Paideia Conversations, Ep. 8

Spending the season of Advent cultivating an atmosphere of Savior-centered conversation is a goal many of us mamas have, which can honestly feel a little counter-cultural during the weeks before Christmas when the world around us is spinning with gharish decorations and messages of materialism under the guise of incredible sales your holiday can’t exist without. In Cindy Rollins’ book Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah, we are encouraged to keep things simple, humble, doable. She writes, “I highly recommend that you do not complicate it too much… Advent is a time of anticipation and joy. What I love most about using Messiah as an outline for the season is that it is just so simple.”

For this paideia conversation, Melissa and Jenn get to visit with Cindy Rollins to talk about the changing dynamics of life seasons from year to year while seeking to cultivate the foundation of a family culture which fosters familiarity, community, and anchors us in Christ. Cindy encourages us that “we do all these things, and we want to be faithful, but it’s Christ that gives the increase.”

While you are wrapping Christmas gifts or taking a walk on a crisp Advent morning, listen in and be encouraged. As Cindy said, “the plodding along as a mom with a family is more important than the actual accomplishing of some great feat of getting it all in during the holidays.”

Links to Resources

Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins

Redeemed Reader’s thoughts on Hallelujah

Blue Sky Daisies

Blue Sky Daisies’ Resources for Hallelujah

St. Martin in the Fields

Jesse Tree

Behold the Lamb by Andrew Peterson

Greg Wilbur music

New College Franklin

Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite

Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson

The Dawn of Redeeming Grace by Sinclair Ferguson

Bright Evening Star by Madeleine L’Engle

Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope

The Christmas Books of Charles Dickens

Cindy’s Website, Morning Time for Moms

Cindy’s Instagram

Cindy’s Facebook

Cindy’s Patreon

Episode Transcript

Melissa: joining me today for this paideia conversation is my cohost Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast, and our guest today is Cindy Rollins. We invite you into this conversation with us we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
From Day 1: Isaiah 40:1-5 “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
And from Day 25: Revelation 5:12-13 “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
My friends, these are words of the Lord and we give thanks to God.
Today as we get to visit with Cindy Rollins, the author of Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah, this is the reason, this is the point. In her book, Cindy says, “this is one thing I appreciate about the liturgical year. When it becomes a part of your family culture, it can have a stabilizing effect. As life swirls around us, we have the familiarity of the same activities, traditions, smells, sounds, and words to keep us anchored. And what better to be anchored to than the Church, the Bride of Christ, and as the Bride of Christ, to Christ Himself.” She also says, “we will straggle through the week after Christmas, celebrating one birthday and the new year, but the major festival of the year is now over. I enjoy a couple weeks of recovery by reading, reading, and reading. We are then all ready to return to normalcy. But not without the memory that we are a Christian family, and we have a Messiah.” I’m delighted to introduce to you today my friend, my mentor, Cindy Rollins.
Cindy, have you met Jenn?

Cindy: have we met, Jenn?

Jenn: you know, we actually did. A few years ago at a CiRCE conference in North Carolina. It was a long time ago.

Cindy: oh okay, I know your name, and I know you’re familiar. But I’m, I have a hard time keeping up with that kind of thing.

Melissa: so, Jenn is working with Heather Tully and some other friends down north of Atlanta doing the Paideia Southeast stuff. So…

Cindy: I know! Okay. That’s awesome.

Melissa: so it’s really fun. And Jenn has been so gracious and we’ve had a lot of fun chatting with some people on this sort of medium. But yeah, you look beautiful, by the way, Cindy.

Cindy: oh, thank you, I need to hear that because I’m having a big birthday this week.

Jenn: that’s right! It’s the sixth! Because I just read it in the book yesterday!

Cindy: yes, I’ve announced it to the whole world.

Melissa: St. Nicholas, right, yeah?

Cindy: yeah, St. Nicholas’ Day.

Melissa: so what are you doing for your birthday?

Cindy: oh I don’t know. I’m just gonna go… well we’re going out to eat somewhere. And we’re having like a birthday here and a birthday there. Just different people, college boys coming home.

Melissa: nice.

Cindy: but some people not. So, my husband’s going to celebrate with me on Monday, and then with my daughter and my mother, and then when the college kids come home we’ll do something with them.

Melissa: yeah! Oh fun! Well, it’s nice to see sunshine in both of your…

Cindy: yeah!

Melissa: …both of your rooms. Because I mean, here it’s still dark. And I’m in my closet with my closet door closed.

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: it’s gray, right? It’s the darkest time of the year, and here up north I feel like it’s darker than where you are.

Jenn: yeah.

Cindy: yeah, definitely.

Melissa: well thanks for taking some time just to – it’s so nice to see your beautiful smile, but then just to chat for a few minutes this Advent season. So both Jenn and I have been encouraged by your book Hallelujah. I have the, I have this one, but then I also, I realized I still have this one too – oh look at that, Jenn and I have both of them right here. [laughter]

Cindy: I have both too.

Melissa: nice! So, was it just last year in 2020 that the second one came out?

Cindy: yes, it was. We redid it last year. Blue Sky Daisies. And they did a fantastic job on it. I got to upgrade some of the essays, which I’m very pleased about. Got a poem from Thomas Banks, that was really fun. And I just love the new, the new one.

Melissa: yeah, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. Well, Cindy, could you take just a moment to briefly introduce yourself and maybe tell us why you wrote this?

Cindy: okay. Well, I’m Cindy Rollins. I’m a mother to, I have nine children who are all grown up. And just about to have fifteen grandchildren, so I’m excited about that. And I wrote Hallelujah because I love the whole Christmas season, and when I first wrote it – when I first started celebrating Christmas with my family, I was coming off Christmas traditions with my, you know, my family of origin where I came from. But I didn’t really know anything about this idea of Advent. But slowly as I read and was thinking and really reading cookbooks, I started to realize that there was a different time of year called Advent that led into Christmas. And I just loved that idea. And I had a little book called, a Lutheran Advent book, that I used, I loved it, I picked it up on some table somewhere. And I used it for years. It was just this little family, it was not that dissimilar to Hallelujah. And we had done that for years. So then you know, I decided, as I was… I don’t know if you’re asking me about the book, or about actually Hallelujah the Messiah and all, the whole shibang, but…

Melissa: well, we can get to the whole shibang, yeah.

Cindy: okay, yeah, so then I just decide, I had made up a little, you know, Hallelujah, Messiah, schedule for my family and we used it every year. And then one day I realized, well, I love this idea of putting this in a book like the little book I used, and I’d like to do that too. So that’s sort of how the book was born.

Melissa: yeah, I love that. Jenn, do you want to ask her about how she’s cultivating – how she did it differently as a mother versus a grandmother?

Jenn: yeah! What does that look like now, Cindy? Do you have any opportunities to cultivate Advent traditions with your grandkids? I don’t know how close you live to some of them. Like how has that transition looked now with most of your kids being out of the house?

Cindy: right. No, not really. I mean, with my grandkids, I gave a few of them a copy of Hallelujah, the older ones, when it came out, the new one. I gave them a copy of it so they could kind of remember it. You know, maybe have that – I signed it just particularly for that child. And I don’t see my grandkids a lot during the holidays. I usually see them either, you know, a couple weeks before or a week after, and, or I visit them. But yeah. I still have college kids that come home for Christmas, so my husband and I just don’t pick up and go. And our house is small. And I wish it was, I wish we had gotten a bigger house. I love my house. But I wish I had a bigger house in a way, because then it would make it more conducive. Now if we all want to get together, we really just basically have to rent something somewhere. So we concentrate a lot on Thanksgiving and then everybody kind of does their own Christmas things. But I do, I do have books and stories, I send them Christmas stuff, I send them Christmas packages, and that sort of thing. And I send them cookies because…

Jenn: aww, well… cookies! That’s great.

Cindy: yes, my love language has always been cookies.

Jenn: that’s awesome.

Cindy: and that’s one way I can… I love that. A couple years ago, one of my grandsons said, oh Cece, you make the best cookies! So I feel like I wear that badge very proudly.

Jenn: oh that’s great. See, I love hearing that the book, the Hallelujah book, was born out of a tradition that you were already doing and sort of compiling on your own. I didn’t know that, and I love that.

Cindy: oh yeah, definitely.

Jenn: do you remember what specifically, what kind of grabbed you and led you to do the Messiah in the first place?

Cindy: I do. I remember that very well because, and it, years and years and years we did it before I even thought of turning it into something to sell to other people. And I love that… the thing is, like, I got up this morning and did the Hallelujah, I did my Hallelujah devotions. And I used, I had to pick up the book and think, what day are we in? As a matter of fact, I was a day behind. So I had to do two parts today which was fine because I had time to do that. But that’s one reason I love it so much. It’s not something that gets you behind. You don’t feel stressed or worried. But we, I one day – it was… so we had all these Christmas devotions that we would do in our family. Morning Time during the whole month of December was always all Christmas the whole time. Reading aloud Christmas books, reading Christmas passages in the Bible. And I would use different Advent materials and they would always be focused on the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ in the future. And as I was listening to Messiah one day, well, I bought a CD of the Messiah which is the St-Martin-in-the-Fields Messiah, and Blue Sky Daisies has a resource page for Hallelujah, so if you’re wondering what Messiah to use, I won’t go into that here because it’s confusing, but go to Blue Sky Daisies, go to their resource page, hit Hallelujah, and you can find that there.

Melissa: I will link that to make it easy.

Cindy: yes. My Messiah had a libretto of the words each day, I mean, it wasn’t days, it was just, this is, this one, this one, this one, this one. And every year I’d be looking over that, and then one day it just clicked with me, well these are the prophecies that we’re doing in these devotions. What if we just did these devotions with the CD? And so I started to just read the Bible passages and play the CD. And of course then the CD became, you know, an Mp3, and then it became a streaming. You can find it all over the place, but it was just – it was just a no-brainer at that point. And really, I just feel like it was the Holy Spirit just bringing a bunch of things together that kind of, in a way that I don’t know, it just kind of all came together and I was just, duh. Well this is, you know, this has already been done by Handel, putting these verses together. And what I also love about Messiah – some people use it for Easter. I mean, you can listen to it all year round.

Jenn: yes.

Cindy: but I like the idea of remembrance. So we remember the things in the past. The prophecies that concern the coming, the first coming of Christ, but Messiah takes us beyond that to remember that we have a future hope in Christ. We’re gonna have a second coming, and it ties us both together so beautifully that Christmas really is a wild celebration of this coming of Christ. Not just that He came, but that He is coming again.

Jenn: I love that!

Melissa: I love that!

Jenn: me too! I did not grow up with Advent at all, and I think the things that I’m most attracted to use for my family are the things that do that: putting Christmas in a broader context of, okay, the past and then His coming, and then the future. So like the Jesse Tree and even Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb, that music, seems kind of in the same family.

Cindy: yeah. Right, and that is – those were some of the resources I was using before. Especially the Jesse Tree stuff, I was using some of that. And then, it was like, oh, this Messiah really fits perfectly in with those ideas.

Melissa: so something you say in Hallelujah… you say, “our family has done this year after year after year so that Messiah is part of our hearts and minds. In addition to this simple method [that you use in the book], I sometimes have the whole oratorio in the background just as a remembrance.” So there’s that word again: remembering. And I love that because it does, it’s just a beautiful way to hold those words and the tune as well in our hearts, in our mind, and have it playing in the background and in the forefront. But you say, “Advent is a time of anticipation and joy. What I love most about using Messiah as an outline for this season is that it is just so simple.”

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: and it’s true! It is. It’s so simple. It’s available everywhere. It is Scripture. It’s familiar and yet when we spend the time to meditate on it, to focus on these details that this book helps us walk through, it’s also profound.

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: but I love that balance of simplicity with the profound. It’s so encouraging.

Cindy: a couple things happen. First of all, music touches our emotions as well as our, you know, the Scripture touches our mind in a way, and the music touches our emotions, and it kind of brings it all together in a very, very simple way so that, you know, we’re not… sometimes we get these devotions for our families and we’re reading these long passages and then, then we’re, you know… the kids, it’s just like, the kids are just uhh, they’re just tuned out. But this is something ongoing so that each year as they’re hearing this same music over and over and over again, and it’s becoming instilled in their hearts, and hopefully it will be tied to some of the joy of Christmas that you have in your family, because joy is a very compelling testimony…

Jenn: I love that there’s a musical element. It is music. But that helps so much with the remembrance. The remembering versus memorizing kind of concept is, I fee like this is more on the remembering – the remembrance end of that. Or not requiring the kids to memorize the songs. We’re just playing them. And we’re doing it year after year, and they throughout the year will sit around chanting all we like sheep, we like sheep! [laughter] Even in the… it just happens… even in the Shakespeare, I mean, other things besides the Messiah that you’ve included in the book, will come to mind for my kids throughout the year.

Cindy: right, right.

Jenn: And I’m not requiring that they memorize any of that. I love that they are. But it’s just this very gentle kind of repetition over that week and then you move on to something else. But then year after year, it builds.

Cindy: amen. And really, that’s the point of memory. The point of memorizing is not so that we get these facts down or we get this word perfect ideas, but that we have something in our heart that flows through and comes out appropriately. And I like to say that it’s available to the Holy Spirit also in the lives of our children to use when needed. We don’t know when that is, and it’s so much more important than, I’ve gotta memorize this passage, you know. We want the passage in our hearts in love, not, oh yeah I remember that time my mom beat me so that [laughter] I could remember this Bible verse.

Melissa: you say in here actually just echoing what Jenn just said. The entire Advent season is one of remembrance. We are remembering the birth of Christ, but we are also remembering that His birth was foretold over and over again in the Old Testament.” And so that’s where you go back to the prophecies. In Isaiah, and I’m trying to think… obviously Isaiah, but is it Micah and…?

Cindy: Malachi.

Melissa: yeah, Malachi.

Cindy: almost all of the prophets, the psalms, all of Scripture from beginning to end we have… I mean, the entire Old Testament is filled with foreshadowings of Christ and Messiah captures a good portion of that.

Melissa: yeah. Well I was gonna say, the idea of that liturgical year, the Church year – this is the beginning of the year. This is, Happy New Year, Church!

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: but not having grown up with a liturgical aspect, right, to that calendar, to that thinking of this is new year, this is the beginning and yet this is looking forward… What has that looked like to cultivate that for you, not even necessarily in your motherhood, but just as an individual? What’s that like to have that perspective now?

Cindy: well it’s become more and more important to me the older I get. And one of the reasons I believe it’s so important is it ties us to the worldwide church of Christ. That we don’t stand alone. You know, we’re not the last man standing, as you know, Jesus said, God said to Elijah… was it Elijah… when he said, I’m alone left on the earth. The liturgy reminds us that there are people all over the world that follow these traditions and follow this calendar, and that our reading these verses and our, you know, singing these songs at the same time that we are, and we belong to Christ – all of us who call upon the name of Jesus – belong to Christ! And the church calendar just ties us together a little bit, it just gives us a little solidarity. And I love that it does that, and it increasingly important for me. it gives me so much joy. If I get out like the Book of Common Prayer, and I’m reading for the day those verses, to think, I’m not reading these by myself, I’m reading these with other people in the world that are reading these verses today. So there’s – that is one aspect of it. And I think it brings some majesty and some, the idea of worship that, to our lives. I think the church calendar reminds us that it’s not about us, it’s about something far bigger than us. And that, I like it for that reason. Just as I grow older, and -like you- I didn’t come from a tradition that even knew what the church calendar was. I genuinely was reading a cookbook when I, she had all these feast days, and do this do this do this… and that appealed to my heart in some ways. And we see that God has made that in the Bible. He set up this idea that there are days for feasting and there are days for fasting. And those all… because as humans, He’s made us this way, in His image, so I think this very much appeals to our spirits.

Melissa: I like how you remind that there’s the time for both feasting and fasting in Scripture. And I know reading about, sort of the history of Advent, I think you talk about that in the book – how in some traditions, or in some families even – there’s more of a penitential side to Advent. More in line with what a lot of people do with Lent leading up to Easter, Advent can be more of a penitential season of fasting and pondering and putting off the celebration until Christmas Eve. And then focusing on those those twelve days of Christmas. I love that it’s not prescribed, right? That we can use the book Hallelujah in a different way depending on your family, depending on how the Lord is leading that particular household to honor and set aside and make these days special in remembrance. So I love that too. That it can be used in different ways. I happen to use it the same way you do, but I know not everybody does.

Cindy: no. It can be used in different ways, and I, I truly believe that the more simple your traditions are, the more likely they are to get repeated. And that’s gonna give them way more power. The way we complicate it, the less powerful they become because, for one thing, we’re stressed out and worried and we’re trying to get these things in that we can’t. You know, the family things are going to happen to interrupt things. That’s why, it’s – there’s nothing wrong with finishing… like if you get to Christmas and you’re only halfway through, why not just keep going? You can go into January. Excuse me, you can go into February if you want! You know, I think the plodding along as a mom with a family is more important than the actual accomplishing some great feat of, you know, getting it all in during the holidays.

Melissa: amen.

Jenn: well, kind of on somewhat related… Cindy, how do you – how did your Advent celebrations sort of change over the years as you, as your kids started, you know, getting older, leaving home, and maybe kind of like any tips or perspective you might offer in kind of rolling with those changes and the flexibility that’s needed there?

Cindy: yeah. Rolling with change is – I always say: adapting to change is really a key to happiness in life. If you can’t adapt to change, you’re not going to enjoy life at all. Especially as a woman. Because our lives, I believe that in the lives – women’s lives change more drastically often than men’s lives. Men, you know: a man goes and gets a career and spends his life doing it, then he retires and that’s a major change for him. But a woman. You know, she’s nursing, I mean she’s pregnant first, she’s nursing, she’s having children. You know, she’s building a home in the early years and then just about the time she gets that home all perfect and the way she wants it and she’s got Advent going the right way… somebody grows up! And then it has to change again, because it’s a drastic change to lose even one member of a family because everybody’s role changes. And then that person, you know, everybody settles back and then boom! there it is again. And Mom is in the center of all this change. And then she’s caring for her parents and maybe even her husband’s parents, and all these things, and she’s a grandmother. This is just massive change. And sometimes we can feel like there’s something wrong… change often feels wrong to us, because it’s a change, it’s different, and we don’t know how to adapt to it. But adapting to change is really, really important. And accepting the changes as they come, some are gonna be good and some are gonna be bad and some indifferent – just things you have to adjust to – but just knowing that it’s okay if your life looks a little different one year than it does the next. I’ve had seasons where it looked like my nest was completely empty and it was going to stay empty. And right now, out of the blue, three children – two college boys that had lived in apartments downtown ended up moving back home, and my daughter’s here too, so all of a sudden my totally empty nest is now filled with you know, more people. And that’s a change. I mean, I’ loving it, but it is a change, it is – oh, suddenly, I you know, I have to rearrange my schedule to fit the change. And I can’t, you know, I have to be willing to adapt to that. So all of life is like this and we don’t know. For women I feel like it’s much more, life is much more fluid and I just, I know that some changes can feel really hard, and they can feel like you can’t adapt to it. But if you’re all alone, you can still do many of these things. This is where the church calendar comes in. And I was all alone for several Advents, and I was doing these things that reminded me not only of my time with my family but of my primary relationship which is with Christ. And that’s always gonna be there, always gonna be the same. He is changeless. So if we cling to Him, then we can get through all these changes so much better, so much more peacefully than if we’re, like the Bible says, what is it, torn by every wind of doctrine. You know. We can become very fragile and easily pulled to the right or to the left if we’re not centered on the Changeless One.

Jenn: I love that. On a practical note, as you kind of backtrack even from kids leaving the house and just, you know, maybe even like, high school kids getting jobs and schedules looking different, homeschool schedules looking different, and needing to kind of flex there. Did you find yourself flexing to include those kids? Or was it kind of different in different seasons? Would you hold off on the Advent celebrations until they were home? Or how did you, I don’t know…

Cindy: all of that. At first, I was very reluctant to let anything go. Like Morning Time, I was reluctant to let anybody fly away to let anybody change, let anybody go to work. I found myself saying, well we’ll wait until they get home. And then one day I realized, oh, you know, this is the beginning of the end. They’re not coming home. Not all the time. [laughter] So you’re gonna have to adapt here. And I think sometimes it’s okay just to say, you know what, everybody’s not gonna be here for this. It’s better to do a little bit in the morning, maybe with whoever is there, whomever is there. And then just be okay with the fact that, hey, this other, the other child that’s like flown the nest or not available or at work or whatever, is still benefitting from the rhythms of the family even if they’re not there. They see that those rhythms are going on, and that means they’re important. So you kind of just have to take solace in that, and then…

Jenn: that’s sweet.

Cindy: …eventually when they start their own homes and their own families, they’ll find those things coming back.

Melissa: I feel like that addresses that idea of purposed cultivation of family traditions, and the blessing that that is. I mean, you can try to do all the things, you can throw it all out there and see what sticks.

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: but I feel like that idea of purposely cultivating, purposely planting and seeing what the Lord brings from the harvest… I feel like that’s what you’re talking about.

Cindy: yes, I do too. That you purposefully do these things. And that is, once again, why Messiah is so perfect for this season. Because you can easily do this every year and it not grow old, it not become something stale or, you know, it’s not just Mom yakking away in the background about, you know, this and that and the other thing. It’s really centered on Christ, really centered on the Scripture, and the music is beautiful. So it’s a simple tradition that can easily be repeated. Whereas sometimes, I mean, we had years where we were doing whole crafts around the nativity. You know, we make this this day, we make this that day… and those were fun years. But those aren’t the years that are going to be continually repeated year after year after year. Because it would be hard. And it would be inappropriate at times, whereas this is appropriate in every season whether you have an infant in a crib or you’re all alone like me in the mornings with your devotion.

Jenn: I hadn’t honestly thought of that element of it, but it’s true. It is something that you grow into, and it’s age appropriate the whole time! And it also doesn’t get old, I mean, because like you said, it’s straight Scripture. It’s all Scripture, and Scripture never gets old, so that’s – I love that.

Cindy: yeah, living and active. So you can’t go wrong with Scripture.

Jenn: yep!

Melissa: what was your connection with Greg Wilbur, speaking of the connection to the music? Because he talks in the book about the actual listening, what to listen for. What’s your connection with him?

Cindy: he’s my friend. [laughter] And I said, Greg, can you do this? And he said, sure, I’d be glad to. I’ve known Greg a long time. In fact, he was our… we went to Parish Pres in Franklin, Tennessee. It was our church and Greg was the song director at that church. He’s at a sister church to that at this point at Cornerstone, also in Franklin, Tennessee, now. And Greg is a composer, he has written church music, he has several albums that you can get on iTunes of church music -very beautiful church music. We like to listen to his music on Sunday mornings, put him on and listen. But, so, Greg – we had gone to church with Greg, and, I continued knowing him over the years, so I just, he was the first, my first go-to person. Who could do this, who could explain this music? And Greg did that for me. And Greg, we, this summer, I had my moms’ summer discipleship course which I run every summer. And we have a, we always do a composer, we always study a composer during that time. And this year we did Vivaldi The Four Seasons, and Greg – I asked him to do a class on that for during the summer. He came in, he blew that music wide open! I mean, I love the music and the music stands alone. But for someone to explain the way he did, the music was so phenomenal. So he’s just a very talented musician, he understands classical music and he understands church music. So he was just the go-to guy.

Melissa: yeah.

Cindy: and he is heavily involved in New College Franklin, which is a great place if you’re looking for somewhere to send your children to school or… that that is a very wonderful place.

Jenn: I’ve enjoyed, I’ve liked his commentary on the, in the Hallelujah book a lot. I don’t read it all aloud to my children but I’ll pull out bits, and it gives them something to look for and when they’re listening, just things to recognize. And their understanding has grown over the years. It’s been neat to see.

Melissa: starting tomorrow we’ll be using little bits of that in our weekly co op for the next few weeks during Advent

Jenn: oh, fun.

Melissa: during our Collective, we’ll be listening to the Messiah and so I’ll be sharing bits from Hallelujah, and specifically sharing some of Wilbur’s perspective in what to look for. So I get to share that a little more broadly

Cindy: that will be great.

Melissa: well, as we wrap this up, what are you reading and listening to besides maybe Hallelujah and the Messiah this Advent season?

Cindy: yeah, this year – so I usually read Malcolm Guite’s – for several years I’ve read Malcolm Guite’s poetry book for Advent, which I love, but I’ve read it now a couple times. And I wanted to go a different, you know, a different direction. So I am, one of the things I’m reading is a Sinclair Lewis – I mean, Ferguson, what’s his name. I mean Sinclair Ferguson. He has two different Advent devotionals that I’ve downloaded to my Kindle. And I haven’t started them yet, but I’m excited about those. Because they’re very, from what I understand, they’re very meaty and full of – I’m like, should I read one this year and read one next year or should I just do both? You know, we’ll see. We’ll see how that goes. I’m also, for fun I’m reading this, our book club is doing Christmas at Thompson Hall and other Stories by Anthony Trollope.

Jenn: oh fun!

Cindy: they’re Christmas stories. So we usually, so we, our book club has done like, one year we did A Christmas Carol, and then Dickens’ The Chimes. And we had run out of Dickens’ stories, we did The Cricket on the Hearth. So we’re like, what can we read? So somebody found these Trollope stories that we’re gonna… Trollope has some Christmas stories, Connie Willis has some Christmas stories. So those are just fun side, a side Christmas reading. I’m gonna read the Madeleine L’Engle Christmas book, which is called… oh I forget what it’s called. But I’m gonna be reading that this year, I’ve actually started it but I don’t know the title of it. So, Bright Evening Star: a Mystery in the Incarnation. So I’m looking forward to that. I like Madeleine L’Engle’s books, and I’m excited to read some of that. So those are a few. I tend to overindulge in Christmas reading during the holiday season, so hopefully! But I have actually pulled out some books that I started last year for Christmas for devotions and didn’t finish, and I’m just gonna – I’m not gonna start over on those books. I’m gonna just pick up right where I left off, and maybe I’ll finish them this year.

Melissa: that’s such a good idea!

Cindy: yeah, because you get discouraged, and then next year you think, I’ll start over, I’ll start over. So you’ve read the first five chapters or something twenty times and never gotten to the end. [laughter]

Melissa: that’s so wise!

Jenn: that’s some good plodding! I love it! [laughter]

Melissa: oh, well this idea of building expectation and anticipation during the Advent season – hope and joy and cultivating tradition – it’s just lovely. And I’m so thankful, not only for you spending the time this morning, but the time that you spent putting together this book and for how you’ve shared stories from your own motherhood. It’s encouraging for those of us who are in these trenches, sitting in our closets with the laundry, and the Christmas presents piled over there. The reason we do these things, the reason is Christ! And it’s connecting not just with our children, not just with this season this year, but with -like you said- the Church at large, and the Church throughout time. Because it’s about our relationship with Christ and what He has done for us. And the Incarnation and that miracle. I just really appreciate you taking the time to chat about all of those things with us this morning, Cindy.

Cindy: well thank you for asking me. I love talking about Advent, so it’s always fun.

Jenn: thank you.

Melissa: yeah – well, Cindy, it’s been a joy actually just to get to know you over the last couple years. And just on a personal note, praying for you and seeing the Lord continuing to work – it’s such a blessing because I think we can get caught up in that idea of here and now. And my kids are all still little; we don’t even yet have a high schooler. But that the Lord is still at work in your motherhood, and I love that. And it’s not about what you do, it’s about what He does.

Cindy: amen. The more, the older I get, the more I’m convinced of that. That it is! We do all these things, and we have to, we want to be faithful, but it’s Christ that gives the increase.

Melissa: well that’s, that’s the thing that I remember… I asked you… I don’t remember the exact question I asked you actually. But your answer to whatever the question was is that God is faithful. Stop. [laughter] Like, full stop. God is faithful. That testimony that He brings through you is a blessing and an encouragement.

Cindy: well thank you. And He definitely is faithful. I know that. This I know!

Melissa: well, Happy Advent, Cindy, and Merry Christmas, and God bless you! We will talk again.

Jenn: thank you.

Cindy: thank you.

Melissa: okay, buh-bye.
You can pick up your own copy of Cindy Rollins’ Advent book Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah. It’s published by Blue Sky Daisies and can be found anywhere your favorite books are sold. And you can find Cindy at her website. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and in her Mere Motherhood Facebook Community Group. Her favorite place to connect with people is in her Patreon Group.
Thanks for joining us today, and thanks for listening in with Cindy as we talked about Hallelujah.
Cultivating an Advent tradition is just one way of cultivating a godly paideia during this particular season with your children, for yourself, and continuing to pursue an atmosphere and a culture of Christ.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. And in the meantime, peace be with you.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 1

In Episode 1 of Paideia Conversations, I was joined by my cohost Jenn Discher from sister community Paideia Southeast. In this inaugural conversation, we simply opened with basic questions: what is paideia? How do we spell it, pronounce it, define it? How do we pursue godly paideia, in light of Ephesians 6:4?
Then we shared some snippets and thoughts from Douglas Wilson’s essay The Paideia of God as an opening springboard.

Repentance, worship, prayer, Bible reading, joy, forgiveness! These are the foundation upon which we are building Christian culture.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Scholé Sisters

The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson, title essay

The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson, chapter 13

The Classical Difference

Repent, Rejoice, Repeat ~ Mystie Winckler, Simply Convivial

Ephesians 6:4 & 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Transcript for Episode 1

Melissa: joining me today from Paideia Southeast is my friend Jenn Discher, and we invite you into this conversation today as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia. Thanks for joining me, Jenn!

Jenn: yes, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you!

Melissa: so, today: episode number one! We are talking about, what IS paideia? And WHO is this for? And, specifically for our springboard, an essay that we discussed together this summer called The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson. It’s always nice to have something to start with and discuss, and jump off from there rather than trying to come up with our own great ideas, right?

Jenn: yes, absolutely.

Melissa: talk about what blessings we can gain from that, and what we need to chew and spit. So paideia. What is this? What is this word? It’s so foreign to us, right? It’s not an English word. We don’t know how to spell it, we don’t know how to pronounce it…

Jenn: we don’t! We don’t know how to spell it! [laughter]

Melissa: So yeah, with Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast, it’s like, we have to know how to spell that, we have to know how to pronounce it, and we probably should have at least something of an understanding of what it means. Right? What is our vision with these communities and in encouraging moms to pursue this word, this paideia, for their families? So paideia: P-A-I-D-E-I-A, right? So paid. Paid… paideia… It starts with paid! That at least helps a little bit, right?

Jenn: that’s good. Yep, that’s good!

Melissa: and then for pronouncing it, my friend Mystie Winckler from the Scholé Sisters said, well we’re gonna pronounce it “pie” as in delicious pie, “day” as in the opposite of night, and we’re gonna throw in “uh” just for good measure. So pie-day-uh. And that’s always been really helpful.

Jenn: that’s great!

Melissa: so there you go. That’s how you spell it, that’s how we’ll pronounce it. And now we get to the fun part: what is this? First of all, Jenn, what is your background with the idea of paideia? Is this a brand new word to you or when did you first hear about this word or this idea?

Jenn: I would say maybe about five years ago, I’m estimating. So, I mean, it’s in Ephesians 6:4 so I was always familiar with that verse, like, “fathers, raise your children in the nurture, instruction, or the discipline, or the training” however it’s translated… but I don’t think I became aware that that nurture or that training was actually the Greek word paideia and really the fullness of that word until the last few years.

Melissa: right. Yeah. I know I’d heard the word when I was a child, or at least a teenager. But it’s definitely since motherhood and since homeschooling in the last thirteen years for me… it’s really… I’ve had to chew on it and flesh it out. I think understanding the height, the breadth, the depth of it is just – we could have endless conversations about it!

Jenn: yes, totally!

Melissa: so I think that’s why we wanted to share these conversations with others, right? Because we’ve been chatting about this idea for a few months and with some of our other friends, we’ve been chatting about it off and on for months, or maybe a couple years for some of us, right? And wanting to share that conversation with others. So yes, it’s a Greek word, right? We got it from ancient Greek culture where their vision was to raise fantastic little Greeks, right? And who are we trying to raise? We are trying to raise citizens of heaven. They might happen to be a citizen of a, you know, a specific nation on earth, but ultimately our citizenship is in heaven. So we want to be raising children for the kingdom of God. So what are we trying to raise? Little Christians! Not little Americans or little Greeks, we want to be bringing up children in this specific paideia. So what kind of words come to mind when you think of paideia? I know for me originally it was, like you said, nurture, instruction, discipline, education, formation – are there other words that pop into your mind?

Jenn: training, enculturation – like enculturating, culture of the Lord.

Melissa: yeah, I think that’s the big one, right, that ties them all together: the enculturation. It’s that entire person. It’s not just, if you could separate the spirit and the physical, or the intellectual: it’s not just the “Christian” part, it’s not just making sure they read their Bible and training them in catechism, and sitting at church on Sundays…

Jenn: right.

Melissa: it is that, it’s at least that! It’s also not just, you know, “school.” It’s not just the books we read or the books we listen to. It’s ALL of it. And I think that’s where, for me, I find that to be really refreshing and also very heavy. Right? It’s a lot! It’s everything. Nothing is outside the realm of this paideia. And so if we are to be pursuing a particular paideia, the paideia of the Lord as Paul told us in Ephesians, how do we go about that and what’s that supposed to look like?
So one of the places that we’ve discussed together is… Douglas Wilson has a bunch of great things about Christian education and classical education and parenting… a Paideia of God essay. I wanted to read just something out of there, a couple little excerpts.
He says, “much more is involved in this requirement [that of raising our children in the paideia of the Lord] than simply establishing the scope and sequence of a formal Christian education. Formal education is essential to the process of paideia, of course, but the boundaries of paideia are much wider than the boundaries of what we understand as education. Far more is involved in this also than taking the kids to church or having an occasional time of devotions in the home, as important as such things are. And, more to the point, far more is involved than simply providing the kids with a Christian curriculum 8-3.
So the word paideia goes far beyond what we call formal education. In the ancient world, the paideia was all-encompassing and involves nothing less than the enculturation of the future citizen. Paideia for us then would include the books on the best seller lists, the major newspapers, the popular sitcoms and networks, the songs on the top forty lists, the motion pictures seen by everyone, the architectural layout of most suburban homes, and out at the periphery the fact that all our garden hoses are green.”

[Laughter]

Melissa: That’s an illustration that I think is just intriguing. How far reaching this simple term of paideia is supposed to go. So, to sum it up, Douglas Wilson says, “paideia is not just bounded education, it is enculturation. Every aspect of enculturation.” I love that! That while the paideia is not limited to formal education or limited to going to church on Sunday or family devotions, we certainly see that those things are at the heart of paideia. So we ought to do nothing less than that, right? But how much more could we do?
So um, yeah, I think it would be great if you wanted to pull out The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson. And chapter thirteen is one of his treatises, you could say, on the paideia of God. And we’ve discussed this one at length actually this summer, and just sort of pondered a lot of the principles and discussed some of the methods – but really maximizing on those principles. What would you say stands out to you, Jenn?

Jenn: I think, so I’m looking at the book; in that first page, he actually has that quote from the other book, Melissa, that you just read from. But he says that it describes an entire way of life, and I think that also sums it up well. I recently read a quote from a classical education website, I think it’s called The Classical Difference, and they put it along these lines, the paideia: “paideia describes what we actually love, what we actually believe, the truth we actually believe, and what we assume about the nature of the world.” And that’s huge, right? And it also speaks to the fact that it’s not, it’s not just, I mean, in Ephesians, Paul’s saying, do this, raise your kids in the paideia of the Lord; but really everybody, regardless of worldview, has a particular paideia. Everybody has values and beliefs and presuppositions and loves. This is gonna happen to all of us. We’re all going to go through life developing a particular paideia. It’s just a matter of what they are, like what these particular values, beliefs, loves are, and how we get them. And the how can be intentional or it can just be something that happens to us.

Melissa: mmhm. Yeah. Cultural values is something, I think, you know we all are raised in a culture, those of us who are parents now were raised actually in a different culture probably than what we’re raising our children in, whether that’s simply because of the passage of time or a change in worldview – not all of us were raised with a Christian worldview but maybe that’s the worldview that we now have to raise our children in. I think that’s huge. Right? Also, our world is constantly changing and culture is developing and being reshaped continually out there as well. So even if we feel like, oh our home culture is, not static but that my worldview isn’t changing that much, it is changing outside too. And those elements do get in. So how do we proactively and reactively pursue a particular paideia within our homes? So yeah. The entire way of life. That’s so good.
I think what’s interesting is, you know, you said, what are our loves? And how what we think we love, what we say we love, may or may not be expressed in our life. So how have you experienced living out paideia in your home? Has it been different in your plan versus in its actual production? What have you found to be strengths and weaknesses with that?

Jenn: I think that there’s, I mean, there’s just always gonna be inconsistencies. Right? Because we’re sinners, and we’re never, like we’re shooting for these ideals and at the same time, I’m still like fleshing, thinking through, what even are these ideals? What does it, what does a joyful, robust Christian culture look like in a home? It’s not something I grew up with. So at the same time that I’m sort of coming to this understanding, and trying to by God’s grace, alongside my husband, flesh this out in my home, I’m also failing to execute this well. And so, I mean, that’s just repentance, right? That’s just repentance, putting that off. Getting before the Lord about that, and receiving forgiveness, you know, making it right with whoever was present who I need to make it right with and moving on. So there’s that element, where there’s that, you know, there’s those inconsistencies that you’re aware of and convicted of and you go to make right. But then I think there’s also, sometimes you’re not totally aware of the inconsistencies, and you might say that you value certain things, but that what’s actually coming out of your mouth – even if it’s not necessarily sinful, it’s just like, oh, you might not even realize that that’s not what I want. I don’t know, you almost have to take that step back sometimes, and sometimes you’re made aware of that. And sometimes it takes a while to realize that.

Melissa: yeah, absolutely. I think it, for me, definitely, sin nature is what pops into my head when I think, oh I have these plans or this set of – like you said, ideals – and it’s my sin nature compounded by the sin nature of my children that just makes it difficult to actually seek the Lord in all of these things. In every aspect of our home culture and our educational culture that we pursue. Now, you and I both homeschool, and so that also gives a particular opportunity for pursuing paideia in a specific way. So one thing that I think is important to note today is that, like you said before, paideia is for everybody. It’s for me as a mom as well as for my children, it’s for me as a homeschooler and you as a homeschooler, but it’s also for our sisters who are raising kids for Christ who are not homeschooling. Right? We mentioned before that idea of principles over methods, and so as we discuss paideia in the future, we’re going to be talking somewhat about homeschooling because you and I are both in that particular trench right now, but also including conversations about pursuing paideia outside of a homeschool setting. Hopefully bringing some friends into that conversation who have that experience as well.
Douglas Wilson, in this essay The Paideia of God, on page 109 says, “the Apostle Paul commanded Ephesian fathers to provide their children with a paideia of the Lord. This is not a command limited to enrollment in a Christian school. What Paul is requiring is nothing less than the establishment of a Christian civilization or culture. Paideia means enculturation and you cannot have Christian enculturation without a Christian culture.” And then on 111, this follows that, “Paul says the Scriptures are profitable as the foundation of our Christian paideia.” So that would be referencing back to 2 Timothy 3:14-16, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. And what is paideia if not instruction in righteousness? So that’s a beautiful place for us to start on these conversations. And Scripture, right, Scripture in our conversations, in our books, the artwork on our walls, coming out of our mouths when we are praying, when we’re frustrated, when we’re joyful – all of these things, these are opportunities to use what we say we love. Right? And Scripture ought to be at the foundation of that, regardless of your educational method or your own educational background or your own spiritual background. Right? I’ve been in a Christian home for 37 years, but that doesn’t mean that I am furthering along the road of pursuing paideia than someone who’s been in a Christian home for 7 years. So this is for all of us, and I think that’s what is so good about having these opportunities to discuss these ideals and these principles.
Now, we mentioned sin nature as one of our… well, as THE main hiccup in the pursuit of paideia. What would you say is one of your absolutes? What is a part of paideia that is just – if you had to just name one thing that is a core of paideia in your home – what would you say?

Jenn: well, I mean, the first thing that came to mind honestly was repentance. Because, I mean, I would say worship too, I would say prayer, I would say Bible reading – all of that. But the thing that feels most tangible, my most like felt need on a daily basis, is repentance… I love Mystie Winckler’s “repent, rejoice, repeat.” It’s not like a glum repentance. You’re rejoicing! You’re rejoicing in the Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength. And we want to be quick forgivers, we want to be quick to ask for forgiveness, we want to be quick to extend forgiveness, and then we move on. And then it’s forgiven, it’s dealt with, it’s removed as far as the east is from the west, we start over, His mercies are new every day. And that is just such a truth to hold onto.

Melissa: amen!

Jenn: I mean, when it says that, you know, Paul, when he [Wilson] says that Paul is requiring nothing less than the establishment of a Christian civilization or culture, I have… it’s almost this vision I have in my mind that we’re laying the train tracks as the train is going over the tracks almost. Right? That we are putting this down as our children are the train cars like going on the track, and so it’s this, both, we’re building it while we’re trying to raise them in it. And we’re gonna, I don’t know, I mean, we’re gonna stumble. But we’re stumbling forward into the arms of a loving Father whose mercies are new every day, and who washes us clean and welcomes us, you know, with open arms. And so that, I don’t know, that is what I want my kids to grow up in. A joyful Christian culture where they know that they’re forgiven and that we take sin seriously but then we move on after it’s been dealt with.

Melissa: right, and that idea that sin, while… it’s not surprising, right? Sin should not surprise us because we know we’re sinners, and so that pursuit of repentance – we’re not raising our children or training our children to become sinless. Right? We’re not going to be sinless until we have reached glory. But that idea that we’re going to train ourselves and, God willing, our children to have quick repentance. Like you said, it’s that, what do we do when we sin? Not if we sin, when we sin. So yeah, I think it’s, that is repentance! That is huge. And repentance means turning away from, right, but that idea that you mentioned, Mystie Winckler’s little mantra “repent, rejoice, repeat” – there’s that repeat thing too.

Jenn: yes! Repetition!

Melissa: this is not one and done. But that’s not discouraging. That’s actually encouraging. So remembering that because His mercies are new every morning, when we sin again, or when our child sins again, what are we gonna do? We are just gonna repent, and we are going to then move on rejoicing. Yeah. The other thing you mentioned is what I would say would be one of my main paideia foundations. And that is, you know, worship. And obviously the word worship can mean different things for different people. Sometimes it’s the music portion of a church service, sometimes it is a church service, sometimes it is simply a time of set apart focus on the Lord whether it’s, you know, known as family devotions or personal quiet time… but that those kinds of things are worship. So I think, along with that repentance, which… to some extent is more of a reactive thing, right, because we know that we are going to stumble. Maybe we start with worship and the foundation of setting our hearts and our minds on things that are above, and that’s what we lay out for our children and for us as we begin a day of work or education or play or the Lord’s Day of rest. But that focusing our hearts and minds on Him and what He has done, that is pursuing the paideia of the Lord. And when we stumble, yes, I love how you put that: we stumble forward into our Savior’s open arms, and He then enables us to repent and because we are in His embrace, we can rejoice and move forward. So I love that. Worship and repentance – I think that sounds like an excellent way to just format this conversation moving forward. What are we talking about? The paideia of God, the enculturation of our children and our families for Christ, and that is not just education, it is all of life. And it starts with worship and it goes through repentance and it’s on repeat all the time.
So I really appreciate you taking the time to set apart some minutes with me today to talk about these things in this introduction. So in the future we’re going to talk more about this paideia. We are going to be discussing the paideia of God in general, we’re going to be discussing how the rubber meets the road for us as homeschool moms, and sharing resources that we love and that we find encouraging on this journey as we pursue this in our own homes and as we pursue these in our Paideia communities in the Spokane area of Washington state and the Atlanta area of Georgia.
So, Jenn, is there anything else that you wanted to share with us before we sign off today?

Jenn: no, thank you for having me.

Melissa: yeah! You can find us at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement, and updates on events that we’re hosting in our local areas.

And that brings today’s conversation to a close. Thanks for joining us.
Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. Until then, peace be with you.