Magnetic Lessons at 5 AM

January has always meant ‘science fair time’ for me. My youngest son is now a part of the yearly event, although he is only in the fifth grade. My four children and I (with a lot of help from my wife) have built, designed, and implemented many projects over the years. Some were unique and placed well, and some could be construed as only ‘mailing it in’ on our part as parents in order to simply earn a grade and get by for another year. All of the projects were worthwhile and resulted in a good grade or two. I’ve wondered a lot about the science fair. When you are talking about children of elementary school age, how much can a teacher really expect? I think it is an attempt more so to see what the parents know and what they can do in the end – part of a vast educational conspiracy that we can barely scratch the surface of.

I know these things. You see, for several years now the school system has called upon my company to provide judges for the competitions. I have taken my turn at both viewing and critiquing literally thousands of projects produced (supposedly) by children of all ages; from kindergarten through high school. It's not rocket science to determine which child received the most parental help on their projects in those instances. But who am I to judge? (No pun intended)

This year I helped Tyler build a DC motor using magnets and a coil of wire. We powered the device with a battery and it actually works as designed – that’s always a good thing. The concept is simple enough to grasp and he has done a remarkable job to this point by understanding the operation and the physics behind it. Basically you have a permanent magnet creating a field of attraction, and you force the coil of wire, by using small doses of electricity, to become an electromagnet. The attraction and repulsion of the two magnetic fields, one permanent and one temporary, causes the coil of wire to spin. Tyler understands the principle, he can operate the device, and I have coached him well on what to say to the judges. We are set.

But there is something more here, at least in my mind, than merely another science fair project. This morning I got up early as I always do, long before my wife and the kids were up and the house was still abnormally quiet. I connected the battery and checked the operation one more time, because you can never be too sure. I see it in the faces of children when I judge a fair, the rampant and crushing dismay when a project they have worked very hard to construct fails to operate as advertised by their paperwork. One helpful spin of the coil by my fingers this morning and instantly the laws of physics came into play. The coil began turning rapidly; magnetic fields attracting and opposing each other in a display that would have made Einstein palpitate. Maybe that’s a stretch, but you get where I’m coming from. In that quiet moment I caught a glimpse of how God works in my life. God is always there if you take the time to look for him.

In my life, I have a constant and permanent magnet that draws me closer to Him. Jesus is always there, continuous, and reminds me of what I should do while guiding me along the paths I must travel in order to reach maturity as a Christian. I on the other hand, in my mortal body, am not permanent in my desire to do the right things and follow the correct routes. I get energized on Sunday and fall by the wayside on Monday. Sadly, this happens on an almost habitual basis in my life; I can almost predict it – the man who prays on Sunday but then loses his temper on Monday, and so on. The result is a spiritual life that closely resembles that spinning coil of wire; ever spinning and yet going nowhere.

James writes: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” What makes the coil spin rapidly in Tyler’s science project? Electricity flowing through the coil that is turned on and off in a regular sequence. If the electricity stayed on, the coil would lock in one position; in perfect alignment with the permanent and stable magnet on the base. I need that perfect alignment with Jesus and His laws to be more a part of my everyday life. How can I do this? By allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through me, constantly. And by not allowing my heart and the cares of this world to block or otherwise impede that flow.

Good luck, Tyler!

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