It is not your first failures or your latest success that define you but it is the accumulation of experiences that become the gems from which you weave the necklace of your life. Sometimes the failures shine and sparkle more brightly than the successes because from them you learn lessons of incalculable value. Sometimes our successes come so easily because they are built on our God-given talents that we have little perspective on their magnitude. People watching you operate in your gifts – whatever they are, singing, dancing, writing, business, speaking, teaching … – are awed by the performance because it may be at a level beyond their abilities or dreams. And yet you take this gift for granted, not in a negative sense but in the same sense that the fish looks at water, or the eagle the sky. It is a given of your existence.

The challenge for talented people (and each of us have absolutely different talents) is to use the gift to build beyond the easy, to push, to learn, to change, to transform, to create the work of art that is “our” life. We can treat our ocean-going vessels as rowboats keeping near the shore or we can unfurl the sails and let the winds of our talent take us to far-a-way places and amazing adventures. Every journey into the unknown has its own dangers whether it’s storms or rocks (or in the days of sailing no winds where you just sit and wait – I think that would be called patience!)

There is something worse than failure – it is knowing that you haven’t pushed the boundaries of your talents. It is that you took this amazing gift and buried it. We have made failure the boogey man of life without explain to our children that failure is often the foundation and stepping stones to success.

History is full of stories of success built upon failure – Edison and the light bulb, the life of Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill. Failure does not define you but what you do after failure frames the definition of your success. Ironically, it is failure (or the possibility) that gives zest to life. When my children were young and were learning to play board games losing would bring them to tears and frustration. (They are like their parents who like to win.) So, we would start over. I would let them go first. They would roll the dice and I would announce that they were the winner. They looked at me strange. “Let’s play again.” And we would repeat the same scenario. After doing that several times I would ask “Is this fun?” Of course they said “No.” (I also could read their minds –“You’re crazy Dad.”) “So, is it just winning or playing that’s fun?”

That is the question each of us must ask ourselves – is it just winning or playing that’s fun? Don’t get me wrong winning is wonderful and losing sucks but you can’t win meaningfully unless you are in the arena. Great artists (and you are the great artist of your life because no one can paint it like you or compose your songs) use their talents as a base from which to build being personally driven to greater heights and depths.

The world makes fame and beauty and money the determination of success but when you are sick or lonely or hurting isn’t it the nurse, the pastor or the teacher who embodies what real success is? Being there, using their gifts to comfort and bless others. As a Christian Montessori teacher our success is rarely measured in time but will only be revealed in eternity. God asks if you are willing to let Him determine the definition of your life’s success.

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

The Montessori answer to the quandary of the Arameans

Arameans? Don’t you mean Armenians? How about Argentinians? Austrians? Australians? No, Arameans! But they lived 875 B.C. That’s 2750 years B.M.M. (Before Maria Montessori.) Our very ancient quandary has answers in our Montessori roots. The Arameans were neighbors in the vicinity of the Kingdom of Israel in ancient Palestine. As kingdoms were wont to do they went to war with each other. God delivered Israel from Ben-Hadad and the Arameans but the next year Ben-Hadad returned again with just as large an army as the previous year. I Kings 20:23 shares this conversation. “Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they.”
The Aramenas, like many educators, make the mistake of believing God is only God of the hills (translation: He is only God of “spiritual” things.) Montessori starts from a very Biblical base (after all, God gave Montessori the inspiration and insight) that all things are inter-related. Colossians 1:16-17, “All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” In Montessori we build on foundations that come from multiple disciplines – one thing builds on another, almost seamlessly.
We all have had teachers (or maybe even ourselves) who saw no interconnectedness of one discipline with another. A sort of God of the hills attitude. However, we are blessed to be able (and encouraged) to make all the connections of learning and life. Math is an example of order and logic – two of the great attributes of God. We muddy it up when we insist on children memorizing times tables or algebra equations without sharing with them the beauty of its construction or its use. My favorite story from our Montessori friend Betty Golightly, A little boy comes out to the playground and tells Mrs. Golightly excitedly, “Do you know that 2 plus 3 is the same as 3 plus 2?” We have a treasure in Montessori math.
How can you teach science without the wonder of creation? Just look at the botany cabinet with its variety of shapes and forms. Shame on us when we make it a lesson of only learning the names instead of highlighting the absolute creativity that God put into nature. Chemistry, zoology, astronomy all contain seeds (and forests) of wonder. Do we avail ourselves of the opportunity to point to the Creator and remark on the artistry that is contained everywhere we look. Art is an expression of man’s reflection of a beauty-loving god. Music contains both science and art, aesthetics, logic and pleasure.
If we teach history as dates and places without the context of men’s hopes and dreams we rob history of its power to show God at work in our everyday lives. History is what we had for breakfast this morning (some things are more important than others – unless you missed breakfast this morning – then that is important.) Where you live is part of history, how mom and dad met is a significant part of history (otherwise you wouldn’t be here.) Education, jobs, grandma and grandpa, family, church are all significant parts of a personal history. As you mature, your view of history expands and you see your life as part of a greater reality.
In traditional education we kill language. We rob it of its beauty and power by dissecting it to find nouns and verbs without ever putting it back together to make poetry and prose. We give children no sense of the power of words to bless (and curse) to encourage, inspire, inform and illuminate. Language is the expression of the thoughts of men’s minds and hearts. Language often leads to action. The ultimate

Blessing the children of El Salvador

A fantastic opportunity to bless little children in El Salvador.
This is the first time that we have had a project that we want you to consider being directly involved.
We have been introduced to a little country pastor who wants to start a Christian Montessori school. Her church is about an hour outside of San Salvador. She started her church under a tree. God helped her buy property, then pour a floor, build walls put on a roof and doors and windows. She told us that she was willing to build a school building. When we went out to visit her church we were amazed. We expected maybe a small room as her church. Her building is over 2000 sq. feet. We told her that she didn’t need to build a new building for the school because we could put it right in the church itself.
Now for those of you who know how much work we do in Montessori on the floor you will appreciate the observation Barbara made – we need a tile floor instead of this rough concrete. Many of you have classrooms or church groups who want to help. So we are dividing the floor into 2000 tiles at a dollar each. This is a tremendous way to bless these children and to bless the faith of Pastor Tomasita. (She rides the bus in for training each week for two hours and then two hours home. The other day in class my husband asked her what she has gained from the class. “So many things. I even share them with my people in the church. I feel like Alice in Wonderland seeing so many beautiful things I’ve never seen before in my life with all these materials and all of this training.”
We have already been blessed with people wanting to share materials for “Christian Montessori School of San Marino.” Our friends at Montessori Services, Montessori Outlet among others have shared materials for the classroom. Other friends are volunteering to send gently used materials. It is a great big undertaking but the impact will be even bigger. Additional money’s raised will be used for tables, chairs, shelves, training and the myriad of things needed to complete a Montessori classroom.
If you would like to take part, or have a Sunday school class, Montessori classroom or church that might like to participate let us know. Donations may be sent to Christian Montessori Fellowship 24165 IH 10 W. Ste 217-117 San Antonio, TX 78257 or made online at

Thank you for your prayerful consideration of blessing the children of El Salvador.
Barbara and Edward Fidellow

Montessori – More than we bargained for!

While the privilege of working in Christian Montessori brings reward more than we imagined, it also brings challenges more than we bargained for. When you embark on the ministry of Montessori (everything is a ministry if you are doing it for God) you enter into a spiritual realm and a spiritual arena. In this arena are competing philosophies, dimensions and realities. When you seek to do God’s work there are antagonistic forces lined up against you. Without being melodramatic (but real) there is an enemy of our souls and of the precious lives that we are seeking to nurture. When things go wrong (and they do); when days go bad (and they do); when things are harder than they need to be – there is opposition to the eternal work that flows out of a Christian Montessori environment.

Are you that important? Is your work that important that you merit opposition and resistance to the spiritual labor that you are performing? To the degree of opposition is the degree of importance. God looks at these precious children (some days only He can see their preciousness) knowing their eternal value and He trusts us to help them along the way. The world really puts little value on children – they don’t vote, bring home paychecks, cure cancer or build monuments, yet, there is something so precious about them and their faith that God bends His ear to hear their prayers, to instruct their angels to guard them and to put us in their life for the brief time He allows us to help guide, protect, instruct, train and nurture them.

If there are extreme challenges and difficulties in the ministry it is because we are fighting a great battle in the heavenlies for the lives and souls of these children. It may be more than we bargained for but it is an eternal bargain for which God has every confidence in us. The greater the battle – the greater the victory. The greater the opposition – the greater the importance. It may be more than we bargained for but a small price to pay “to bring many to glory.” Heb. 2:10

Montessori – More than we can imagine!

The scriptures tell us that God has plans and actions that are greater than we can imagine. I now find that scripture even more compelling in Christian Montessori than ever before. At the beginning of our Montessori journey we are wowed with just the educational possibilities. As our experiences expand we begin to see changes in the actions and characteristics of the child that are amazing.

As our confidence grows our desire to meet all of the child’s needs – especially the spiritual needs – leads us into a whole new realm of Montessori. It is no longer just about education. It is no longer just about independence, normalization or character formation. It becomes a doorway to eternity where we profoundly touch the child’s spirit and introduce them to a life in the Creator – the life they were born to live.

When we reach this point in our Christian Montessori journey (looking at the privilege of leading children to Him) we get a glimpse of Dr. Montessori’s inspiration, “I feel that God gave me this method in order to advance the kingdom of God …” Our secular Montessori friends bring children all the way up to this spiritual doorway but without Jesus they may put their hands on the doorknob but cannot open it or lead the children through it.

The privilege that we have been given in our daily work not only changes and impacts our children in time but helps form and guide their eternal destiny. It is more than we can imagine.

The Tuning Fork

Most of us remember the science experiment with tuning forks. One tuning fork is struck to make it vibrate and across the room another tuning fork begins to resonate because it responds to the same “wave length.” The tuning fork is an apt analogy for our entrance into Montessori teaching. There are four ways that this happens. First, when we are introduced to Montessori there is something within the philosophy, the materials, the demonstrations that resonates with us. It could be emotional, intellectual or spiritual but when we see it or feel it or touch it – it speaks to us – and we are “home”. The second, is when there is something within us (maybe it is the teacher’s feeling that “there’s got to be a better way”) and we come upon it in Montessori – the feeling of “I found it” is an overwhelming joy. And again we feel at “home” because the missing pieces of our life come together.

Joy is the overwhelming feeling of Montessori for both child and teacher but there is a third dynamic of the tuning fork. That dynamic comes into play (which is a great word) when that wave length, that vibe extends between you and the child. When you are given the grace to see into the child’s heart, into the child’s being and everything you do speaks to a deeper work than what we call “teaching”. It is this spiritual dynamic of Montessori that is so profound. It is beyond training (but it starts with training), it is experiential but is not always an experience that you can replicate. It is being prepared. It is the prepared environment of our own souls, the prepared environment of our own spirit. And that brings us to the fourth dynamic of the tuning fork – that is when our hearts vibrate to the very heart beat of God. This is why Christian Montessori teachers need to understand the need of the fruit of the spirit within our own prepared environment. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These do not come from us but flow to us and through us. This is not just a result of our training or our experiences but it is at the very heart of God loving the world through us, changing us, transforming us, setting us on fire with His love, and that fire warms our children’s hearts; that fire is reflected in their eyes and lights up their lives.

Montessori is God’s inspiration coming from his heart to embrace His children – both big and small – sharing His love and His good pleasure as we make our way in the world – in tune with Him.

Owning to Rent

When we made our last move it was necessary to downsize. So many treasures of our life would not fit into our new home. It was time to let go. So we did the estate sale/garage sale and waited for our treasures to be appreciated, valued – and paid for. Ask too much – nobody buys. Ask too little and you feel a stab in your heart (and your wallet) that nobody “treasures” your treasures. No matter what you paid for it there are few things that you can own that will appreciate – a Renoir or a Monet or a chair from Louis XIV – have a chance of being valuable. But your furniture, your art work, your china will only bring you pennies on the dollar. What are you supposed to do? You trade it away.

This is an analogy of our life – we “own” it; we use it; we spend it – and at some point we count up what it is worth. What we can get for what is left. We are all familiar with “renting to own.” We can have it now and own it later – at a substantially greater cost.

“Owning to rent” is a more difficult concept to process. Yes, we paid the price. Now it is ours to enjoy and use but when it comes time to sell we are surprised that it “cost” us. There is no free ride or free lunch. We don’t get back what we put in to it. You buy a $100 pair of shoes, if you wear them once a week it costs you $2 every time you wear them. If you wear them for a second year it only costs you $1 each time you wear them. If they don’t wear out you have reduced your cost per wear significantly but nobody will pay you $100 for them. (Of course you understand I am talking about men’s shoes.)

The equations are different for women. If you have 10 or 20 pair your rate of usage is once or twice per month at a cost of $4 – $8 per usage. If you keep them more than a year your cost goes down but the style may change which changes the equation again.

Everything has a cost of usage – your body, your mind, your heart, a lifetime of good works. When you come to an accounting at the end – there often isn’t much “value” left. The ultimate value is counted on what you traded for – the lives you’ve touched, the lives that were transformed, the good you did – the blessing you were. The life you “owned” is the one you rented out to bosses and businesses, to friends and family, to church and community and ultimately to God.

Our challenge is to turn the life we “rented” out into an eternal investment whose value is incalculable – an investment where moth and rust do not destroy. This is best reflected by Jim Elliot, the martyr missionary, to the Auca Indians. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

The Strange Things God Asks Us to Do

Obedience is sometimes (?) a challenge when God asks you to do something that seems contrary to the norm or to our reality. It makes you want to stop and ask – “Really?”
The scriptures are full of “one off” requests. Requests that can’t seem to be real. Gideon is called to lead an army while hiding (Judges 6 – 7.) The angel had to keep a straight face when he called Gideon a “mighty man of valor.” Gideon then gathered an army. (No general ever feels he has enough troops.) Gideon is told to tell those who are afraid to leave – and they do, all twenty two thousand of them. Then God tells Gideon you still have too many men. Can you envision the conversation? Gideon is trying to shake the wax out of his ears. “I’ve got too many?” Unbelievable! Gideon finally gets down to three hundred “dog lappers.” Mighty man of valor – you’ve got to be kidding.

Elijah is called to prepare the sacrifice in his contest with the prophets of Baal. When it is his turn, he pours water on the wood and the sacrifice. And he does it again and again. (How do you expect the wood to burn when it is soaking wet?) And God sends the fire and burns up the sacrifice, the wood, the water and even the stones. Wow! (I Kings 18)

What about walking around Jericho seven times or dipping in the Jordan seven times? Each an unbelievable request for a spiritual victory.

My new favorite story is Jesus asking his disciples to be horse thieves – well more accurately donkey borrowers. It appears to be about the same. He tells them to go get this donkey that they will find tied up. He doesn’t tell them to ask to borrow it but just to go get it. Now Jesus says a lot of amazing things and crazy things too if you include drinking his blood and eating his flesh but – go take the donkey – just take it! Oh by the way if any one asks say the Master needs him.

I don’t know about you but this has to be a “one-off” assignment. This cannot be right – just take the donkey. I can see me going up to the donkey trying to hunch my shoulders to be less visible. Heck, to be invisible would be wonderful at this point. I can see the disciples untie the donkey and start to walk away. I bet they wanted to run as fast they could. Just then, someone growls, “Hey, where are you going with the donkey?” They turn – deer in the headlights – and stammer “The Master has need of him.” “Oh! Okay!” Can you imagine the relief that comes to them? Their shoulders untighten, their faces relax – whew!

What about those “donkeys” in our lives that God tells us to get? What about those things we don’t understand but know that it is God who is asking us to go and comeback with a donkey? Could our Montessori calling be one of those moments? Could your work with difficult co-workers, parents or children be one of those moments?

The Master has need of donkeys and people and treasure. He has need of you – right where you are.

And the Perfume Filled the House

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:1-3

This is an amazing tale of love and devotion from a woman who always seemed to be in trouble. Not bad trouble but trouble that comes from misunderstandings or not living up to other people’s expectations. She got in trouble for sitting at Jesus’ feet, she got in trouble for wanting to learn; she got in trouble for worshiping at his feet. She even got in trouble for an offering of exorbitant value. She got in trouble with her family and friends, from the disciples and the family of God.

What prompted her lavish act of devotion and love? What were the promptings in her life to even buy such a luxurious gift? What did she think she was going to do with it? How did she earn the money – a year’s worth of labor? Who buys such luxury just to have it sitting around?

These might be similar questions to the decisions that we make in our own life. “Why would you have done that?” “Why would you have chosen that?” “What were you thinking?” Like Mary, we may not have been able to answer the questions because so many things in our life that are God-prompted have no rationale for us today.

There she was. There was Jesus. This wasn’t the first time that He had been with them. What prompted her now to do this act of devotion? (There are always more questions in life than there are answers.) But here is a question that might have an answer. Why are you in Montessori? The ultimate answer always is God but what were the intermediate steps that brought you to your environment?

Your Montessori life is an elaborate (often costly) series of decisions – things you could have done; places you could have gone; things you could have been, but your choice was to put your life in a Montessori environment. Many people do not understand your life’s work. Why would you choose such a different (exotic?) way of teaching and living. You have to explain it over and over again and still many don’t understand it.

As you enter this way of teaching (and living) you note that it requires much more of you. It is not just your mind that gets trained (and transformed) but to be a good Montessori teacher your whole life changes. Your heart, your soul, your emotions all begin a process of transformation. You do not remain as you were when you started. You cannot help but change to accomplish the “mission” to which you have been called. Montessori is no longer just about teaching but about helping children to become what God is calling them to be.

Like Mary, you pour out the perfume of your life. Day by day, you lavish your life on your children. The most valuable and costly thing you have – your life – you give and give and give. Your heavenly Father sees the pouring out of your life as a sweet perfume – and that perfume of love fills the house of your children. Mary’s perfume prepared Jesus for His death; your perfume prepares your children for life.

“And the perfume filled the house.”

Practiced Amnesia – Not Remembering What God Forgot

What every child needs is a teacher (parent, friend) with practiced amnesia. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease robbing us of our mind and memories but practiced amnesia is a gift we give to our relationships. God is the author of practiced amnesia.

Our challenge is not to remember the things that God forgot. Heb. 8:12, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Paul says in Phil.3:13 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” How often we remember our sins (and those of others) and beat ourselves up over our past. There is a process in forgiveness that is illustrated in the Prodigal Son. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” When we sin, we ask God for His forgiveness and then against those we have wronged. If we need to make restitution or recompense we do it and move on. Jesus has paid the bill for our sins. We don’t need to hang around and try to pay it again. Do not burden yourself with past failures. If you have asked for forgiveness –God doesn’t even remember – why should you?

What would our relationships be like if each morning we introduced ourselves again to our students (our spouse, our children)? “Good morning. I am Mr. Fidellow and who are you?” “It is so good to meet you.” And each morning we start all over in discovering who this student is. Practiced amnesia is also selective amnesia. Phil. 4:8 gives us direction in what to remember – “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praise worthy – think about such things.”

If every day in our classroom we would look at our children through the eyes of Christ we would treat them as new creations of the day. What happens when they stumble and fall? Back to the Prodigal Son – “I have sinned against heaven and against you.” First, they ask for God’s forgiveness and then to the one they hurt. If there are consequences that need to be met, let the child meet them and then go on. A classroom note: “Sorry” is not repentance nor restitution. It is a band aid word to get me out of trouble. Sorry I got caught, sorry I didn’t hit you twice or whatever. Real repentance starts with acknowledgment of what I did wrong and then a heartfelt “Please forgive me.” This is not conjured up immediately. It takes time (and the child needs time to process their actions and the consequences and their heartfelt response.) And when it is over – it is over.

A personal note: Forgive and forget may not be a Biblical phrase but it is certainly a Biblical concept. Our challenge is that it is so hard to forget and that is why we keep having to practice forgiveness until we forget. Betrayal, distrust, failure and loss are all part of the human experience – forgiveness is part of the divine experience. A pastor friend once shared that even though we need to forgive, we all don’t need to work in the same vineyard.
If God can forgive – and forget our sins how much should we be like Him? I Cor. 13:7 “Love always hopes.” If every day you start with a clean slate of forgiveness what wonderful things lie ahead for both you and your students. If you come to school with your own slate clean; if you carry no useless burdens, how free is your heart to live and love and learn?