The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
Isaiah 50:4 (NIV 1984)
My personal ‘Morning Time’ starts as I wake up, reach for The Cloud of Witness on my bedside table and read the day’s selection.
Arise, my soul, and sing his praises!
I will awaken the dawn with my worship,
greeting the daybreak with my songs of light.
I get out of bed to ready myself and make a cup of coffee. I grab my device (it stays in the lounge overnight, an effort to get away from the allure of grabbing it as the dawn breaks) and plug an audio version of the Psalms or Proverbs into my ears. I try to be quiet as I don’t want to wake up all the sleeping-heads in the house. It takes great constraint not to turn my eyes to my social media feeds and many days I fail in my efforts. When the coffee is ready, I spend time with the Lord, reading, contemplating and common-placing. On the days that I manage to push aside the text messages, or the glare of the dirty dishes that mysteriously appear in the kitchen sink (growing young men get hungry at strange times) and other homemaking issues, my ears are open to what the Lord has to say to me in His Word.
Many days I, like Martha, get distracted with much serving and preparation.
The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night and asked him what he would like. Solomon answered, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge“, “give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart.”
Did you see that? Solomon asked for an understanding mind and a “hearing heart”, and that was equated to Him as having knowledge and wisdom! This thought has captured my heart… The Proverbs are filled with the call to make our ears attentive to wisdom and incline our hearts to understanding.
And dear Lady Wisdom is not quiet! She calls aloud in my kitchen, she raises her voice in the lounge; at the head of the noisy passageways she cries out, in the gateways of the garden she makes her speech (Proverbs 1:20-21): offering fruit that is better than fine gold. (Proverbs 8:19)
But, in order for me to hear her, I need to adopt a posture bowed in attentiveness to her call.
Wisdom is ofttimes nearer when we stoop
Than when we soar. [Wordsworth.] Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
Heeding the Call
In the fresco of The Descent of the Holy Spirit Upon the Intellect, the figure of St. Thomas Aquinas is distinctly placed in the middle of the painting. He holds the book of Wisdom open and reveals the following inscription:
Optavi, et datus est mihi sensus.
Invocavi, et venit in me Spiritus Sapientiae,
Et preposui illam regnis et sedibus.
And so I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
Compared with her, I held riches as nothing.
Wisdom 7:7, 8
The ‘Spirit of Wisdom’ is the ‘Divine Spirit [that] has constant access’ to the spirits of the children and ‘is their Continual Helper’.
As I’ve studied Charlotte’s principles I’ve often wondered why the twentieth one was placed right at the end. Surely it should be the first principle mentioned! Throughout the other principles though, she continually directs our attention to the fact that, ‘God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, [and] the Instructor of youth’. I feel that by positioning this principle where she did, she crowned and sealed all the other principles with this Truth.
If we have eyes to see and ears to hear we will notice that this Truth is interwoven in all her writings.
We cannot study and apply the principles and not value the presence of the Divine Spirit in this work. Everything we do, hinges on the value and honour we give to Him. It is in Him that we find Wisdom.
I’m learning to actively invite the Divine Spirit into my everyday endeavours, heeding the call of Wisdom and positioning myself to receive the Word. Proverbs 8:30-31
Positioning Myself to Hear
As a Keeper: Slowly does it, tomorrow is another day!
I tend to be a ‘gluttonous consumer’ of glory! In mindfully taking time to learn the habit of keeping a commonplace book, I am learning to slow down and shut out the distractions that are constantly vying for my attention.
Laurie Bestvater tells us that,
[N]otebooks act as breaks to the runaway train of consumption which liberal arts education can fall prey. There are only so many passages one’s hand can copy in a day, only so many paintings one can absorb and narrate…. One is not permitted to go “hog wild” with a whole feast…. There will be more tomorrow, like manna…. [I]f we are not able to slow down enough to rediscover moral wisdom our high-tech in endeavours will create ever more diversionary noise resulting in thinner lives. With Mason, we are refusing the mile wide, inch deep educational status quo for the deeply rooted affection and care of a simple and measured approach.
The temptation, to add another book to my reading list, is ever-present. I’m taking one baby step at a time away from a thinner life into a life full of texture, colour and depth.
As a Person of Habit: ‘A time for everything, everything in its time’
In Essex Cholmondeley’s ‘The Story of Charlotte Mason’, there is a description of Charlotte Mason’s daily routine — she lived a disciplined life. She started the day in the word:
… after Her morning preparations for the day there was a radiance of countenance … a radiance that only ‘gospel books’ could bring.
All of her commitments were carefully chosen and it was only, “by the utmost regularity of hours of work and times of leisure that work could be carried on.” Always taking time out to be refreshed with a variety of books and going on nature walks or rides.
Charlotte’s work began with the post and every letter or card was thoughtfully considered, taking care to remember that people matter. If a particular letter required more attention, she was careful to put it aside for the next day. Phew! When I deliberately set aside a specific time each day, to mindfully read through all the messages and emails I receive, I find that I’m not inundated with thoughts that have nothing to do with my current surroundings. I’m present for the people around me and have an ear for what the Holy Spirit has to say to me.
I still have much to learn from Charlotte. By having a routine, and a time for everything I too can go peacefully through my day and heedfully pay attention to the work at hand.
As a Peaceful One
Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One! Let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near. Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things. (Phil. 4:4-9)
This is going to sound really silly! I’ve only recently noticed that Philippians 4:4-7 was just before the often quoted verse 8 that rolls off my tongue so easily. I have applied verse 8 to my homeschool endeavours, not realising that the previous verses are the soil in which the Good, True and Beautiful flourish. Now I look back and wonder what I was thinking!
Today, I walked out of a lesson because of a student that has been constantly arguing with me. I said that I refuse to continue to work in an atmosphere of contention. It was a real struggle to calm down and stop blaming this child, or myself, for the situation — to quieten the voices of offence, indignation and inadequacy, that were trying to ‘pull me in different directions’, and listen to the call of Wisdom. By being ‘saturated in prayer’ and cognisant of the presence of the Spirit, I was eventually able to ask Him to intervene and show me whatever was true, honourable, beautiful, pure and commendable about my child, myself and the situation. Peace did come, and I know that I’m not on my own on this daily walk but He is my ever-present help in time of need.
The Result: Harmony in My Efforts
Such a recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit as the Educator of mankind, in things intellectual as well as in things moral and spiritual, gives us ‘new thoughts of God, new hopes of Heaven,’ a sense of harmony in our efforts and of acceptance of all that we are. What stands between us and the realisation of this more blessed life? This; that we do not realise ourselves as spiritual beings invested with bodies, living, emotional, a snare to us and a joy to us, but which are, after all, the mere organs and interpreters of our spiritual intention. Once we see that we are dealing spirit with spirit with the friend at whose side we are sitting, with the people who attend to our needs, we shall be able to realise how incessant is the commerce between the divine Spirit and our human spirit. It will be to us as when one stops one’s talk and one’s thoughts in the springtime, to find the world full of bird-music unheard the instant before. In like manner we shall learn to make pause in our thoughts, and shall hear in our intellectual perplexities, as well as in our moral, the clear, sweet, cheering and inspiring tones of our spiritual Guide. (Parents and Children pp. 276-277)