Cultivating Hearts: The Sower’s Lesson and the Power of Thanksgiving in Education

Have you ever thought that the sower in the parable of the Seed and the Sower is really not a good farmer at all?

I’m not the best one to criticize because my “thumb” is pretty dark when it comes to gardening and planting. Not quite black but it is definitely on the darker end of the spectrum.

When I’m about to plant something in my yard, I’m very careful to prepare the soil before I toss in a seed or plant a new shrub or tree. It’s so important to me because of being short on resources and time that I maximize the potential of the new plant thriving.

The sower in the parable told by Jesus as an illustration just tosses in the seed with no regard for the quality of the soil. Matter of fact, the implication in the story is that the sower knows the condition of the soil as he walks by it but still does not hesitate to toss a seed over. It must be important to that sower that all soil get an opportunity to potentially birth a harvest from the seed of truth. Also, it seems that the sower in the story was more focused on just getting the seed out than taking the time to prepare the soil.

Therefore, I don’t think we should be critical of the sower of Jesus’ parable. He doesn’t lack talent. Rather, his gauge of success is simply getting the seed out.

However, this leads me to another question…

What makes for a fertile soil of the heart and mind? If I am so concerned with preparing the soil for a plant, why would I not be more concerned about preparing the soil of the heart for truth? Especially as a parent and a homeschooler, this idea of preparing the soil of the heart and mind is high priority.

Discipleship for many of us is the process of living out a life with Christ in hopes that our example will overflow to those around us. Additionally, there is a teaching and knowledge acquisition element to discipleship as well.

I have no intention of discouraging you in these areas at all. Please, don’t stop!

But, just a thought, aren’t these elements of simply distributing the seed of knowledge and living it out like the sower in the parable?

When we look at the Apostle Paul as a model, he would always start his Epistles a certain way. Encouragement as part of the beginning of his letters has been well-publicized. However, what about thanksgiving??

In virtually every letter except Philemon, Paul would start his letters with encouraging the audience, positive reinforcement for what they have done well, a mention of himself being sent by God, and then some form of a statement of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an under-estimated but major feature of the beginning of Paul’s letters to the early church and his protégés. Theologians and teachers either group thanksgiving with encouragement or they don’t talk about the presence of thanksgiving much at the beginning of Paul’s letters.

In my research of the power of Biblical thanksgiving over the last several years, I’ve come to the opinion that Paul includes thanksgiving statements at the beginning of his letters for a specific purpose. What is he doing?

Well, Kerry Howells who is well-known for her studies on the impact of gratitude in education presents thanksgiving as a major factor in what she calls a “State of Preparedness.” (Gratitude in Education, 2012)

Her argument is that thanksgiving as preparation for gaining knowledge impacts the heart and mind in such a way that makes them more open. Her point is that thanksgiving shifts a person’s perspective from feeling entitled to something to being ready for a gift.

Think about that for a minute…

If you are thinking of knowledge as something you’re entitled to, you’re a critic and gauging if something is worthy of a particular standard—whatever that standard might be. Maybe it must be fun, or make sense, or fit into a worldview, but you’re much more narrow-minded when you are not thankful.

However, if you see a particular piece of knowledge as a gift, you are humble and think of it as a benefit to you.Simply put, you are ready and open to receive it. Additionally, a perspective of gratitude that is ready to receive a gift also views the teacher as a giver.

The secret here is that you prepare the soil of the heart and mind by having the student in a state of thanksgiving.

In other words, a teacher can piggy-back on thanksgiving to make the student more ready to receive instruction.

This “state of preparedness” can be achieved by having the student remember things they are thankful for and by hearing that someone is thankful to them for some reason.

Now, referring back to the parable of the seed and sower,…without thanksgiving, knowledge and truth will just bounce off the stony soil of a person’s heart and mind.

Therefore, how do you bring your children to a “state of preparedness using thanksgiving. Well, to follow the model of discipleship and teaching from Paul, start with thanksgiving.

One aspect of this is…

Thanksgiving is one of those characteristics of the heart that is caught. If you are thankful, it will overflow onto those you are teaching and investing in. But, conversely, if you are anxious and worried, they’ll catch that as well.

Anxiety and worry sets off a sense of survival. As a disciple-r, worry does not provide a real successful platform to reach anyone.

Therefore, I encourage you to start your day thinking and writing what you are thankful for. I also encourage you to share with those you are teaching. Before you get to instruction, start by telling those you are teaching why you’re thankful for them. Additionally, have your children tell you why they’re thankful. It would be very beneficial to go around the room and have each of them give one thing they are thankful for.

Thankful teachers have better disciples. But also, thankful disciples will experience more spiritual fruit.

They retain more knowledge because they’re open to receive it and consequently grow and change and mature—synthesize and teach others.

One last point, Kerry Howells is studying secular classrooms when she developed her conclusions on the “state of preparedness”. This means that thanksgiving will prepare the soil of the mind for regular academic subjects as well as spiritual subjects like character, faith, love, etc.

Right now, there is a wealth of research that is showing that young people are retaining more information in classrooms that incorporate gratitude. Finally!! Education research is showing what the Bible has taught for two thousand years.

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