What We're Reading (August edition)...

As we enter this final month of our summer break, we pray that our students, families, and teachers have enjoyed some rest and leisure. With the approaching new school year, stay tuned for some fun posts as we look forward to the school year to come!

Our "What we're reading..." feature for August is full of news articles, sermons, and other news that we’ve found interesting or insightful over the summer, and we hope that you will enjoy spending some time reading and reflecting as well.

In preparation for the new year, we’d love to hear from you! Would you take a moment and share a book or article that you’ve read lately that you think others in our ILS community may enjoy?

A storm is coming. It threatens to sweep them away. Death will soon visit this house. And Death comes with his companions, Doubt and Despair.

Knowing death was coming for Lazarus, Life came. Life spoke. And Mary listened. She does not know it yet, but she will soon need the Word of Life. A storm is coming.

Another storm rages within Martha. She is busy. Doing what? Doing diakonia – service, ministry. Is that not good? To prepare a meal for Jesus? But over the fire of the hearth, a fire burns in Martha’s heart.

She resents Mary. “I’m doing all the work! And she is not working with me.”

Thus Martha judges her sister. For this, Martha is in jeopardy of God’s judgment. So is everyone who is angry at her sister, or brother. “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

We can relate to Martha’s cry to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care?” Mired in self-pity, she felt alone. Have you experienced that? We know what needs to be done, but the people who are supposed to help don’t see it. And it appears the Lord does not care. “I’m working! And she is not working with me.”
— Pastor Christopher Esget, "Hearing and Working Together"

Today, 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone. Fifty-six percent of children and teens have their own social media accounts. And 45 percent of teens say they are online almost constantly.

With the rise of social media among teens, we have seen a deterioration in teens’ mental health.

A recent report in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology says that over the past decade there has been a 52 percent increase in depression among teens, with girls suffering more than boys. One out of every five teenage girls said they experienced a major depressive episode in the last year. From 2008 to 2017, death from suicide increased 56 percent among teens age 18 to 19.

The psychologists behind this research say that they can almost definitively connect the rise of social media among teens with the rise of anxiety and depression. No doubt, this is an epidemic among our teens today.
— Meg Meeker, MD, "Our Teens are Facing a Mental Health Crisis and Social Media is the Culprit"

Dear parents with wiggly children,

Oh, yes: I see you and your kids. I’m way up there in the pulpit and you’re often way in the back, but I see you. I hear y’all, too. The dropped hymnals, the coos, the squeals and the cries — all those little distractions that rise above the sounds of worship.

You know who you are. The rest of us do, too. And since I see you and I hear you, I just wanted to say something:

Thank you.

Thanks for your ongoing efforts to include your children in worship. You could get more out of it for yourself if we had a nursery and you could park them there. You wouldn’t have that feeling that everybody’s looking at you when your kid does something out of order, and you wouldn’t be waiting for the possible meltdown when the communion service goes long. You wouldn’t have to beat that hasty retreat to the narthex because a little one has gotten a bit too restless or whacked his head on the pew.

Yup. Your life on Sunday could be so much less noisy and complicated.

But you’re parents. You know that getting more out of things for yourself will be a luxury for the next several years. You know the value of your children getting used to worship at an early age, a habit that we pray they’ll continue for the rest of their lives. You know that those little sponge-minds are picking up a lot of stuff, memorizing creeds and prayers and songs. You also know that as the Word of God bounces around the room from readings and sermons and hymns, it’s going into the ears of the young to give grace and strengthen faith. And even when parenting duties mean you don’t get to listen to much, you still receive Christ’s body and blood — and so you know you’re forgiven.

So you keep girding your loins, setting your face and bringing your kids to church.
— Tim Pauls, "A Note to Parents with Wiggly Children"

Whenever someone asks me how much I’ve read in a year, my answer is, “I honestly don’t know.” I’ve never kept a list of all the books I’ve read, even though my mother often urged me to do so in middle and high school. I couldn’t give you any sort of statistics on how many books I’ve finished or how many pages I go through in a day. Sometimes I can’t even recall the titles of all the books I’ve read in a calendar year.

But I’m completely unashamed of this because I believe reading ought to be an adventure and a love affair rather than a test of willpower or a self-improvement regimen. It’s best experienced when it is gloriously unproductive, a way to simply awaken the imagination and intellect and forget oneself.

Disengaging with the daily, anxious drive to always do more is truly challenging. We all want to feel good about ourselves, to have concrete proof that we’re “getting things done.” We have a unique tendency in our age to make everything about data, statistics, and self-optimization: how will this activity make me as smart, strong, interesting, knowledgeable as it is possible for me to be while fulfilling my productivity quota? It’s tempting to turn books into signposts pointing to how we’ve got everything together. But leisure reading provides an opportunity to forget about all that—to escape the demanding stranglehold of perpetual productivity and breathe for a while.

Would you bring your children to an art museum and tell them to look at as many paintings as possible in the hour you’re there? Or would you ask them to sit and observe, letting their imaginations roam in front of whatever work happens to entrance them? In the same way, literature asks for a lingering, thoughtful look, the deep concentration of a person fully immersed in the type of treasures only it can offer. The whole book—from the words written within it to the cover art to the feel of the spine under our fingers—is meant to be savored. It’s a beauty to rest in and reflect on, not a mountain to be conquered.
— Maria Bonvisutto, "For the Love of Books"

안녕하세요 (An nyong hah se yo): Hello! Except that’s not exactly what an nyong hah se yo means, is it? The Korean greeting literally means, “Are you at peace?”

There’s something profoundly important about that. In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, peace describes the right relationship between God and man, and the right relationship between people. The Christian liturgy is filled with the message of peace, from the announcement as the Pastor holds up the Body and Blood of Jesus (“The peace of the Lord be with you always”) to the song before Communion (“O Christ, the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world, grant us Your peace”) to the last words of the final blessing (“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace”). We might say the entire Christian worship service is designed to bring us into God’s peace.

It’s interesting that the Korean greeting is a question. An nyong hah se yo - “Are you at peace?”

We kind of do that in English. “How are you?” or, “How’s it going?” But few people actually want the answer. But this question, An nyong hah se yo - “Are you at peace?” might just be the most important question of your life, and of your marriage.
— Pastor Esget, Sermon: The Marriage of William Thompson and Ji Yoon Noh

I was recently gifted a book of the poetry of George Herbert. Herbert was a seventeenth-century aristocrat-turned-deacon in the Church of England whose English-language poems were published posthumously. Herbert’s almost exclusively Christian poetry is a beautiful expression of faith. Herbert captures the wonder of God’s love for us, the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the joy of our salvation again and again. In his work, in fact, his poems remind me of our hymnal and the poetic expressions of faith captured therein. Reading his poetry inspired me to think of hymns as poems as well.

Hymns without music?
We have the privilege of listening to and reciting poetry weekly, if not daily, thanks to our hymnal. Most of us are probably familiar with the poetic character of hymnody, realizing that hymns use meter, rhyme, stanza, and poetic language to convey theological truth. The poetry of hymns, though, is closely tied to the music paired with the text. How often do we hear a hymn spoken or see the text without expecting to sing it? When I see a hymn text I know, I find it difficult to read it through without singing it in my head. The music is, indeed, essential to the hymn and often aurally illustrates the text; however, is there an advantage to reading the text of hymns as though they were spoken poetry? Is it ever appropriate to divorce the text of a hymn from the tune?

Although I think that the music is essential to the hymn in the end, taking the text out of the music can give us a clearer understanding of its meaning. Reading hymns out loud like poetry can give us insights that we do not usually discover when we just sing the hymn. Then, when we once again pair the music with the text, we have a deeper understanding of what we are singing.
— Mrs. Marie Greenway, "Hymns as Poems: What do They Mean Without Music?"

When you went on family vacations, did you visit historic landmarks? Did your parents take you–or did you take your children–to Civil War battlefields, the restored houses of prominent Americans, and the sites where great events took place? Have you been to Colonial Williamsburg, Independence Hall, Plymouth Plantation, Lincoln’s Tomb, or Mt. Vernon? Have you seen the Liberty Bell, the U.S.S. Constitution, the Battleship Missouri? Have you been to presidential libraries, museums about national or local history, period villages populated by historical re-enactors?

We stopped at all kinds of places like that when I was growing up. We took our own kids to them. And to this day, when I am traveling by myself, I can’t resist a National Monument, whether it is an Indian burial ground or a Spanish Mission or a Revolutionary War site. I have looked up and tracked down the childhood addresses of Patsy Cline and T. S. Eliot; I have seen where the Osage murders were tried; I have visited the UFO sites in Roswell, New Mexico. I love it when a sense of history comes together with a sense of place.

But fewer and fewer Americans are visiting historical monuments and landmarks. So reports an article by M. Scott Mahaskey and Peter Canellos in Politico entitled Are Americans Falling Out of Love with Their Landmarks?
— Gene Veith, "The Plummeting Attendance at Historic Landmarks"

Augustine’s City of God is a theological retelling of the history of the world as the unfolding of two concurrent stories: the story of the heavenly city, which strives most ardently toward the lover of its soul, and the story of the earthly city, which plunges most feverishly into its own privation. Our venture here will be to extrapolate from City of God a model for conceiving of how we might stay true to the story of the heavenly city in cultivating a truly and distinctively “Christian” classical education.

First, a distinctively “Christian” classical education is concerned with the formation of persons around the singular desire and affection for the utterly unique and Triune God. The heavenly city is first and foremost a city of lovers who sigh with incomparable wonder and longing for their Beloved to return in glory. This city of lovers is so absorbed in affection for their Beloved that they reflect the One whom their heart loves. The proper ordering of loves is integral to Augustine’s theology and it begins with the love of God and then the love of self and neighbor on account of God. In Book I of his On Christian Teaching Augustine writes, “A person who has ordered his love . . . does not love what it is wrong to love, or fail to love what should be loved . . . every human being qua human being should be loved on God’s account; and God should be loved for Himself. And if God is to be loved more than any human being, each person should love God more than he loves himself.”
— Matthew Prechter, "Order Your Loves: Keeping Classical "Christian" Education Christian"