On the first day of our co-op classes, I would pass out new notebooks to the students. The students who had previously participated in my classes knew what was coming. However, the new students couldn’t understand why I lowered the tone of my voice.
“I have something very special for you. I am so excited about this that I can’t wait for you to open your notebook and lay your eyes on the treasure that I have set before you.”
“Do you know…….what is the best part about this notebook?”
The students would lean into my question in anticipation.
“Alright I’ll show you….go ahead and open your notebook!”
Alumni students and I would shout together, “It’s empty!”
I would continue with a smile on my face, “That’s right! And we have the privilege of searching for knowledge nuggets, those bits of knowledge that we have yet to learn that leads us……. to understanding…. which leads us …… to wisdom! And we get to do it together!”
The kids applaud! And the new kids…..well, they usually have a puzzled look on their faces. They wonder, what is the big deal about an empty notebook?
I am a firm believer in the notebook method of learning that has been used as the standard of education dating back to the 1700’s. The notebook method of learning puts the student in charge of gathering knowledge and giving them a place to record their findings. The student becomes an active learner and an active learner is a joy to teach! It is a teacher’s dream!
One aspect of my relationship with my Lord is that of being a student and embracing His role as my Teacher.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.” John 13:13
Years ago, I asked myself, when it comes to being His student, following Christ, am I an active learner? Am I joy to teach? Am I my Teacher’s dream student?
I knew the answer to the question.
Am I my Teacher’s dream student?
a. Not really, I am quite stubborn
b. I make excuses for my lack of progress
c. Only after a retreat or mostly on Sundays
d. All of the above
Unfortunately the answer was “d”.
“But I really want to grow,” I would earnestly pray.
My prayers were answered as I received my Teacher’s personal challenge to me. He challenged me to never be without a notebook. I was to carry it through my daily life in anticipation of my Teacher’s instructions, just like in Deuteronomy 6:7:
“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
With notebook in hand, I would be ready to record the lessons that would rise in my heart, to record the observations of the world around me, and to record the prayers of my heart. I would have a place to record the questions that didn’t have easy answers and I would have a place for me to pen my confusing thoughts that needed to be sorted out in the light of His presence.
After years of carrying a notebook around, I learned that our Christian walk is in danger.
It is not in danger from the evil of this world. God’s word clearly states that, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
It is not in danger from our own sin. God’s word also states that, “If we are faithful to confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive our sins.”
It is not in danger from overwhelming circumstances. Again, God’s promises are true and He promises us that He will never allow us to go through a temptation without providing a way out.
The danger does not lie in these things.
The danger lies in forgetting what God has done in our lives.
We are not alone in this struggle. After living through one of the greatest displays of God’s mighty hand, Moses forgot that God is all powerful and disobeyed Him by striking a rock out of anger. After God sent down fire from heaven to consume the false prophets of Baal demonstrating that God is the supreme God, we see Elijah crying in the desert because he doesn’t think God cares anymore. The nation of Israel’s history is riddled with forgetfulness. In one chapter, God protects and saves them and the next chapter they are crying in their cornflakes and turning their backs on Him. John the Baptist sees a dove descending from heaven on Jesus. He and the others with him heard the audible voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Later, while John was in jail, he sent a message to Jesus asking Him, “Are you the Messiah or should we look for someone else?” And after walking with Jesus for three years, Peter forgot his deep friendship with Jesus and denied Him.
Throughout the Bible, God commands His people to remember what He has done. In the Old Testament, He commanded special feasts and times of celebrations to help His people remember how wonderful He is. He instructs families to continually talk about the great things that He has done. He had many of the heroes of the Bible build altars of stone just so that they would remember what God had done for them. He established feasts and special meals so that we would not forget the great things He has done. And one of His last instructions that He gave on earth to His disciples and all future disciples was “Remember Me”.
Our daily walk with God is a series of discoveries of who God is.
Have you ever been in a church service and a verse or a song or the pastor’s message seems to be speaking right to you? That’s God speaking to you. How about when you are reading the Bible and you all of a sudden understand something you did not understand before? That’s God speaking to you. Maybe it is a prayer answered. That is God speaking to you. Perhaps it is a heartfelt prayer that you know that God heard. That is the creator of the universe speaking to you. Through all of these “day- to- day” happenings, God is revealing Himself to you personally. And yet when a difficult time arises or a dry period seems to emerge, we tend to forget the God who has taken the time to reveal who He is to us.
A Chinese proverb states, “The faintest ink is stronger than the strongest memory.”
How true! When I write things down they are preserved and I am less likely to forget. As the years have progressed, my notebook became a place where I began to record what God was teaching me. I recorded blessings, confessions, and challenges. I would write down my questions leaving a blank space, waiting patiently for an answer. Sometimes that page would remain blank for months or years and then the answer would come. Through those sweet moments of discovery, I have come to know one thing: God wants me to know who He is and I am learning that He is wonderful!
Recently, I went through one of the toughest periods of my life. As I was pouring out my heart to God, He reminded me of an entry in my journal notebook two years ago. I took my old journal off the shelf and found the entry and began to read it. It was filled with scripture and promises about the very trial I was facing. I read it over and over. I marveled that God was preparing me for this trial two years before it occurred. I was thankful that He had instructed me to write it down. My faith grew as a result. And more importantly, I discovered a little more about the God I serve and love.
Daily, God gives us treasures: treasures of His love, treasures of abundant life, and treasures of knowing who He is. Write it down. Don’t forget.
Lord, I want to become your delightful student. I rejoice in my empty notebook because I know you are faithful to fill it with good things that will change me into your image.
What are your thoughts?
1. The scripture in Deuteronomy 6:7 is a core scripture for home school families. We take this commandment very seriously and dedicate ourselves to teach our children diligently. However, turning the scripture towards yourself, knowing that you are a son or daughter of God by His grace, how does this scripture apply to your role as a student and God’s role as teacher?
2. A notebook or journal is a learning tool; however the attitude for learning is to place our eyes on the teacher in anticipation of learning. Besides the use of a notebook, how can you prepare yourself as a student?
3. The best teacher is an active learner. I love this quote from Charlotte Mason
“ The wisest woman I ever knew–the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend–told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, ‘I always keep three books going–a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!’ That is the secret; always have something ‘going’ to grow by. If we mothers were all ‘growing’ there would be less going astray among our boys, less separation in mind from our girls…”
What are some of the benefits of becoming an active learner? How will it benefit those you teach?
4. If you already have a notebook or journal, write down your thoughts about your role as God’s student.
5. If you do not have a notebook or journal, find an empty one lying around the house. Home school families usually have spare notebooks somewhere :). Otherwise, purchase one from an office supply store. Celebrate your empty notebook by writing prayers of thanksgiving and anticipation for what you are about to learn.
Date Night Questions: Many times in order to increase learning; a teacher will have students learn together. One of God’s designs for marriage is for a couple to learn together. How can you as a couple prepare yourselves to learn together?
Share with each other your current personal learning experiences.
Ask each other; what is God teaching you or what are you learning in your life at this moment?