It seems like just the other day that school was letting out and the kids were gearing up for a long summer. Well, as least it was a summer anyway.

I’m constantly amazed at the passage of time and how certain events mark the days. Here I am sending my children and wife back to school. Cally started 9th grade this year at Glendale High School, while Lucy and Matt remain at Hickory Hills for 4th and 2nd grade, respectively. Lori has already received her high school degree and beyond but is getting an education of another sort through her ongoing work at the school. They all got away in good shape today.

I bumped into some church members today and we got into a conversation about education and how things have changed in the school systems. CHildren learn so much more at an earlier age now, which is helpful when trying to figure out how to work the DVR or something else which requires computer literacy. We have been pleased with our schools and are looking forward to our three having a good experience with their teachers, classmates, and subjects.

I’ve been thinking about my own education experience these days, and found myself today taking just a moment to look at those pieces of paper on the wall that we call diplomas. Getting a degree should be important for everyone, but just because someone gets a degree doesn’t mean he received an education. And simply because I received the former doesn’t necessary mean that I’m done with the latter.

Fisher Humphreys taught theology at New Orleans Seminary while I attend there, and I recall him lamenting how many students weren’t there to receive an education, but only their degree. It seemed like many wanted to get their “seal of approval” in Baptistland as soon as possible in order to go to churches and make their living. Humphreys voiced a proposal to give folks like this what they wanted, while also giving those who wanted an education what they wanted. It went something like this: “Let those who only want a seminary degree to drive through the campus and look at everything, and then stop at the other entrance and receive their sheet of paper. They don’t even have to unpack. But those who want to learn something, let them come onto the campus, settle in, and stay a while.”

I don’t know if seminary has changed all that much, but when I was there some students acted like they knew more than the professors and felt like they had to challenge them on every theological issue that required them to think differently. I now realize it had to deal with the prospect of thinking altogether.

Ministry is a very demanding career choice, and if there is one thing I have learned it would be that educational opportunities are all around us, and often appear disguised through problems and difficulties.

Calvin Miller, in his memoir Life is Mostly Edges, talked about a man he knew who turned out to be a prophet of sorts for him. Miller was informed that as a pastor, he had chosen a way of life that would be filled with criticism, and most of it would not be instructional. However, he should listen to all of it, then sort through what he needed to build a bulwark of survival. . He should judge the words by his nose. The nose can discern better than the ear, who is easily flattered and wants to believe every good thing that is said. The nose, however, can tell what manure is no matter what form it may take. It also can tell when something smells legitimate.

I’m hopeful that not only for my children but for myself as well, that I can be tuned in to whatever life lessons are available this upcoming year. I also hope that all of our students have a great year of learning and growing in their faith as well.