The green table is moving! I'll begin posting again after we're all set up in our new home!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Christmas Gift from C.F.W. Walther

When I was in High School, after one of our pastors accepted a call and moved on to serve a new congregation, a friend and I checked out his vacant office.  Among the pens and other scraps left behind, an old book caught my eye.  I must have always been a Lutheran nerd, because I confess to you now that I stole the 1962 edition of "The Life of Dr. C.F.W. Walther" by Lewis W Spitz, Sr.  AND, I still have it.
Some people enjoy celebrity magazines, seeking the latest dress, dating, and dirt on their favorite celebs.  That's fun, but I really enjoy biographies, especially those of church leaders, and especially the bits about their youth and family life. Such a chapter in my Walther book is short, but has the sweetest little section that has stuck with me for some time, and I'd like to share it with you here:

The affectionate heart of the father, usually hidden under a stern and forbidding exterior, could not fail to make its presence known in many acts of kindness and parental concern.  In Saxony, as well as elsewhere in Germany, the custom prevailed to have someone visit the homes before Christmas disguised as St. Nicholas in order to discover how well the children had behaved during the year past and how diligent they had been in learning their Bible history, catechism, and hymns.  The children were questioned and asked to recite something they had learned.  When little Ferdinand wad three years old, he recited a prayer taught to all Lutheran children in Germany - and to many in America as well:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress,
Wherein before my God I'll stand
When I shall reach the heavenly land.
When father Walther heard his three-year-old recite this prayer, he was so deeply moved that he gave him a threepenny coin.  This gift of love and appreciation made a lasting impression on the lad.  He concluded that this must be a most presious prayer inasmuch as his father had rewarded him with a threepenny coin for reciting it.  This beautiful prayer accompanied him through life.  He remembered it in the days when his rationalistic teachers at the Gymnasium and at the university all but robbed him of his Christian faith, and it was in his heart and on his lips in the hour of death. (Spitz 5-6)

So moved by this story myself, I decided that someday my children would learn this prayer too.  A few weeks ago it occurred to me that my daughter is the same age of Walther when he learned this poem by heart, and she could learn it to share with loved ones as a Christmas gift. It's thoughtful, meaningful.  It packs well (since we're all traveling and suitcase space is premium), and is absolutely priceless.  Not only will it be a gift from Adelae to others, but also a gift she will keep in her heart as she journeys through this ever darkening world. 

Sadly, memorization has long fallen out of vogue with many modern pedagogues who advocate the skill of locating information and discovering internal truths (gag!) above internalizing facts, knowledge - truth.  Children are eager to parrot and memorization comes naturally, especially when put to music or in rhyme. Moreover, as with Walther, there is great value to internally keeping these eternal truths; they can never be taken from you.  Naysayers may add, "If they can't explain what it means, what use is it?"  It's true.  Memorization is not understanding.  Still, memorization aids understanding.  Little Adelae may not be able to thoroughly verbalize the meaning of this poem, but it is a beginning, a place to start the conversation, and with memorization that conversation can continue as she grows.  Even two years ago I wouldn't have said this, but I am an ever increasing advocate of memorization as an essential element of learning, and am thankful for the knowledge given me though teachers who required memorization.

We posted Walther's little poem on the fridge a few weeks ago, and Adelae has picked it up quickly. I'm proud of her hard work!  Still, she's only a little girl, and some of the big words are a little difficult to enunciate properly, and I'm worried that she'll shy away from reciting it loudly enough to be heard.  Plus, since this is part of Adelae's gift, it needed a tangible component. 
Adelae loves to write, but she isn't quite ready to space out the letters and words to an entire poem yet.  Instead, we capitalized on her love of tracing, and she traced the poem using a black marker over my pencil marks.  I erased the pencil using (my favorite) vinyl eraser, we added some darling vintage clip art and took it to the copy store where they reduced the size to 50%, and copied two/page onto cream card stock.  I cut them in half and snipped the corners, and together we dressed them up with a bow. 
To add the bow, we started by adjusting our three hole punch to place two of the punches about an inch apart.  If you don't already have an adjustable puncher, they are a great investment, and an inexpensive find if you keep your eyes open for them.  Even Adelae can manage punching with these, but she'd never be able to handle a single puncher.
We played around with a few ways to tie the ribbon, and in the end decided it looked best to pull the ribbon through the two holes to the back of the card, then loop them over the top of the paper, through the "bunny hole" as Adelae called it, tie it off in a knot, and tuck the knot ("bunny") under the "bunny hole".  I also had to go back through and trim all of the ends again to polish the look.

I hope our recipients will be as happy as Mr. Walther to hear these beautiful words! 


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