No man is an island, is the saying. People need people. We need to feel that we are in the thoughts of others and that we influence their wills or desires. Our existence as personal entities depends on our assurance that others are aware of us. Even if they despise us, they are still cognizant of our existence, and this gives us proof of our own personal reality.

We are all islands, however, to some degree. And alienation is increased as one becomes an island in more and more aspects of his life. This happens especially when a person believes himself to be of so little worth that many people do not want to be aware of him or to acknowledge his existence.

The person himself may begin to feel that he is worthy of this neglect, and since this is an unbearable threat to his psychological existence, he begins to try to present himself as something that he is not. His self he leaves as an island, and tries to project another self before the attention of other people. He may try this so continually that he forgets all about the island of himself that he left, and he tries to be different things to different people. Never the self that was unacceptable.

When this happens he has alienated himself so much that when he tries to bridge the gap between himself and others, he finds the gap unbridgeable because the other person cannot bridge to him. His island is gone, hidden, camouflaged too completely. The other person finds nothing to bridge to.

Most of us do not go this far. We are able to keep in contact with our real selves and find that others can react to us with acceptance. We can then accept ourselves also.

In as far as we can accept ourselves and can feel that others will not find it impossible to accept us also, in that measure we can communicate ideas to other people. We can bridge the gap between the islands that we are. In as far as we cannot accept ourselves and are afraid that others will utterly reject us if they should discover our faults, we are not at liberty to listen to what they are saying to us or to communicate effectively with them. Too much of our attention is used in the fear that our unacceptableness will be uncovered. This lack of ability to communicate effectively is a serious hindrance also in our attempts to work together.

Sensitivity training is an effort to learn techniques to bridge the gap between the islands that we are. One must learn not only to hear what others say with their words, but also what they are feeling when they say the words and to understand why they are saying the words.

To get this technique one must first know the island that one is. He must not hide it, but know it in all its despicable worthlessness. Uncover all his hostility and wretchedness and find in this way that he has nothing to fear concerning these previously unacceptable traits. Nothing happens to us when we act all our bad feeling right out. They are very evil and unacceptable but by uncovering them we remove the guilt feelings connected with them. When one is able to do this, then one will be able to communicate freely, and without guilt, openly.

It is with these beliefs in mind that the world is trying to work for a unity among people, nations, etc. The executive is trained to be able without fear to look full face at his own fears, worries, dishonesties, anger, hostility, etc. He must be trained to accept these traits and to expect to find them in those with whom he works, and accept them there also. Neither one will need to hide anything and they will be able to work together as a team. Both pulling for each other and for the company employing them.

What is needed in order that people may be able to live and work together in harmony is a feeling of unity. They base this unity on the fact that no one is perfect. We are all the same, fearful and liars, but each has something to offer for the good of the group. If he is not too concerned about his faults, he can help himself and help to make this a better world.

Nimrod, or whoever was the leader at Babel, had a unity of purpose going for the people of that time. They were able to cooperate together for the formation of one large project. God said of them, “Behold, they are one people.” And concerning their activity He said, “. . . this is what they begin to do, and now nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do.” Gen. 11:6. When people are united as one, they can move forward together, and accomplish much.

The people of God have had a unity all the while. Their unity is not based on the fact that they are all imperfect, wicked sinners, but on the marvelous reality that they are all saved from the guilt of that terrible wickedness by the free gift of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The sacrifice that makes them members of a body or organism. They have a union together with Christ called the Communion of Saints, based only on the perfect work of Christ.

The world tries in every way to get back to the unity of Babel. The bank says, “We’ve on your side.” Those strongly opposed to war, advocate an emphasis on human brotherhood. They plead that we must remember that we all (the enemy included) are humans and on this basis, we should feel a unity together with all people, and love each other, not fight. The industrialist offers financial help to his striking laborers, and in this way tries to remove the opposition by creating a unity.

The children of God will be tempted to join this common cause with the world. And if they yield they will be swallowed up in the world. For their faith in God will have no place in that unity of the world. Their goals and purposes are altogether different, for theirs are not established here, but in heaven. The children of Shem were spared by the confusion of languages. The church of Christ must be alert to the temptations and cling to the unity of the Communion of Saints in the body of Christ.

Our acceptableness proceeds only from the fact that we are in Christ. He is our only righteousness. All that we have in ourselves are liabilities, but we can be transformed by the power of Grace to such an extent that there is an indispensable place for us in the unity of the Body of Christ. There we belong, as a part of the whole. We are not islands.

Since this article was supposed to be about the experiences of a Sunday School teacher, I’d better add that this unity in the Body of Christ is experienced especially when a group of God’s people gather to study His Word. If one is to impart information about the Word of God to the children in Sunday School it is a comfortable feeling to know that you have studied and prepared yourself to know the answers to many questions about the portion to be explained. This serves as added motivation for the person to give the portion some real thought, and carefully to follow the discussion of the lesson in the teachers’ meeting. The teacher of the Sunday School is the one who receives the most benefit.

Originally Published in:

Vol. 31 No. 5 August/September 1971

Parents are subjective about their child.  The child is a part of themselves; an extension of themselves into the future.  This subjective viewpoint prevents parents from seeing some aspects of their child’s individuality.  They see what they would like others to see in themselves.  It is difficult for them to try to see their child as he really is.  It is natural to look ahead and envision the person they would like to have been.  This is the kind of person their child will be.

None of us really believes what we believe.  “We are all totally depraved.”  This we believe.  But we often base our thoughts about the proper upbringing of the child on the false premise that we adults are sanctified but that the child is still totally depraved.  Everything the child does is motivated from his wicked heart.  What we adults do, we do because we are sanctified.

In the measure that we feel that it is important to believe this ourselves, to that measure we will find it necessary that the child believe this also.  He must believe that we adults make no mistakes.  If mistakes are made – the child has made them.

We can’t keep up this false front.  Our faults show through.  The child recognizes the faults and the unsuccessful attempts to hide them.  We realize that we have lost face and try to build a stronger front.  We may even think that our authority is at stake if we cannot convince ourselves and the child that we have no faults.

Our authority comes from God through Christ and therefore it comes in love.  Our relationship to the child is not that we are right and that he is wrong.  We have a position.  We are the guides.  We lead because we love.  God loves us and so we love God; and the child.

We all fall short.  But we know it.  We can only look to God to hallow our feeble efforts and to pray that we may be instruments in some small ways in the finishing of God’s work in His regenerated covenant children.  God will use us as a means to gather His church in the line of continued generations.

Punish your children when they continue in wrong doing.  Punish them even though it hurts you more than it does them.  Do not try to hide the pain in your heart when you do it.  Punish them thoroughly, finish it, do not stop short no matter how you dislike doing it.  And now you are still not finished.  You have gained nothing yet.  Now comes the positive part.  Discuss the wrong, why it is wrong, and what would have been the right behavior in the situation.  How much happier everyone involved would have been if the right thing had been done.  Don’t preach; discuss simply, and on the child’s level.  This level is not too far below yours.  You are wicked too.  You know how hard it is.  Your place is to direct.

This is still primarily negative.  It is therefore not complete.  If a person asks you the direction to a certain place, you do not tell him all the roads not to take.  This would only serve to frustrate him.  Likewise when God commands you to direct your child in the way he should go, do not continually point out to him his wrongs.  This can easily frustrate the child.  He needs positive direction.

The most effective way to give him this is to watch for any accidental step in the right direction and call attention to it as something desirable.  Emphasize every little effort to help or cooperate.  This is very effective in the classroom and I’m sure that it is the same elsewhere.  If there is confusion, no one seems to know exactly what to do and so everyone is doing something different.  Call attention to the one closest to doing what is right.  You have pointed the direction to all the rest.  Most of them are quick to follow.

It seems to be our natural tendency to point out what is wrong and to criticize negatively.  We are basically selfish and therefore we look for the bad in others instead of the good.  If we are to give proper direction to children we have to turn our sights so that we are looking for the right behavior instead of the wrong.  Of course, if at any time we fail to call attention to a step in the right direction and do not commend it, we are failing to give direction to our children.  We can easily make them utterly lost and confused by constantly pointing out to them the wrong way, by constantly criticizing their actions.

God gives children to his covenant people in love.  He commands us to bring up these children in the love of God.  We and our children are both very sinful.  But somehow we must hold out a hand of love to those children of God and lead them to Him: they are His.  We cannot do it.  God hallows our feeble efforts.  His hand of love will lead us all home together.

Despite the challenges from radio and television, reading is here to stay. Our society is a reading society. Besides being an essential tool in many vocations and a part of some hobbies, reading often occupies our leisure hours. As Protestant Reformed teachers we also know that reading will play a very important role in the life experience of a covenant child. He will desire to read the Word of God thoroughly. He may want to study the many explanations and discussions about the Bible and the doctrines developed from the truths found there. Reading is a very highly valued achievement.

No child should undertake reading at any age level without mental readiness, social‑emotional readiness, and physical readiness. The child should be developed in his sensory,  particularly his visual, apparatus. He should be mature in motor skills. He should have experiences and interests that will arouse the desire for reading. He should be able to memorize by rote. He should be able to follow directions. He should be able to recall the events of a story. Readiness is usually a complex product of constitutional and environmental factors. It is usually acquired by maturation and by being surrounded with rich language experiences.

Children should not begin reading before they have reached a mental age of at least six or six and one-half years and have demonstrated a readiness to master beginning skills in reading. To start a child before he is ready does not produce proper reading development. He may be forced to concentrate so hard on word recognition that he cannot comprehend the ideas those words are supposed to convey. He may memorize sentences without noticing the smaller similarities and differences in the words that make up the sentences. He may not comprehend the idea that one or more letter symbols represent a sound. He may even become discouraged with lack of success and lose interest, cease trying, and escape involving himself in the efforts and tensions of striving for accomplishments he was not able to attain. The most effective way to help children cope with failure is to ensure that they meet with success in overcoming obstacles. Success breeds success.

When systematic instruction is started, a preprimer that presents a small and simple vocabulary with a great deal of repetition should be selected. The words of the preprimer should be introduced gradually in blackboard and chart reading. The rate at which the group advances should be determined by the progress of the group rather than by an arbitrary standard. At this stage the less mature child may reach a rather crucial point, and the teacher is very alert to notice if any child is simply repeating something he has heard instead of associating meaningful words with certain groups of printed symbols.

The rate of progress, by this time, usually to divide the children into smaller groups according to their need for extra practice or their ability to increase their rate of advance. The sight vocabulary should continually be carefully controlled, and these words should he analyzed systematically. In this way these words do not become independent entities, easily confused, but

each word is related to many other words in form and meaning.

We do not rely upon only one method of teaching word perception and recognition. Instead, we try to help the children to develop four or five ways of identifying or recognizing words for themselves. If a child depends only on configuration and context, he either recognizes the word or he is helpless — there is nothing more he can do. When he has letter sounding to fall back on, he can always try to help himself.

Some of the methods of attacking new words or partly new words are these: 1. By configuration or general shape. 2. Some peculiarity in the word. 3. By use of a picture clue. 4. By use of a context clue. 5. By recognition of a familiar part in a larger word, where such a technique applies. 6. By phonetic synthesis. 7. By phonetic analysis. 8. By structural analysis — knowing common prefixes and suffixes, recognizing syllables and other parts.

Comprehension is the part of the skill of reading that makes it worth what it is. Therefore children should be taught to think about what they are reading. They should be able to follow written instructions, and to answer questions about the material they have read. Experience charts and other original group compositions bring reading close to the child’s life, and thereby help to give the experience of reading real meaning to the child. The teacher should check the vocabulary of experience stories with basic word lists. By careful checking, she can select the most common words and phrases for mastery and disregard the occasional and unusual word that may have been used because of its immediate interest.

If an abundance of reading material that is on the child’s level is available to him, and if the rest of the family show an interest in reading, the child should develop a functional reading ability. He should read for information and pleasure.

The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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