Why We Learn

The School of Athens by Raphael, 1509-1511, The Vatican

This is my favorite time of year. The weather will be cooling down soon (hopefully :). Sarah and I celebrate our anniversary next month. My birthday is shortly thereafter. The leaves will be turning. But it’s not just all those things. School is back in session. And for some reason, I have always loved school (call me a glutton for punishment). Our three children will all be returning to school this week or next – and we are so excited for them to see their friends and get in the routine of school again.

But this causes me to ponder a bigger question: Why do we learn in the first place? Why do we all value education so highly?

I have a theory, and it’s nothing new. Here me out…

What is a society’s greatest resource or asset?

It’s not oil, gold, wheat, finance, technology, or tourism.

The answer is “people.” We are our own greatest assets – both individually and collectively. Biblically, we are the part of creation made in God’s own image. We are collectively God’s masterpiece (Eph 2:10). We are his piece de resistance, his magnum opus.

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27 NLT

Therefore, though finite beings (in terms of our physical earthly bodies), we are of infinite value. And we must steward this human resource (ourselves) to whatever extent we can. The greatest things you can invest in are not Roth IRAs (those are great too), but yourself and others. When we are all learning, forming, and developing, we are constantly growing into the people God has called us to be so that we can better serve one another in this world and bring glory to Him. In other words, when we are all learning, the world is a better place.

Traditional schooling is just one form of education. When I say “education,” I mean lifelong learning, whether formally or informally. I also mean wholistic formation, not just head knowledge. We need to continually grow in wisdom, virtue, and love. This might be the time of year when traditional schools are back in session, but education and learning is much bigger than “back to school.”

May this time of year be a reminder to us all that we all need to grow and continually learn no matter what stage of life we’re in. Though it cost all we have, may we get wisdom. 

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.”

Proverbs 4:7-8, NIV

Why we need summer camp more than ever

Devotions at the lake at Lake Forest Ranch, Macon, MS

Screens and digital devices are not inherently evil, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to observe that the overuse of them can lead to unhealthy effects – especially for children and youth.

The Mayo Clinic points out that the overuse of screens for young people can lead to such negative outcomes as “obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems, impaired academic performance, violence, and less time for play.” (Source)

Furthermore, screens and social media provide a type of stimulation that Pediatrician Michael Rich calls “impoverished.” Here is how Debra Bradley Ruder from Harvard Medical School puts it….

“Much of what happens on screen provides ‘impoverished’ stimulation of the developing brain compared to reality, [Michael Rich] says. Children need a diverse menu of online and offline experiences, including the chance to let their minds wander.”
-Debra Bradley Ruder, Harvard Medical School (Source)

That is why, I believe, summer camp can be such a powerful place for today’s young people. Camp provides an environment where kids are provided quite a “diverse menu” of almost exclusively offline experiences (if not, completely).

According to Christian Camp researcher Jacob Sorenson, summer camp “is one of the last places in existence where young people set aside their mobile devices for more than a few hours at a time” (Sacred Playgrounds, pp. 76-77). Sorenson found in his research that though it might be a challenge at first for some youth to “de-screen” for a time, the campers themselves report that they are glad to put away the screens at camp:

“Campers will readily admit that if they were at home, they would be on their phones, tablets, or gaming systems. But they see the value of having a respite, and they appreciate simple things like people looking them in the eyes.”
-Jacob Sorenson, Sacred Playgrounds, p. 77

I will be heading out to my first of many weeks of summer camp this weekend, as I have for 15 years. And I am convinced now more than ever of the irreplaceable value such an experience provides for young people, much due to the powerful grip that technology and social media have on the physical and mental health of our youth today. I think we all agree that they (and us adults too) could use a week or two outdoors, spending time in-person with friends and growing in their faith journey with God.

Please keep me in your prayers this summer, that I might serve faithfully in ways that benefit the campers, my camp hosts, and all the camp staff. Pray also for my family, as we will be apart for some of the camps. But thankfully we have a chance to be together for some of the camps as well.

From the Mouths of Children

“children shouting in the temple courts” (Matthew 21:15)
Image: Unknown artist and origin (Source)

Have you ever heard a child say something surprisingly profound? We adults have a saying for that: “from the mouths of children” or “from the mouths of babes.”

For example, when our six year-old Annie wants to “cheers” to something, she proclaims, “To the life of God!” We have no idea where she got that from, but that’s what she says and we love it. Likewise, when her three year-old brother David prays for meals, he simply says, “Thank you for the God.” Sure, that might sound theologically ambiguous at first glance. But I think he means, “Thank you for you, God.” And I’ll take it. In fact, I need it. I need to hear children express worship to God because I think they do it a lot better than us adults.

Jesus said so himself. We get the phrase, “from the mouths of babes,” first from the Psalms (chapter 8, verse 2) and then reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 21:16:

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

Jesus was defending the children who were “shouting” in the temple after Jesus had dramatically turned over the tables of the moneychangers. You see, the children had been parading with their palm branches and shouting “Hosanna” to Jesus (the triumphal entry, which we celebrate at Palm Sunday). And they continued their procession into the temple as Jesus was clearing it out. That way, when Jesus was done clearing the temple, the children were still making noise and it bothered the chief priests. That’s when we hear Jesus quote the Psalmist in defense of the children.

This passage encourages me and reminds me to let the children praise (in the way that God made them to do so). It also reminds me to listen to the children and what they say/sing/pray when they worship God. Perhaps that is God’s way of speaking to me.