Friday, January 29, 2016

Stirring up Some Sanctifying Grace

The 3rd line in one of my favorite prayers is “Stir up in me the desire to please You.” This petition is the essence of sanctifying graceIn January here at PBT, I’m offering lists of books that connect with the 3 kinds of grace we talk about in the United Methodist Church and elsewhere.

Justifying grace is the kind of grace we commonly refer to as forgiveness or mercy. I gave you list of picture books that can be connected to that theological concept on January 4. Prevenient grace was considered and a book list was given on January 11. This kind of grace involves God’s ever-present, wooing sort of love that brings us into faithfulness. 

In contrast, sanctifying grace is the on-going encouragement of the Holy to bring us into better living, some might say towards perfection. This idea of becoming more faithful is evident in thought, word, and deed and is often symbolically represented by a journey or pathway. You see, God knows us so well and loves us so much that God doesn’t want us to stay the same.
In children’s literature, it is common to find characters that have growth arcs. There’s a problem the character(s) must face. The problem comes to a head. Next a resolution occurs and lastly growth is acknowledged in the end. Tying these kinds of stories to the idea of sanctification can be surprisingly easy. But don’t use that phrase with children. Instead use words and phrases such as growing, developing, or learning to live a more faithful life that pleases God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit).

Here at PBT, there is a group of picture books that can easily connect to sanctifying grace. These are hero stories, whether biographies or fiction, these narratives demonstrate a character’s journey to greatness either in one pivotal moment or in a lifetime of learning. The latter is the case for today’s PBT feature. 

Through Jane’s Eyes: Lessons Learned from Dr. Jane Goodall is a biography of Jane Goodall written and illustrated by a class of 4th graders. Usually I don’t pick up these kinds of books because I assume they are of lesser quality than those written by adults, but I’m a big fan of Jane Goodall, whose quiet observations of African chimpanzees radically changed our view of non-human animals. 
I’m so glad I read it! The children distill so many of Jane Goodall’s discoveries, both personal and professional, while presenting parallel steps of her magnificent journey. Wonderfully, the children claim these lessons as their own. 

Here’s an example of the pattern: On the left page you have the lesson learned:
“Through Jane’s eyes we learned to never stop asking questions.”

And on the right page you find a personal aspect of Jane’s life in which she learned that lesson:
“As a child Jane was not only curious, but willing to wait for answers.”

Do you see how Jane’s lessons could be connected to sanctifying grace? Her life’s journey is about waiting, observing, learning, communicating, and changing the world. Children yearn for such meaningful lives. Adults too. I believe that God longs for us all to grow in such ways, perhaps not as dramatically as Jane Goodall, but God never gives up on us.
Picture Book: Through Jane’s Eyes: Lessons Learned 
                          from Dr. Jane Goodall
Author: Fourth Grade Students of Mendon Center 
                         Elementary School in Pittsford, NY
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Here’s a list of other PBT books about heroes and the dates of their blog post. These heroes’ lives can be easily connected to Sanctifying Grace:
Planting the Trees of Kenya (Wangari Maathai) – 
                         April 26, 2014
The Quiltmaker’s Journey (fiction) – May 2, 2014
Miss Rumphius (Alice Rumphius) – June 7, 2014
Me…Jane (another book about Jane Goodall) – 
                        August 14, 2014
Farmer Will Allen – September 9, 2014
Desmond and the Very Mean Word (Desmond Tutu) – 
                         September 19, 2014
With Books & Bricks (Booker T. Washington) – 
                         October 8, 2014
Nelson Mandela – November 28, 2014
Young Martin’s Promise (Martin Luther King, Jr) – 
                          January 19, 2015
Emmanuel’s Dream (Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah) - 
                          April 17, 2015
Malala Yousafzai (3 books) – June 30, 2015
Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious – 
                          August 14, 2015