Michael & Susan Card: A Brief Taste of Heaven
- 2003 10 Jun
Michael Card is a well-known name in Christian circles. As a singer, songwriter and author, Michael has taken the Scriptures and brought them to life with his many recordings and books for children and adults.
Last week I was driving through the back roads of our area with a carload of children in rainy, dramatic weather. Life had been extremely busy and demanding, and I realized I needed some eternal perspective. Fortunately I had Michael's recording on the book of Revelation, Unveiled Hope, in the car. As we drove along, we sang at the top of our lungs of the glorious revelation of our Lord. It was a brief taste of heaven. That is what I think Michael Card is able to accomplish. I am not left thinking, "Ooh, he is so cool." Instead, my eyes are on the Lord, and often I receive a new view of things eternal.
Susan Card wrote an encouraging book on home education, The Homeschool Journey, back in 1997. Since reading that book five years ago, I have wished for a chance to talk with her about the stories in her homeschool life. I was able to visit with Michael and Susan this fall and briefly explore some ideas that I have heard for years from their writing and Michael's concerts.
At the heart of what we discussed were ideas like having a lifestyle of listening, of sharing our lives in community, and making the Lord the center of all we do. Rather than having all the answers, they talked as fellow sojourners who could appreciate the struggle.
If Michael's music is unknown to you, run (do not walk) to wherever you can find quality Christian music. You can start in the book of Genesis and listen your way through the Scriptures. You will hear hints of Irish music, gospel choirs, and plenty of thought-provoking lyrics to spur you on in your life as a believer in Jesus Christ.
It was my pleasure to chat with both Michael and Susan on the phone one wintry morning a few months back. I want to share our enjoyable conversation with you.
Q: Michael, you talk about the value of community when you are in concert and in your video, Scribbling in the Sand. Community can be pretty elusive for busy homeschooling families. It is hard to disappoint people and to make time for all the things called "important."
Michael Card (MC): It is a constant struggle. Obviously the video is going to show the shiny side. Susan has a small community. There are maybe three other moms that she has homeschooled with for going on 10 years, and they tend to give each other a lot space and cut each other a lot of slack. But the larger community doesn't understand.
Susan Card (SC): Oh, I agree. Whether it is a school or the church, everybody has got an agenda, and if you don't plug into the agenda then you don't look like you are making a contribution. It makes the family look selfish. We are in the same struggle. You can try to do everything. For me it was trying to pour into our ministry. But if you keep trying to keep up with it, you end up burning your wick at both ends and run out of energy. You get confused and you just break down. There are a lot of moms in that boat because nobody is telling them, "You don't have to do everything. You are doing enough. This is your ministry for this season in your life." We are not only fighting the education system; there is a whole spiritual void because so many churches are about maintaining an institution and not taking care of individuals. So because we are becoming aware of it, we are all starting to try to pull away and go about life in a different way.
MC: Of course, I talk a lot about community when I am on the road. People will ask me, "How do you do this? How do you have community?" Well, you ask God for it!
SC: There need to be seasons, too, in the type of journey we are in. And people don't talk about this very much. We are so busy comforting each other, being involved in this group activity and that group activity, and there is the whole part of our journey with the Lord that has to be done in isolation. You have to experience loneliness and to ask God into the loneliness. I think Mike and I have learned how important that is.
We have seen the kids trying to figure out life and sort through it, and they get a little depressed. It is easy to say, "Let's go do this and that," when there is a purpose in it that I think we are ignoring. There is a reason why God lets us go through wilderness experiences.
Q: But I think the isolation is one of the most difficult things to manage for the homeschool parent.
SC: That is a good question for us to ask as homeschoolers, "In our call, where does my homeschooling interfere with God's purpose?" Because, we could actually with our good intentions be disobedient in other areas, or idolizing an ideal. Mike always says, "If the devil can't make you do wrong, he can make you do right wrong." So I am at the place where I want to look at it really realistically and not say, "Homeschooling is the ideal solution." All of us have bumped up against the down side of it. It is time to say, "I do need to have time alone with the Lord. How can I carve that in?" Because, actually, that is the priority. That is what makes everything else make sense.
Q: Susan, The Homeschool Journey was a great encouragement to me. You wrote it five years ago; what has the journey been like for the last five years?
SC: Like we were talking about, we are much more realistic. I think if I were to change anything in the book, I would be more specific and say, "This is a great book for people with elementary age kids."
We have some special needs in our family. We have very artistic children, and with a strong gift you will often have a weakness in another area. So we have got weaknesses, and to give that attention requires a lot of time. I have become more realistic about what is required of me. I cannot do it all.
Q: One of the strengths of your book that comes out clearly is that you respect the individuality of your children.
SC: Yes, and you are going to pay a price when you start looking at the individual because it takes twice as much time. You have to really listen to their life.
Q: You mention in your book and in concert about developing a lifestyle of listening, but it is a challenge to listen well.
MC: Listening is hard work. You think you are not doing anything, but you are doing more work than the person who is talking. People almost never say what they mean, so you have to listen to what they don't say and you have to invest a lot of time. It is a time intensive thing.
Q: And it requires time when I am functioning. By the evening, my eyes are drooping and I am trying to look attentive as they are sharing their heart with me. I try not to fall asleep.
MC: They get the leftovers! I can say that is something Susan is very good at, especially this whole business of what they don't say. I am pretty good at interpreting what they do say, but Susan is the one who has great intuition about where they are. I think we balance each other. I will take them literally every time and make them change their language to suit me. Susan is the one who can read everything, it seems, at the same time, and she is able to say, "That's not what they mean. I know that is what they said, but it is not what they mean." And, so, maybe God had a plan, putting the two of us together.
Q: You now have teenagers. Can you give us some wisdom for those years of parenting? I have a 12-year-old daughter, so we are almost there.
SC: Both you and your husband contribute different things. I am finding with teenagers that they need time alone with their parents. She needs time alone with her dad, but she also needs it with you because you are the one shaping her as a woman. What I had to be told to do with our daughter was, "Go shopping with her. Go out and have some fun." I realized that every time I was with her, we always had a younger sibling tagging along. It was good for someone to say, "Single her out, and give her that time." We did such fun things. Talking about listening – well, I find out more about the kids when I take them out by themselves and do something fun. That is when they start talking.
MC: Will is our other teenager. We just started taking karate together about four or five months ago. The whole value of doing that is the drive there and the drive back. He talks and never takes a breath. From my perspective, the thing about teenagers is not to buy into what the world says about those years. I remember what they said about the terrible twos. We had four kids and I didn't think any of them were terrible. The same is true with teenagers. I enjoy them being teenagers; they are a lot more interesting.
SC: I was asked by a friend the other day, "What have you done fun this week?" She will give me this lecture on having moments with the family and moments with the kids. The irony is that Mike and I spent about five Christmases in a row trying to reintroduce that to our parents. We were buying things for them that they enjoyed when they were young just to remind them of when they were younger. It is funny; it is much harder to apply it to yourself. Whenever we can, we're trying to encourage that in each other. I try and tell Mike, "Go fish with Scott ... do something that wakes that back up in yourself." And then you get so practical. You're trying to be wise with your money, you are trying to do everything right.
MC: I am gone on the weekends and I am not going to come home and say, "Bye, kids, I am going fishing!" I cannot do that.
SC: You know everyone has different circumstances, but basically we are all saying the same thing. One of the things that might help is starting traditions where every first – first snow day, first day of summer break, first whatever – we do something special. It becomes an event that you look forward to, and you will hear the kids say, "Oh, remember when we did this and did that?" If it becomes a tradition, then it doesn't require so much energy to maintain it; it is just what we do.
MC: The traditional element gives you permission to do it.
Michael and Susan Card live in Tennessee with their four children. Michael Card's latest book, Scribbling in the Sand, was recently honored as the only book by an evangelical publisher to make Publisher's Weekly's prestigious list of the "Best Religion Books of 2002." For more information about Michael Card, click here.
Diane Wheeler is senior staff writer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and lives in Placerville, Calif., with her husband, John, and their five children.
Interview used with permission from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Spring 2003 edition.