What we're reading (February edition)...

We had such a wonderful time celebrating National Lutheran Schools Week at ILS, and now we’re ready to kick off a new month with our latest edition of "What we're reading..." here on the blog! As we do each month, for your enjoyment this month, we’ve compiled articles that we’ve found to be interesting or thought-provoking recently on a variety of topics.

This month, we include contributions both from Immanuel’s Pastor, Christopher Esget, as well as ILS Music Teacher, Mrs. Marie Greenway. Additionally, please enjoy a selection of articles on beauty and the imagination, recommendations for books worth giving a slow read, prayer, and more.

What have you read lately that you think we, or other ILS families, may find interesting? Please keep sharing links and articles for us to enjoy!

Why is a sentence from C.S. Lewis delightful while an equally true statement by another, ordinary writer, is not?

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I can see it, but because, by it, I can see everything else.”

“Christianity has given me a new and different perspective on everything in life.”

Metaphor and poetry have the ability to transcend the barriers of language, through imagery and symbolism, and so convey Truth in a way that points beyond words to something deeper, mysterious, and, yet, real. It strikes at the root of the imagination.

The imagination is a powerful thing, and, yet, what is imagined need not always be merely imaginary: Consider God’s Imagination, as He fathomed the creation of the universe and all that is in it. What was first conceived in His mind is now perceived in this world. Consider our hope in God’s Imagination being able, sufficiently and justly, to handle the eschaton (the End), to make sense of all that has been, and all that has been lost.

But the modern world has an appetite for devouring all that is imagined and all that is mysterious, lusting to create a world instead of nothing but facts.
— Aaron Ames, "Beauty and the Imagination"

Students, especially middle schoolers on the cusp of adulthood, long to be treated with respect and dignity; however, as music teachers, it is often tempting to search for music we think might be popular with our students regardless of musical, or spiritual, value. As soon as we recognize that kids can tell when we are trying to cater to their childishness rather than help lead them toward a mature adulthood, we can see how valuable hymns are in teaching our middle schoolers.

As a musical person, I have, quite naturally, been involved in and paid attention to music and my musical education for most of my life. I’ve noticed which kinds of music my teachers had us sing in music class and how effective their tactics were at engaging every student. Even those less perceptive teachers, though, recognized the creature who simply refused to sing well or sing at all: the middle schooler.

To be fair, not every middle schooler deserves to be grouped into the category of “bad music student.” In fact, I know many middle schoolers who love to sing and make music. In my experience, though, a large number of middle schoolers strongly dislike having to sit in music class or choir or a school performance (usually, instrumental music-making does not quite have the same heinous torture to it as singing). Understandably, these students have just emerged from those lower grades in which every child sang without embarrassment and have yet to overcome the peer pressure to appear cool. Trace it to whatever societal issues you will, though—the middle schooler’s less-than-eager-participation-in-music-class stereotype remains.
— Mrs. Marie Greenway, "How to Get Middle Schoolers to Participate in Choir Class"

In the ruins of Ostia Antica, where Roman roads have disintegrated into a tangle of worn stones and earth, past market stalls where tall grasses jut from meticulously laid mosaic floors, one can find about three dozen stone basins in which bakers once placed bread dough to rise. This is one of several baking sites archaeologists have identified in the ancient seaside town, which suggests that bakeries were established in order to fulfill the imperial custom of providing free bread to citizens, most of whom lived in small apartments and lacked the ability to bake for themselves. Our circuses are quite different from those of the Ancient Romans, but our bread, perhaps not so much.

Bread is the closest thing civilization has to an eternal flame. While the origin of bread-baking is ­usually associated with the rise of agriculture, archaeologists studying Natufian hunter-gatherer sites in northeastern Jordan discovered the remains of 14,400-year-old flatbread made from wild cereals, predating agricultural societies by at least 4,000 years. And in 2010 scientists identified traces of starch on Paleolithic-era grinding tools, suggesting our ancestors made flour from wild plant grains as many as 30,000 years ago. When we bake a loaf of bread, we commune with the Natufian hunter-gatherers, Byzantine imperial bakers, the widow of Zarephath, and the Israelites who fled Egypt with their kneading bowls slung over their shoulders.
— Jane Sloan Peters, "Bread Eternal"

My reading in the Year of Our Lord 2018 was marked by some fairly deliberate attempts (emphasis on attempts) at slow reading as a counter to my long-standing tradition of attempting to speed read. Hilariously, I am but a poor example of either discipline.

That being said, I was grateful to encounter some new favorites this year, and several of them seemed particularly helpful in clarifying my understanding of our current cultural moment. I offer them below as suggestions for your 2019 lists in full recognition that I am likely late to the party on most, if not all, of these books.
— Stephen Williams, "Slow Reads for a Mad World"

My dear brothers and sisters who are Lutherans for Life, today, January 18, is the festival of the Confession of St. Peter. That’s more than a coincidence. Peter’s confession tells us why we March for Life.

We are not here to protest. We are here to confess.

To the disciples Jesus put the question: “Who do you say that I am?” That question is more important than any other. That same question Jesus puts to you: “Who do you say that I am?”

“Doctrine is life – the doctrine of the God who is for us, the God who desires to be our God, the living God who wants us to share in His divine life.”

The question has a dogmatic answer. But dogma never exists alone. Doctrine does not exist for itself. Doctrine is God’s gift to us. Doctrine is life. Well, not just any doctrine, but the doctrine of the God who is for us, the God who desires to be our God, the living God who wants us to share in His divine life.

At the head of the Ten Commandments is this beautiful declaration: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2). The Lord does not merely state His self-existing reality. He announces Himself in relation to His people. “I am the Lord your God.” Our confession in response does not say, “You are God,” but, “You are our God.”
— Pastor Christopher Esget, "March for Life Sermon 2019"

“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:9-13).

Though we know it by rote through overlearning, we can never exhaust the theology of the Lord’s Prayer. It therefore retains deep endless value and profound meaningfulness throughout our lives. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we’re not just repeating what he has given us to say; we are actually praying. More precisely, we are praying what he wants us to pray his will, not ours; for his reasons, not ours.

The Messiah had a very good reason for us to take this prayer upon our lips and entrench it within our hearts through overlearning: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Rom. 8:26). And so, there is a divine expectation that we converse and commune with God, but we do not and cannot pray as we ought since we are as Luther put it always a sinner and constantly sinning in thought, word, and deed, even while justified in this life by Jesus’ imputed righteousness. Therefore Christ must redeem us and fulfill even the “law of prayer” on our behalf. He not only fulfills the law of prayer and wins for us the Holy Spirit who makes intercession for us, he also bequeaths to us the perfect prayer as an availing entreaty to our heavenly Father.
— Pastor John Bombaro, "When You Pray, It's Okay to Plagiarize"

Even though it’s in colleges’ financial and reputational interest to try to generate as many students as possible for themselves, Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn says pushing everyone towards college is a big mistake.

“Everybody needs an education,” he told RealClearEducation’s Nathan Harden in a video interview out Monday. “Everybody needs to know the natural sciences, everybody needs to know history and literature. Good high schools can teach those things. And everybody should have an opportunity to learn all they want to, but the idea that everybody should get a college education, that proposition can only be true if college means a wide variety of things.”

Higher education trying to be all things to all people, combined with seemingly endless government subsidies, has resulted in a huge amount of wasteful spending in higher education, Arnn noted. Inflation-adjusted college tuition has increased far faster than not just inflation but also than housing and health-care costs.

“It is expensive to do what colleges do if they do it really well… There’s four years where you’re not producing anything except knowledge for yourself and others, so that’s expensive,” Arnn says in the interview. “But we can’t really know how much it costs as well as we used to be able to, because it’s very heavily subsidized now, and it’s subsidized in ways that are not market-responsive. And so probably the costs in college are vastly distorted.”
— Joy Pullman, "This College President Is Willing To Tell You College Isn’t For Everyone"