I was a twelve year old girl living in South Georgia when my Grandma Elizabeth took me to visit Providence Canyon State Park, nicknamed “The Little Grand Canyon”. She brought her 35mm film camera with her, and when – intrigued by the rich hues of the clay layers – I asked if I could take some photos, she happily obliged.
What ensued has been a decades-long quest to capture the small details and saturated colors of God’s beautiful creation. I still have some of those canyon pictures today, a visual reminder of the person and place that helped spark a lifelong interest in photography. Photography brings me joy. It has also taught me valuable lessons.
Can you look back on your life and pinpoint a moment when one of your passions emerged? Perhaps it was something that you were exposed to at home - but maybe, just maybe, it was something you learned about at school. If you are a Trinity student, or the family member of one, you know that we are blessed with a curriculum that emphasizes not only classical literature, science, and mathematics, but also engages creativity through music, art, theatre, and public-speaking.
We can likely all agree that the former subjects are essential, but what about the latter? Are the arts – usually offered as electives in secondary school – truly essential to the development of the whole person? Does cultivating a passion, or at least an appreciation, for one of the arts (in my case, photography) really enhance quality of life? The pioneers of the classical Christian education movement certainly thought so – and I agree!
Okay, so the arts (defined as “the human application and expression of creativity through skills and imagination, in order to produce objects, environments, and experiences) may give us something to love, but do they really TEACH us anything, or do they simply provide a fun, creative outlet? Actually, there is deep and meaningful character refinement to be gleaned from the pursuit of creativity and expression. Three things come to mind when I think about the valuable lessons that the arts provide: patience, perseverance, and the development of a sense of awe.
If you’ve ever tried to capture a stunning photo of your squirming toddler, sat for theatrical make-up application as an actor, or listened to a beginner play a violin, you know that patience is required to maintain your composure in these situations. As with patience, perseverance is also necessary in the pursuit of the fine arts, if we wish to achieve the desired result. No one becomes a concert pianist after just one lesson – if we want to become better we must practice, stay the course – persevere. When I think of perseverance at this time of year, the senior theses come to mind.
They have worked all year to hone their skills in the art of public speaking, and it comes to fruition in May, due to perseverance, or the determination to achieve their goal of presenting a powerful oral argument in front of a panel of judges.
Patience and perseverance often go hand-in-hand, but let’s not forget about awe! The longer I live on this earth, the more I am in awe of God’s incredibly intricate and deliberate Creation, full of inexplicable wonders. I truly believe that my interest in the visual arts has given me a healthy dose of awe. Through the fine arts, God allows us to see His handiwork not only in Creation, but also in the humans he sent to inhabit it, and consequently, in the environments and experiences they create. The incredible singing voices, skilled potter’s hands, and exquisite works of art on museum walls should inspire deep admiration and appreciation for the talents God has bestowed upon us. When we are awestruck by the capabilities God has given the human body and mind, we can see those around us in a new light.
Patience, perseverance, and a healthy sense of awe have benefits that reach far beyond the fine arts environments in which they are cultivated. From utilizing patience when trying to discern God’s plan after graduation, to persevering through training for the long-awaited dream job, to being in awe at the unique talents of the spouse God places in their path, students who learn these traits now have an opportunity to make their lives more meaningful later.
Even those of us who haven’t been students for a very long time can benefit
from the deliberate and daily practice of patience, perseverance, and the pursuit of things worthy of awe, especially in this unusual season of life. As we all navigate this pandemic, my personal goals are patience in God’s timing, perseverance in my prayer life, and sharing daily with my children (through all of the incredible arts experiences that have been made available online for free) something that inspires awe.
How about you?
When we began our Home Learning program to continue the education of Trinity students, the learning curve seemed pretty steep for teachers, students, and parents. I remember taking a deep breath one day, needing to step back a moment and steady myself. That’s when a sermon by C.S Lewis came to mind and gave me courage.
In the autumn of 1939, as Nazi Germany threatened Britain with invasion, Lewis preached a sermon known as Learning in War-Time. Like us, the people of that time were wondering why they should continue something they might have very little chance of finishing. They also felt it would be coldhearted and unfeeling of them to continue their studies when their friends and families were dealing with the desperate circumstances of a World War.
We might wonder the same things today; “Why keep learning when we don’t know what will happen with this dreaded virus? What is the point of studying when so many are dying and many more are losing their jobs? With so much pressure and anxiety for the future, wouldn’t it be best for everyone if we just call it a day and end classes?”
Quoting I Corinthians 10:31, Lewis explains that every duty should be offered in humility to God: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” He goes on to say that for some, learning is their duty at the moment and they should work at it with all their heart. He acknowledges that those who embrace this idea may still find it difficult to work with excellence because of three main reasons: excitement, frustration, and fear.
-Excitement occurs in good times and bad. We may find ourselves facing the tendency to think and feel about Covid-19 because it is new and frightening. However, there will always be rivals to our work. As Lewis wrote, “The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come… We must do the best we can.”
-Frustration affects many when the task seems too difficult and they worry there will not be time to complete it. Lewis reminds us that the future is in God’s hands. “Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord’… The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”
-Fear can be a formidable enemy. Much like Lewis’s wartime England, an unknown virus threatens us with real and dire peril. We can no longer live in a thoughtless or reckless manner. “War makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it would be good for us to be always aware of our mortality.” As FDR said in his First Inaugural Address, speaking to a nation in the grip of the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
As we finish the school year, let’s encourage our students to learn as much as they can and let nothing hinder their pursuit. May God grant that the Trinity ‘Ohana would be characterized by the deepest love and encouragement of our students. May they make history as those who met the challenges of Covid-19 with unflinching faith, creativity, and joy.
Question: Do you feel like you’re “learning in wartime?” In what ways are you rising to the challenge? How do you encourage yourself and your children?
Good Friday greetings from Trinity Christian School!
As my son Joey took this picture yesterday, I was reminded anew of what makes Trinity such a special school. On Good Friday I could think of no better image with which to encourage our school.
The tradition of families decorating this cross was brought to my attention this week by PTF President Stacey Whitten, who wondered if we were going to follow that practice again this year. Our admissions director, Lana, filled me in on the details and told me what a great tradition this is for our school. I then contacted our famous facility guy, Uncle Toby, and he installed the cross in its place of honor. This type of collaboration-working together to advance the school and glorify God- is a case in point of what makes Trinity a great school to lead.
The meaning of this cross during a time of worldwide crisis is moving and powerful. We see, first of all, that the cross is adorned with the type of flowers and other foliage that makes Hawaii a worldwide tourist destination. This brings to mind Psalm 96, in which we are told to, “Worship God in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him all the earth.“ I could think of no better symbol to illustrate this truth for us on Good Friday.
Good Friday also commemorates the day on which our Savior poured out his life and died. Without his sacrifice on the cross, and apart from his bodily resurrection, we would be alienated from God and without hope in the world. In that case, all the world's beauties would be, as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, nothing but vanity upon vanity.
Finally, we see that our little Trinity cross is empty of everything but flora. This demonstrates that Christ has not only died on the cross, atoning with his one sacrifice of himself for our sins; he has not only conquered death by his resurrection, but he has also ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the father.
On Good Friday we remember that this COVID-19 crisis that has affected our lives so strongly does not catch our Savior unawares or leave us without hope. From his position on high, he directs all of these events for the good of his people and, ultimately, for his own glory. At a Christian classical school, grounded in such timeless truths, we can weather these storms most faithfully. Question 27 of the Heidelberg catechism expresses this truth about God‘s loving care most poignantly and I will leave you with this to consider on Good Friday, that
“God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”
Q. What are your family’s or your church’s Easter traditions?