at least twice a week with narrations following.

Attention to the Church Year is woven in to our day to day life at RMCS. It’s seasonal rhythms and rituals will undergird our ordinary school days and in time will be traditions of our little work. We want our students to be ever mindful that God is thinking of them and thinks well of them. It is our hope that each of us will find Jesus to be our Shepherd and our Host (Psalm 23). The school sees itself in these roles as well – protecting the sheep/children from harm, leading them to nourishing pastures of learning and refreshing streams of hope, and then offering them a vast and deep ‘feast’ of curricular ideas and skills.

We will gather together in excursions, chapels and other times to participate in these historic celebrations. In the fall we celebrate the Jewish feasts of Rosh Hashanah and Sukkoth. In November we will have a Thanksgiving Feast. Advent Chapels take on a distinctive feel as we await our Epiphany Service of Worship in January. We will also offer an outdoor Nativity similar to St. Francis’ first crèche in Italy years ago. We observe Lent by attending an Ash Wednesday service and then wear burlap for 6 weeks of chapel while we wait together for the royal velvet robes of Easter. This year we will participate in a Stations of the Cross in preparation for Good Friday and Holy Week. Our year ends with our St. George and the Dragon Faire in April and finally a ‘Coronation Chapel’ in May. Each child is blessed and prayed over at this tender service while we reflect on our year together and offer prayers of gratitude for God’s presence among us.

Singing together is a treasured part of our day. We have a wide selection of hymns that we add to each year. Last year’s signature songs included ‘The Church’s One Foundation,’ ‘How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,’ “Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus,’ Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder,’ ‘Beneath the Cross of Jesus,’ ‘O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,’ ‘Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted,’ and many others. We sense a deep mystery when we sing and have found that it has a strengthening, restorative effect on each of us.

”Jesus, we surrender our hands, our heads and our hearts, knowing that your nearness is our only good.”

Elements of Surprise

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Rickwood Caverns Excursion

Last Spiritual Formation Class (and Cheese Grits)

The Last Picnic of the Year

Class of 2008

Here is the first graduating class of RMCS