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Teaching About The Redemptive Power of Art

January 14, 2019
By Ron Van Der Pol

My 6th and 7th grade history classes recently completed a project that involved identifying and interpreting Pacific Northwest Coastal Native art forms and symbolism.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and in doing so was blessed with being exposed to a rich Native American culture, especially in terms of their powerful art images. Because I have always been intrigued by this unique type of art, I thought I would have my junior high students learn about the Pacific Northwest Native style, the specific symbolism that is a part of their imagery, and how that is a part of their larger worldview as a culture.

We first discussed and contrasted the pantheistic worldviews of the PNW tribes to that of a Christian biblical worldview, and looked to scripture to see where their beliefs were in contrast to biblical truth. Students then researched original PNW designs - identifying and using the appropriate colors used by the tribes. The final product becomes one that has redemptive value. In that, we are not only staying true to the beautiful style of the PNW tribes, but illustrating aspects of the one true God and his creation.

In a sense, there are two ways to approach artwork from a culture and peoples of a very different religious view than our own. We can look at artwork with a seasoning of “common grace”. Theologian Louis Berkhof describes common grace as, “...common because its benefits are experienced by, or intended for, the whole human race without distinction between one person and another. It is grace because it is undeserved and sovereignly bestowed by God.” Or, the artwork could be looked at through a biblical view; one that serves as a filter - showing what is praiseworthy and what might go against God and His creative order.

On its own, there is meaning and message that can be learned from looking at artwork; whether from within our own culture, or from different cultures like that of the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest. But it is my task as an educator to facilitate questions and discussion with my students when looking at art, and encourage them to respond according to a Christian perspective. No matter if I am looking at or talking about any type of art, I try to ask myself or pose to my students the following questions in some manner:

Does it relate to or bring out some aspect of our faith?
Does it give us an opportunity to discern?
Does it help us see the world and God’s people in unique or new ways?
Does it convey feelings of anger, doubt, forgiveness, reconciliation, love, or God’s grace?
Does it encourage and positively affect our hearts and minds?
Does it give opportunity to share the joy of knowing Christ?

As an educator and artist, I am excited to bring my students into a forum where we can view, discuss, create, and appreciate art - looking at its redemptive value as well as how it speaks to us as Christians. At Calvin Christian, we are helping our students look at the world through the “lenses” of scripture. It is truly an exciting venture.


By the way, the student artwork created was great! They were very thoughtful in their research, approach, and overall design. Soli Deo Gloria!


This blog was originally posted in December 2017.
Ron Van Der Pol is Calvin Christian School's Art Instructor for grades 7-12 and teaches History for grades 6-7. 

Tapping into G-R-I-T to enhance students' 'burn to learn'

December 28, 2018
By Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D.

We're sharing a post from, an educational news website, on G.R.I.T. - Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity. It's a great read!


College is more than just lectures, homework, and reading — it’s a worthy path that can be strewn with struggles. Every student experiences some combination of rigorous academics, relational breakups, family issues, health concerns, roommate drama, financial stress, external pressures, and existential angst while pursuing a college degree.

These tough times are key opportunities to help students effectively harness their GRIT™ — Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity. Rather than offering them sympathetic advice like, “It could be so much worse,” direct them with GRIT questions. Ask them to dig deeper so they can achieve their goals, even in the midst of struggles.

G - Growth
The propensity to seek out fresh ideas, input, and advice to enhance one’s progress toward one’s long term, difficult goals

Growth is about going after your goals and finding out what you need to know to get there better and faster. It shifts a student from being a passenger to being the driver at the helm of their journey.

  • What new resources can you tap into to get some clarity and support around your goal?
  • Whom can you talk to, both inside and outside of school, to offer you the best wisdom on this issue?
  • Do you notice that as you keep attempting to achieve your goal, the effort seems to be making you stronger and allows you to imagine new strategies to get where you want?

R - Resilience
One’s capacity to not just overcome or cope with, but to make constructive use of, adversity

Adversity is on the rise everywhere, and resilience truly matters. While support and resources are external, resilience is internal. Resilience is about harnessing adversity as fuel to overcome difficult obstacles, and there’s no better place for students to learn this than in higher education.

  • What facets of this situation can you influence and which one(s) matter most to you?  
  • How can you step up to make the most immediate, positive difference in this situation?
  • How can you use your experience of struggling against this adversity on your next attempt to reach your goal?

I - Instinct    
One’s propensity to pursue the best goals in the most effective ways

Lack of instinct is one of the most potent contributors to student failure. The vast majority of students waste tremendous energy, time, and effort pursuing less than ideal goals in less than optimal ways. Make it a priority to ask:

  • What adjustment(s) can you make to your goal to have it be even more compelling and clear for you?
  • As you think about your goal (e.g., graduation), in what ways might you be wasting your precious time, energy, and effort? If you could do less of one thing and more of another, what would that look like?

The sheer relentlessness with which one pursues one’s most important, long-term, difficult goals

This is the traditional definition of basic grit. But the reality is that more tenacity is not always a good thing — there’s good vs. bad GRIT, and effective vs. ineffective GRIT. The more students master how to funnel the right kind of tenacity and overall GRIT toward their most worthy goals, the more likely they are to thrive and succeed.

  • If you utterly refused to quit and were to give this goal your best-ever effort, how would you attack it even better this time?
  • How can you re-engage toward and go after your goal in a way that is most beneficial to those around you?
  • If your life depended on you sticking to and achieving this goal, what steps would you take now that you’ve not yet taken?

How do we equip students to stay on path, no matter what occurs — from natural disasters to simple, everyday adversity? Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity spell more than GRIT. These actionable facets of GRIT give students a sense of ownership for learning, making important decisions, and contributing something of value to their own lives and society.

About the author
Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D., is considered the world’s foremost authority on the science and method of measuring and strengthening GRIT. His methods and teachings are used at Harvard, MIT, Cornell, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and by top organizations in 63 countries. He’s been featured in the world’s top media, including Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, NBC, The Today Show, and The Oprah Show.


December 18, 2018
By Emily Lund, CCS Music Teacher

We are a week away from Christmas and wanted to re-share a great blog that our elementary music teacher shared 2 years ago during this month. Please enjoy!


Hark! We begin our concert with this word from old English. While this word has fallen out of use today, we would be wise to ponder for a minute, or an hour, the message of that one small word. “Hark” calls us to stop, listen, think, and take heart.

“Hark,” the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Stop, listen, think, and lend your heart to our praises as we, too, sing to our King. The “Glorias” we sing are not empty sounds, but echoes of the praises that resound across the heaven and earth.

“Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
Listen to the call of the gospel. Where once there was brokenness, there is now a child who brings peace. Though highly exalted and true God, Jesus is also is truly  human, born into lowly circumstances and obedient in every circumstance--even death on a cross. Listen, take heart: this good news, the GOSPEL, calls to you.

“Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies.”
Even in this quiet hour, you are called to action. In light of this great Savior and his triumph over sin and death, look up and adore Him. Repent and worship. Our Savior is reigning and soon he will return!

Hark! Listen! Believe! Glory to the newborn King!

Easiest Way to have the Most WONDERful Little Christmas - Instead of a Stressful Christmas

December 04, 2018
By Ann Voskamp

In this busy season, we encourage you to take a moment and remember the real reason we are celebrating. This week, we're sharing a blog post from Ann Voskamp. Take a few minutes to read, reflect and readjust for a WONDERful Christmas!


So, this turns out to be the tenderest relief, just 5 Mondays from Christmas Eve:

When the holidays hit this year, we’re all choosing holy days more than hyped-up days.

Holy days — over hyped-up holidays. Falling in love — over falling in debt. Wonder — over worry.
When the holidays hit this year, we’re all not choosing to fall more in debt because of consumerism, but were choosing to fall more in love because of Christ.

When the holidays hit this year, we’re all not going to be hit by all the worry — we’re choosing to be hushed by all His wonder.

Holy days — over hyped-up holidays. Falling in love — over falling in debt. Wonder — over worry.

The wonders of His love are everywhere — if you are in love with the wonder of Him. This is how the brilliant live.

So when she opens it up, I stop everything, and kneel right down.

“Look, Mama!” She laughs like a shower of stars.

Our baby girl’s eyes are saucers — awed.

I’m lit by her brazen wonder, her unabashed enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm always blazes within the best life — because enthusiasm comes from entheos — which literally means “God within.”

She holds this book wide open with contagious, igniting enthusiasm — God’s within, God’s within.

The book she’s holding in her hands, I wrote as a surprise, when she was just a prayer I was holding in my heart for all I was worth.

And now the wonder of her is here with us — and she’s holding this book for all her pudgy little fists are worth: “The Wonder of The Greatest Gift.”

When the holidays hit this year, we choose wonder — because wonder is one step toward choosing a wonderful life.

She keeps opening the book up again and again — just to see the the 13 inch pop-up Christmas tree rise yet again.

Nothing wonderful happens in our lives without wonder. Wonder makes this a wonderful life. Wonder nurtures wisdom. Nothing wonderful happens in our lives without wonder. Wonder makes this a wonderful life. Wonder nurtures wisdom. 

If the next generation is to have any wisdom, then this generation must choose wonder now.

Wonder now over grace and mercy and the ways of Jesus, because we have never needed His ways more than now.

And I grin, witnessing her fascination over that rising tree. Because the legacy we’ve got to leave, to centre the next generation, is the knowing that at the centre of our Garden Beginning and His Christmas Coming and our Calvary Saving, there always stands a tree that roots them forever and sets them free for eternity.

And nothing stands firmly anywhere, unless its rooted in the very beginning and the tree of Calvary, and the wonder that we’re grafted into the family tree of God.

She leans over the open book, her little fingers groping along the edges of the Advent flaps, one by one — wide-eyed, wonder seeking.

God’s within. God’s within.

Behind one of the 25 Advent flaps, she finds an ornament — a tree stump with reaching green shoots — to hang on her risen tree.

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots…. In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a banner to the peoples; Him shall the nations seek…”

Him shall the nations, and the next generation, seek.

This Christmas, the nations, and our generation, and the next generation, are ultimately seeking, not more plastic, not more pixels, not more products — we are seeking, whether we know it or not, more of the presence of Jesus — the Greatest Gift.

She’s turning the more than 100 pages of that booklet behind the first flap, that tells story after story from the Greatest Story ever told, from Creation to the Creche — of how nothing ever has stopped His love from coming for us.

“Nothing is worthwhile compared to this—searching Scripture…seeking the truth of God’s Word,” Elie Wiesel once said.

For the nations— and the next generation — to seek Him — this generation can seek nothing less. For the nations— and the next generation — to seek Him — this generation can seek nothing less.
And our little girl, she sits in the thickening gold light and keeps hanging the ornaments, one after another, and that’s what her tree is telling: the grandest Gospel story, from the Beginning to Bethlehem!

And I nod, knowing— this is the year.

This is the year to forget whatever the bombardment of ads keep trying to pummel us all into believing.

This is the year to give the wonder of living in the land of the living.

Forget burying our kids in more plastic trinkets, forget piling the debt and a culture of death on them, forget giving them what cannot last.

Nothing is more important than leaving to the next generation the land of wondrous living, and nothing is more at risk. Just turn on the news.

The legacy we, the people, want to leave to our children, the next generation, is the wonder of dwelling in the land of the living, a land where our roots are nourished in the truth of miracle of Whose we are, and the shattering grace of where we come from, and the astonishing hope of who we’re meant to be.

This is the year — we give our people the gift of our story — so they know the story — their story —their family tree. Right from our genesis beginning to our King’s coming under Bethlehem’s star — this is our story.

And I lean in and kiss the of my baby girl’s head. She will know who she is, Whose she is and she will know her story.

This story is our inheritance — The Greatest Story ever told. And we will claim our inheritance.

When we reclaim the wonder of Christmas — we reclaim the wonder of living.

The wonder of living in the land of the real, wondrous living. We could get to live a wonderful life.

Our baby girl grins a whole world wide as she turns back the 25th flap and pulls out that star.

She’s bursting, tangible joy as she leans in to places that glowing atop her own tree, her own crowning, Christ-formed story.

What matters more? Our children will know their whole story, know their beginning, know their roots, know their place in the family tree of God — there, right next to His heart. Beloved.

God’s within. God’s within. 

This is their birthright — and we will claim it and reclaim it and reclaim the wonder because our God claims us.

This is the year: The way to get our Christmas MOJO back — is More Of Jesus Only.

Christmas is about: JOMO for MOJO — the Joy Of Missing Out (on all the pressure!) — for More Of Jesus Only (all of His presence!)


JoyOfMissingOut …. for … MoreOfJesusOnly

When she smiles over at me, I blink it back — she’s holding her own story — and the Wonder of the Greatest Gift.

And it’s hers. All of ours.

Christ came and claimed us and we claim our inheritance of the land of the really living and all the wonders of His love.

This is a gift of hope, of love, of wonder — that all of our hearts long to be captivated and captured by — and released into the gift our hearts want most– HIM!

This is an heirloom, a Christmas tradition —- a wonder for the child in all of us!

And there’s all this golden light flooding the place, lighting up her very own tree — the Tree for all of us

All this wonder that all those living too long in the shadows — can now feel a great light dawning.

She laughs.

The enthusiasm — the wonder.

God within. God within. 


Find more from Anne Voskamp at

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1/14/19 - By Ron Van Der Pol
12/28/18 - By Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D.
12/18/18 - By Emily Lund, CCS Music Teacher
12/4/18 - By Ann Voskamp
11/28/18 - By Nathan Van Egmond

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