He stayed in Snowflake during the day. Rather than wait at a coffee shop and shoot the bull with the waitress or the idlers of the day, he took classes to obtain his high school diploma. I saw my dad reading the scriptures and poring over books for answers to life’s questions. I heard him laugh at the jokes in Reader’s Digest. He’d share the jokes with us, and we’d all laugh. Some of the jokes weren’t that funny, but there was so much joy in Daddy’s laughter, we couldn’t help joining the rollicking fun.
Mother didn’t have the privilege of finishing high school. She was married when she was 15, but Mother loved to read. She read gardening books, quilting books, cattle and chicken books, genealogical books and the scriptures. She gained a wonderful education in these fields. She could have taught a college class on any one of those subjects and astounded even the most astute student.
Both my parents lived by two educational principles: Seek answers to life’s questions from the best books (nowadays it’s the best most-qualified internet sources), and seek learning by exercising faith. Those principles became the governing educational basis of my life.
As a teacher, my greatest desire was to teach students to love learning. I firmly believe the aim of education is not to empower students with answers but to give them the ability to solve problems and to learn how to learn.
Reading is a vital skill in education, but more important than reading is the choice of reading material. When I was in college, a professor informed me that nearly every textbook I studied would be obsolete in 10 years. I thought that was a little farfetched, but as the years have flown by, his prophetic words have come true. I have a stack of science books, sociology books and psychology books containing outdated information. Now with the advent of the internet, so-called truth changes daily and from one talking head to the next. Facts seem to be at the whim of the observer and will be outdated even before the end of the newscast or as some new talking point is escalated.
At the time, I wasn’t sure my professor was telling the truth, and I was curious to know which textbooks were the real deal. I wanted to find truth that didn’t change with each modern thinker’s whim. The theories were interesting and caused me to ponder, but I didn’t set them in stone. I knew soon I might have to dump the idea with the advent of new material. I found a few, but most were obsolete almost as they came off the press.
I thought history books were set in stone and would never change, but I found some modern historians have translated history to be politically correct. They shape details and leave out events so the story takes on a different meaning altogether. I don’t want the politically correct stuff. I want the facts. The closer history gets to the event, the more correct it is.
The Bible, a history book, is filled with historical facts and truth. For every verse of the Bible, there can be hundreds of translations and even more commentaries. Each comment or translation is sifted through the perception of the writer. Some writers are pure channels of truth and stick to the facts. Some just want to have a soap box and a name. Some want to change what is written to suit their own agenda. If you want the facts, go to the source, not the commentary.
In my quest, I discovered that great literary works don’t change. Shakespeare is still as compelling and alive as the day he penned the words of his plays. The commentary changes from year to year, but the text remains the same. If you want truth, don’t read the cliff notes, read the play. That goes for any classic work of art. Great literature stands the test of time and contains bits of everlasting truth about the human condition. Shakespeare’s works have stood the test of time, but how does one tell if modern writers are telling the truth? I wanted a way to be certain. Time is too short to wade through every textbook and commentary in the library. It wasn’t an easy quest, but I discovered there is a way that works every time.
To discover truth, you must put on God’s glasses. God’s glasses are written in the scriptures. His laws and commandments are inseparably connected with nature. If a work of art reflects the truth as it is written in nature and shines light on the human condition in a way that brings the reader closer to God, the work is full of truth. My rule of thumb in searching for truth is simple. If the work of art, movie, play or commentary shapes man as a being who defies nature and God without showing the consequence of that defiance, the work is probably false and will not stand time’s test. Finding good books is a quest of a lifetime, but an adventure with never-ending rewards.
My parents’ philosophy of education taught me to put effort into my education. My parents were never interested in the grades written on my report cards. They were interested in what I knew about life. They were interested in my success as a human being and a Christian. They showed excitement when I gave a talk in church or wrote a story. They paid attention when I graduated from one class to another, but they never encouraged me to focus on my grades. Grades are the outward expression of society’s opinion. What a student knows is the truth. A student can weasel and whine to get a grade written on paper, but what a student knows is written in his heart. There is only one way to write information in your heart: Study and apply the information.
Part of making information a part of you comes through applying faith to study. Faith is the process of believing and hoping that something is true, but the information must be put to the test of God’s glasses. If the information is true, it should be embraced like a loving friend, and that new bit of truth will connect to the glorious jigsaw puzzle of truth that is already written in your heart. If it is false, the information will remain a dangling bit of confusion clouding the mind with unusable trivia.
Faith is connected to prayer with a thread of light. When you put on God’s glasses to view literature or videos, a window opens to your soul. Putting on God’s spectacles takes asking questions and listening to the answers. If you go to God with preconceived notions wanting your own way, you will get what you ask for. He will give you what you want to hear, but if you clear your mind and find a neutral place in your attitude, saying, “I really want Your answer to my question and am willing to make changes in my life according to Your answer,” the Lord will give you what you seek. You can see the patterns and purposes of the Lord at work in your life. Until you apply faith and prayer to your study, you are tossed about by every whim of doctrine and every opinion of every talking head. Faith and prayer in the quest for truth is like using a metal detector looking for gold. The Lord will give you truth in proportion to your faith and diligence in the search.
My parents taught me to be open hearted in my quest for truth. Sometimes truth comes in unexpected packages. Just because the answer isn’t what we want, it doesn’t mean God is not listening. My parents taught me Paul’s admonition to seek virtue, praiseworthiness and that things of good report should be sought after with eagerness. Information that is sordid, worldly or degrading should be shunned with the same vigor as facing a deadly serpent because the poison of that information can destroy you just as readily as any snake’s venom.