Even the Chair Master Once had Homework

By on September 26, 2012

The morning starts off with prayer and hope – one leading us in the 23rd psalm, another leading the Lord’s Prayer, and the teen choosing a proverb. I finish off with prayer:

Praising God for either the rain that prepares the crops, or the sun that helps the crops grow, for our home, for our provision – for warm blankets and comfortable beds.

I ask that our angels encamp about us, protecting us, keeping us from harm.

I pray that as we come and go between classes, tasks, jobs and activities that we reach for relationship with the Father beyond this moment

That we let others know about the love of Jesus either through our words or actions. That we find 3 people to pray for either outwardly or inwardly – maybe a bully, maybe the bullied – but someone who needs a bit of the Father in their lives.

And. . . .I pray that their school work will be their best, a praise offering to God.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23)

Our morning prayer sounds like utopian parenting, doesn’t it. For the duration of that prayer – all is right and hopeful in the world – a perfect moment.

If only the prayer were walked out as easily as spoken.

My teen and I, after the little guys were dropped off, talked about work as praise – because school work just is not always a priority. Right now, he really doesn’t see how reading The Secret Life of Bees, writing an essay or learning the rudiments of statistics will help him in real life (do not get me going about the feminization of education). From my college teaching experience, unless boys see a true need for a skill, they don’t respect it, want it, work for it.

But God wants our work to be as praise for him. . . .

How do you get a teen to buy into that?

I tried again – I am all for repetitious seed planting into these boys of mine.

“Grow where you are planted. God didn’t drop you in Uganda where a war-torn people live in huts with a trench for a bathroom beside an outside wall, where little boys are given a gun to kill their parents in order to live. Little boys in Uganda would rather have been dropped where you are,” I urge.

Sleepy blinking is my response. I push on, though, not deterred.

“God dropped you here. Not somewhere else you’d rather be, doing something else you’d rather be doing. You need to make the best of where you are, the situation you are in – which means going to school, graduating and fitting yourself for useful employment. Not just going to school – but doing your best,” awesome point I’ m thinking that should propel my son into school ready to be the student he is capable of being.

Sleepy blinking. A sigh that really says, “Here we go again” – that’s all the response from my one-on-one, early morning cheerleading.

Instead of backing off, I dig in deeper – I can’t really figure out if that’s counter-productive. Maybe it is. All I know is that I don’t want to give up on someone I love so much.

“Are you a Christian?” I ask. That gets a response.

“Of course,” he answers, his eyes too tired to roll backwards in his head, so he just shuts them.

“Are you a picking and choosing Christian – meaning you are going to pick and choose what the bible says about being a Christian? Because He wants us to do our best where we are – and for you, that means school.”

He climbs out of the van not so much excited about going to school as to getting away from his mother.

“Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval” (Genesis 4: 3-4)

It is so difficult to use a Cain and Able quote because, well, my boys automatically jump to the fratricide part. Yet, there is so much beyond that to be learned.

Offerings were a new thing, a second-generation thing – each brother brought one, completed the assignment, so to speak. One earned a gleaming report. The other needed work. God, ever the teacher, talked to Cain, encouraged him to do better next time:

“So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it’”(Genesis 4: 5-7)

You must rule over it – meaning take responsibility of your abilities, gifts and responsibilities – do your best! Do your best, God seems to be telling Cain – and I will bless you, praise you, like I praised Able. “Next time, do better,” God coaches to Cain. Even Cain had to practice, to learn – to turn in Praise Work to God.

Do your best, whether it is making hats, doing school work, folding laundry, working in a job that isn’t your dream job

Ever since my first historic trip to Pleasant Hill as a teen with my family, the idea of work a praise gift to God has been a seed growing.

Shakers … go about their duties in cheerful, happy helpful temper, feeling that “Labor is worship and prayer.” (Leonard, Shaker Manifesto 1871, for quote source, click here)

The results of each Shaker task was a praise offering to the Father:  spinning, weaving, sewing, making baskets, brushes, bonnets, brooms, furniture, growing and harvesting for sale medicinal herbs, garden seeds, apple-sauce, and knitted garments, using the latest scientific methods for farming  and living. In 1835, they had cold showers in bathhouses with water pumped from the Kentucky River.

“Hands to work, hearts to God,”  (Mother Ann Lee).
The work of the hands reflecting the heart to God.

Farm Deacon’s Shop, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrate our 29th anniversary at The Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Thirty hours of together time – celebrating 29 years of marriage – a little bit of history, a lot of good food, quietness in a beautiful place, staying in a historic building all to ourselves – holistically delightful!

To make a chair, with such perfection, such skill, the best you had within you – a worthy chair on which an Angel of God could sit – that was the goal of each Shaker chair maker (Tour Guide, Pleasant Hill, August 2012)

I bet even the Chair Master, when he was an apprentice, had homework. If he had never tried, never improved, never turned in his homework or day work, he would never have become the Chair Master – creating a chair so perfect it was fit for angels.

“God, the master workman, who has made the smallest insect with as much care as the mammoth elephant, sets us the example of good work. Imitation is the sincerest praise.”  (Shaker Manifesto).

I’ve been re-seeding, watering, trying to grow that idea and instill it in my boys. Simple Gifts has a bed-time lullaby in our house for over 27 years:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
 Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, “Twill be in the valley of love and delight. 
When true simplicity is gain’d, 
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d, 
To turn, turn will be our delight,
 Till by turning, turning we come round right.
(Simple Gifts, Shaker Song)

Doing my best as a parent, is that not praise to God also? Not giving up on encouraging these boys “to come down where [they] ought to be.” Sometimes, praise is not easy – especially when you are praising for something you do not see the evidence of.

Shaping, crafting for the company of angels and God – that kind of skill starts in the heart, works its way to the hands and the feet – even if the work of the hands and feet are classroom assignments and teaching moments in a car on the way to school at 7:15 a.m.

Maybe the morning and private prayer time ought to include that God give us each the desire to over-rule the power that would have us sullenly turn away from encouragement, that our desire to do our best flame higher and stronger than the desire to not do where we are planted our best.

Sometimes, a math sheet can be so much more than homework – it can be an I-Love-You Praise gift worthy of angels and God – if it is labored over for God.

For more information on Shaker History, click here and here.

For the Trinity of Success, click here.

687. Post-it notes for prayer requests stuck on my desk and bathroom mirror that remind me to pray

688. Paine au chocolates for my daughter-in-law – because my son said she’d like them

689. baklava for my son – because he likes it – and he asked for it.

690. leaves swirling like confetti in dappled sunlight on a quiet street on my way home from work

691. A quiet weekend morning, on the porch with a cup of coffee, listening to a blue jay

692. zinnias that rebloom sherbet colors all summer long

693. a bushel of tomatoes from my garden

694. time to knit 4 rows of a project

695. boys reading in the weekend morning – no t.v., no music, just a silent kind of industriousness that sighs contentment

696. the courage to buy a pink and purple booster seat for baby girl to sit at the table – on the clearance rack – with a mini-booster-seat for a tiny baby doll. My littlest, almost 12, assembled it, secured it – and grandbaby girl and her stuffed animal enjoyed dinner

697. Hearing the following words: “In college I went to the used book store to get some classics to read, like Shakespeare, ‘Much Ado about Nothing. I used to buy books there all the time until the owner offered me a massage.” – Not the massage part, though that definitely adds a little something to the story – but that I instilled a love for reading things like Shakespeare.

698. Previous discussion morphing into a discussion of Chaucer (thank you, “A Knight’s Tale” – and the devolving and evolving of words).

699. Saturday Morning date at the Farmer’s Market

700. Chard, honey, parsley, cucumbers, eggplant and dill at the Farmer’s Market

701. Watch grandbaby girl have one-on-one time with her 14-year-old uncle

702. Sons meeting rising to meet life challenges

703. Sons who still hug

704. Living a hectic schedule one hour at a time – thank you God for helping me through this week – with a schedule that challenged my peace

705. meeting with friends over dinner – friends who laugh with you and don’t mind you being yourself

706. a friend from church, seeing my husband in the grocery store, battling a cold – and she prayed for him

707. Phone calls my mom and aunt every morning  – when I married, long-distance calling was too expensive – now, I can call every day. What an awesome blessing! I love that.

708. weekday morning prayer, no matter how put out any one person is – the littlest leading the Lord’s Prayer, the next leading the 23 Psalm – and seeing my senior’s hands automatically reaching for the bible I leave in the car to find a Proverb – without me reminding.

709. watching green things and blooming things outside my window

710. rain, in sheets, in mists, rumbling and rolling thunder across the sky, lights out as the rain from the hurricane blows its way to Tennessee.

711. sitting with the lights off in the house, on our porch, listening to the boys and husband talk of big and little things, little and big – in the way that boys do – so endearing, so serious, sometimes so silly – all more beautiful in the quiet

712. sitting around the big table, dinner finished, a coffee cup in my hand, listening to the talking, trying to get a word in somewhere – wondering how does a mom’s voice stay relevant when men talk about their world, grateful for Shakespeare and Chaucer moments – yes, it was a double blessing, worthy of a gazillion times (which reminds me of a 5 minute discussion of dictionaries and the word ginormous).

713. Comfort that during tomorrow and Wednesday and through all the rest of the week, He has blessings along my path to remind me that He is with me, that He never abandons nor forsakes me.

 

Originally posted on Blue Cotton Memory.

About Maryleigh

Maryleigh is a child of divorce become whole as daughter of The King. Married for 27 years, mother of 5 boys to men, she has been a college composition instructor, teaching college-bound composition to homeschool students, journalist and freelance writer/editor. Maryleigh is the author of Blue Cotton Memory, a blog about the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men and creator of Standing at the Cross Roads, a program designed for teens and college students to break/prevent cycles of dysfunction by understanding the gifts and plans God has each of us. Her website: http://bluecottonmemory.wordpress.com.

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Even the Chair Master Once had Homework