In Poetic Diction, Owen Barfield wrote, “If we trace the meanings of a great many words – or those of the elements of which they are composed – about as far back as etymology can take us, we are at once made to realize that an overwhelming proportion, if not all, of them referred in earlier days to one of these two things – a solid, sensible object, or some animal (probably human) activity. Examples abound on every page of the dictionary.”
My family and I recently moved from a suburban neighborhood, near every convenience, to a small, out-of-the-way town. Our friends and family were encouraging, but we got more than a few “you're moving where?” reactions. We are not in the middle of nowhere, but it feels like it - a feeling intensified by the numerous cotton fields, tractors used as transportation, shotguns sold at yard sales, signs advertising deer corn for sale, and slow drivers (even the ones not driving tractors).
Only the Gospel of John records Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well. Only John records Jesus’ declaration of Himself as “the living water.” Only John tells of the miracle at Cana – the turning of water into wine, an echo of baptism and the communion feast. Only John mentions Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, in which He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And John’s is the only Gospel to record this detail of Christ’s crucifixion.
In Matthew 5:6, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” In the previous Beatitudes, Jesus spoke of those who are “poor in spirit” (verse 3), those who “mourn” (verse 4), and those who are “meek” (verse 5), those who are "hungry and thirsty" (verse 6); none of which carry the appearance of righteousness or strength. Those who are blessed by God are those who are needy and know it.
Three small marks, a blend of dirt and water, pocked the middle of the back patio. The small paw prints with elongated fingers, slightly larger than a quarter, did not appear before or after the three. My oldest three children, who always enjoyed following deer tracks in the backyard, saw me looking down at the prints and gathered around me. They are nosey that way.
Marshall McLuhan wrote, in his 1964 work Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, "The medium is the message." The manner in which a story is delivered greatly affects the story, changing the experience for both storyteller and audience. It is not unusual for a story's medium to be changed or adapted - most of us now read Homer's Iliad or Odyssey, rather than hearing it recited - but sometimes the result is disastrous.
C.S. Lewis once remarked, “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last. A waltz which you can like only when you are waltzing is a bad waltz.”
Reading the great fairy tales and classic stories to our children remains a great responsibility for all parents.
In the opening pages of Plato: The Great Philosopher-Educator, David Diener observes that “Plato was one of the principal founders of the Western intellectual tradition, and it is nearly impossible to examine the historical development of any academic topic without, knowingly or unknowingly, addressing Plato’s views.” Indeed, it would be nigh impossible to overestimate the impact of Plato’s thought on Western civilization.
Flannery O’Connor would have turned ninety yesterday. The Georgia-born writer authored two novels and over thirty short stories that continue to shock readers through her grotesque, often violent, characters and scenes that highlight the need for grace and redemption. A devout Catholic in the Protestant-dominated South, O’Connor was a distinctly Christian writer whose works would never see the light of most Christian bookstores.
Today, being Ash Wednesday, is the beginning of Lent for us Christians in the West. Today, we take the first steps in our journey to Easter, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. As we enter this season - one of fasting, prayer, and repentance - there are particularly valuable lessons that teachers and parents should take with them.