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Sharing the Bread by Gladys Schaefer

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.  (Isaiah 61: 1-3)

As I reread these verses tonight, I was reminded anew of the beauty and joy of a Charlotte Mason education.  We are offering our students the very best and we receive so much in the giving.

The world can be a cruel place and students, parents, colleagues, indeed our own tired souls can come together to share the feast of real learning.

The best books the world has to offer are ours for the taking.  The most soul touching poetry can carry our souls to the heavens. Music that brings tears to our eyes and joy to our spirits is here, waiting to be bathed in.  To learn of those who have lived before us, who have struggled and endured and triumphed – how rich!  To walk in the woods, the fields, the mountains is to see manifested the beauty of the Lord.  All of this is part of the education into which we are pouring our lives.

In this day of “economic downturn,” of loss of jobs and loss of money, what is left at the end of the day?  What is eternal?  Jesus Christ, who was dead and now lives!  That is eternal.  God has anointed us to share this good news and He is allowing us to do it in a multi-faceted way, full of beauty and full of grace.

“to preach good news to the poor”
Mason’s earliest memories of seeing a schoolteacher with a group of underprivileged children impressed in her the desire to help all children, especially those in greatest need.  We should follow her example.  This philosophy of education is superior.  It offers the very best to a child.  A question ever before us is how to reach these children?  How do we pursue educating new teachers who are heading into the poorest of our nation’s public schools in this “better way?” How do we as homeschooling parents and teachers at private schools reach a greater body of children?  Does  “social justice” indicate that they too deserve the best there is to offer?  May the Lord open the floodgates before us!

“to bind up the brokenhearted”
It isn’t just the poor who deserve this education.  Our worlds, indeed our schools and our homes are filled with hearts that are hurting.  Divorce, disappointment, despair litter our lives.  Broken hearts and broken lives are spread around us like the patterns in a “crazy” quilt.
The beautiful poet, Emily Dickinson wrote with such insight in her poem “Pain Has an Element of Blank,”

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.

Can we mere mortals heal another’s heart?  What we can do is offer to walk alongside, to share the beauty of poetry that has comforted us and lends us hope.
We can explore the creation that proclaims the glory of the Lord.   In a paper read to the Dublin Branch of the P.N.E. U. in 1930 entitled “The Charm of Nature Study,” G. Dowton explains
“Nature study as a subject is one which should be approached with great reverence, for in dealing with birds, animals, flower and all other forms of natural life, we are perhaps, nearer to the Creator than in any other branch of science; for the natural world is the expression of God’s personality in a form that is within the reach of all of us to comprehend in some measure. And is not the natural world one of the greatest proofs that there is a God?
The secret of having reverence in all branches of Nature Study lies in reverence for Life in any shape or form. In speaking of this reverence for Life, Miss Mason says, “Reverence for Life as a wonderful and awful gift which a ruthless child may destroy but never can restore, is a lesson of first importance to the child.”

“Let knowledge grow from more to more.
But more of reverence in us dwell.”

(From Ambleside Online)

“to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”
According to a report in the BBC News, “Half of prisoners have the reading age of a child under 11 years old – and numeracy rates are even worse. But their access to education is limited and patchy, according to the Prison Reform Trust.”   Appalling truth.   What if children fell in love with reading because they were offered the best the world had to offer?  What if their best friends when they were six years old included Winnie-the-Pooh and Peter Rabbit?  If Elizabeth and Darcy or Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg were their companions as they reached the teenage years?  Would lives be changed? Would futures be altered?  Would hope prevail?
“to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes”
So much of literature today is twaddle.  It is not worth the time spent reading it or the money spent purchasing it.  Words can assault us on every front.  Checking out at the grocery has become a painful process as we are confronted with the needless excesses of gossip and trivia.  Let’s not waste time on nonsense.  Find the best, the most life-giving words that have been written and become nourished with true health.
Think of crowns of beauty instead of ashes, minds and hearts filled with truth and loveliness.   Lives can be filled with ideas, which can breed new ideas and might even germinate into new life for our souls.
A small group of friends met recently at a local bakery here in Birmingham.  One of the discussions included what everyone was reading.  Titles and authors’ names were thrown out and notes where hurriedly scribbled on scraps of paper.  Because these women admired and respected each other, this was a great way to find new books. These books had fed their friends and now offered new landscapes in which to nourish themselves.

“the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor”
This is such a beautiful passage of scripture, poetry at its finest.  It holds a promise of heaven and the everlasting peace in which we shall dwell. It is also pregnant with life here on earth, a life we can share.  Miss Mason explains “Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe,––the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making.” (Philosophy of Education, page 159)

We are the beggars and we have found the bread.  It is time to let the other beggars know where the treasure is hidden.

This entry was posted in: Philosophy


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.

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