Monday, July 19, 2010

Creator, Creation & Creativity

Creator, Creation & Creativity
An excerpt from The Real Life Home School Mom: It's a Life in Revision

As home school moms, we long to fill our children’s hearts and minds with good things! We are not just talking about behavioral rules or academic skills, but a thirst for beauty. We are right to focus on the cross and salvation as the foundation of our faith, but we also need to reverence the Lord as our Awesome Creator. Think back to Genesis about how our Lord marvelously called our world into existence. Paradise! Beauty! Purpose in life! Oh, how sin marred this ideal, but creation still points us to our Creator. In fact, Romans 1:18-20 says: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

I think that part of introducing our children to spiritual things, to the realm of a Gracious God in their lives, begins with an appreciation for creation. We should give our children ample time to enjoy the splendors and the intricacies of the natural world. They should gain a sense of divine awe for the masterful design of geographical formations, plants, and animals. This can inspire us to worship the Lord! The same God who created all this created me, too! We didn’t evolve from pond slime. We were designed by an all-knowing all-powerful God who has a plan for our individual lives. There are myriad excellent resources to teach our children about creation versus evolution. The Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution DVDs are a great example of this.  As home school families, let’s take full advantage of our right and privilege to use them.

I recently came across a book which expands on children, nature, creativity, imagination, a sense of wonder and mystery, the arts, and the heart far beyond whatever I could write here. Be sure to get a copy of Romancing Your Child’s Heart by Monte Swan. This is a masterful book on parenting, a must-read highly recommended by folks like Tedd Tripp (author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart), Dennis Rainey (Family Life Today), and Wade and Jessica Hulcy (authors of the KONOS curriculum). I was captivated from the start by Monte’s description of his own Wisconsin childhood, and parents who nurtured his love of nature and of creative tinkering, even though he struggled with traditional learning. The aimed for the heart – and they got it! Monte writes: “As we smell a wildflower in the springtime, watch a blazing sunset over the desert, or witness a thunderstorm on a sultry summer afternoon, beauty and drama capture our hearts. Is the wonder we feel the response He hoped for as He created these things? I'm confident that creation reveals another aspect of romance in God's heart. He's the first Quilter of prairies, the primer Painter of autumn colors, the archetypical Sculptor of the mountains, the master Composer of the whippoorwill's song, and the original Poet of grace and truth. And He has imprinted His creative image in human hearts. Burning curiosity, wonder at mystery, and the delight at finding a solution that makes order visible -- all these accompany creativity, giving us our fullest happiness and deepest satisfaction on earth."

Let’s go beyond nature study to more human endeavors. Our creative God, who made us in his image as creative beings, often reveals himself through the “common graces” of literature, art, music, and nature study. Charlotte Mason, the esteemed turn-of-the-century British educator who wrote much about home schooling, always urged parents to make the most of these, rather than merely dull dry paperwork. She envisioned children growing up wholesomely in the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical realms of life. That’s what we want: true beauty, a keen aesthetic sense that so fills the soul that there is no room for the garbage our culture dishes up so liberally. The beauty I am talking about is not just “pretty stuff” for the eyes and ears. It is not devoid of pain and suffering. It is what transforms the soul toward the inner beauty of kindness and compassion – and that will mean exposure to the pathos of human existence. Our literature choices need to carefully reflect real life at the heart level. French archbishop Francis Fenelon wrote in 1687:

“Children filled with thoughts of their romantic heroes, become astonished when they look around in real life, and cannot discover a single person throughout the world bearing resemblance with their ideal hero. They would wish to live like those princes and princesses who are always charming, always adored, always above every care. What a disgust for them to descend from a hero and heroine, to the low detail and drudgery of taking care of a family. Children should be influenced by books that vividly portray life in all its trials and victories. Divine providence should echo throughout its pages. Characters who suffer wrongfully in a righteous manner, and display humble dispositions, will lay a secure foundation for the time when childhood may be stolen away; perhaps through the death of a loved one, sickness, or calamity. Children need informed instruction, and models of heroes and heroines of righteousness to fill their reserves for such a time. In literature as well as in history, God who doeth all things well, must be seen through the filter of His divine love and tender care of His children and as an avenger of all who harden their neck.”

Literature, art, music, nature study – these are so vital to “ignite the delight” in a child’s education! But they must be worthy! Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

What is the learning atmosphere in our homes? Are they places where great books are read to one another in the evening (or at any other time), where lullabies and hymns are sung, where fine art books are contentedly browsed through on the couch, or where an older sister thinks to put on classical music so a tiny brother and sister can grow up with a bit of culture? We can have it if we choose it. Even if we don’t own all the resources we would like, we can always go to the library, or take a field trip to an art museum or a free concert in the community.

Beyond enjoying the creativity of other people, our hearts are nurtured when we create beauty, too! Art is not just another school subject. In whatever form it takes, it is a way of touching the heart, of being who God created us to be. We can affirm our children in their fledgling efforts at creativity. Each child has different talents and interests, but each one can find a niche or two. Whether it is a pennywhistle performance, a colored pencil drawing, a pattern block design, a piano minuet, a zany impromptu skit, a rollicking rhyme, a fragrant flower garden, or a tasty ethnic meal – may our lives be enriched by the abundant fruits of their creativity! We don’t expect perfection because we learn and improve as we go. We don’t want to squelch the desire with undue criticism. Our family once visited an Eric Carle exhibit at our local art museum. From an information panel on the wall, we learned that he was inspired in his vibrant artistry by a kindergarten teacher whose encouragement carried him through the rest of his dull years of education. How much will our words of affirmation mean to our children, for whom we will be primary teacher for so many years? Let’s aim for the heart with the arts!

If you still think that the creative arts are optional, ponder for a moment how they can be used for God’s glory within the church. Our children have sung in choirs and on the church worship team, acted in church musicals, painted sets and sewed costumes for Christmas productions, face painted for community outreaches, mimed on mission trips, helped out with kids’ crafts during a Mom’s Brunch and much more. Our church also has several talented young dancers who bless us during holiday services, musicals, and youth outreaches. I see so much hope for the future of the church knowing these young people are using their creative energies – in whatever form -- to minister to others. Think also of how dependent our culture is on the arts to communicate messages about life. If we want to be able to draw people to the Savior, we are going to have to raise up a generation skilled in relaying the Good News through the most effective, heart-reaching means. Let’s get them hooked on honoring God with their talents while they are young! This starts with giving them high quality examples to emulate in the books they read, the music they listen to, the art they look at, the movies they watch, and the people they meet. Choose well – you are laying a foundation for life.
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