"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Seasons change....

My first child graduated from homeschooling this weekend. 

I find it hard to believe that: I could be this old, he could be this old, we finished the race, he's going away to college... all of the above. 

My second son is firmly entrenched in Catholic school.

My third may go to Catholic school too, not this coming year, but possibly the next.

And I find it hard to imagine myself not homeschooling.  And I find it liberating at the same time.  What will I do?  Of course, always the planner, a few ideas have crossed my mind. 

Become fluent (really fluent) in a foreign language.  French first, then maybe Korean.
Get a full time job?  A PhD and a real teaching gig?  Plant an Anglican high school in western PA?  (Anybody want to help with that??)  Start a non-profit organization for language and cultural exchange with people in nations who have no other access for cultural exchange but need good English skills in an ever changing business world?  Again, all of the above.  Really.  but no, that's impossible.

So maybe over the course of the next year, if you'll indulge me, I might wonder aloud about who I need to be for the next phase of the journey.  And am I too old for this (whatever "this" is).  I never realized I'd still be in the process of "becoming" after 40.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Advice for Students

Coming up on final exams in so many school contexts has me thinking about what advice I would give to today's college and seminary students.  A word from the other side of the desk or computer screen, perhaps, is in order.  So if the reader would allow me to be so bold:

A word of advice for students (especially online students, especially my online students):

1.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Ask me to clarify an assignment or an idea.  Your success is my success, quite literally in this field.   Your questions enable me to succeed and my answers should do the same for you.  An instructor who doesn't understand the difference between being an active question-asker and being a nuisance has no business teaching human beings.

2.  Do not be afraid to disagree and read critically.  Your grade may be lowered by knee-jerk responses, but a well thought out and crafted disagreement should be respected by any instructor who hopes some day to welcome some of his students as peers and colleagues.  You do not have to love the textbook I assigned.  In fact, I may not have loved it either to have considered it important for you to read. 

3.  Show your enthusiasm.  Students who are excited about the material and want to discuss it with their professors and classmates are not pests, they're why we are excited to start work every day.  Be one!

4.  Turn in papers early and often.  If your instructor has time to give you feedback before the due date (we don't always, but many of us will try) take it!  Papers where the instructor has invested his time and expertise will always be better papers and be more kindly graded.

5.  Engage your senses.  When material is hard to understand, read it out loud.  It slows you down and engages both the eyes and the ears in reading so that your brain can marinate more in the material.  Best advice I ever got from the meanest professor I ever endured.

6.  Seek relationship.  Even (perhaps especially) in online classes.  Don't just come to class, do your thing and leave.  Connect with your classmates.  Kvetch with them if you like.  It lets you know you weren't the only one who found that last quiz to be a challenge, that last paper a bear.  Stay after class to ask the prof a question if you have one.  Find a study buddy, even if that person is in another state or country.  Read your instructor's and fellow students' biographies in their online profiles; learn what you have in common outside of class.  Connections like that will keep you at the table when the going gets rough.

7.  If at first you don't succeed, swallow your pride and ask what you did wrong.  Teachers who "bleed" all over your papers do so because they care enough to see you do a better job next time.  If you don't get timely feedback from your instructor, it is your right and responsibility to request it.

8.  Not all red ink is criticism.  I love to talk to my students in the margins of their papers.  Some of it is a serious show of enthusiasm.  And I do grade in red.  I'm old school, and I like my words to stand out.  Don't just look at the final grade and the length of comments and toss the paper aside.  I cared enough to read your paper, you can care enough to read my comments.

9.  Despite the old saying, it is better to ask permission than forgiveness.  If you need an extension on a paper ask for one, don't just turn it in late.  If you have a serious cause, many instructors are gracious and will work with you so that you can keep the standard of the course and your sanity, both.  Do not expect a free ride, but in serious cases you can expect us to facilitate your best work.  If you ask, the worst that can happen is a "no."  If you don't ask, the best that can happen is a late penalty.

10.  Google with caution.  The internet is a vast clearinghouse for material that could not be legitimately published anywhere else.  There are some amazing resources out there, but also a lot of junk.  Online students often suffer from a lack of access to a good scholarly library and good internet resources can be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Ask your instructor for trustworthy direction and for goodness sake stay off of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A weather sijo.

Looking out my window, I watch the soft, white, heavy snow
Drip, drip, drip, melting away into nothing, little by little.
Victory at last!  At least until I check the forecast.

Police: Man Conspired To Have His Unborn Baby Killed « CBS Pittsburgh

Police: Man Conspired To Have His Unborn Baby Killed « CBS Pittsburgh

So lets think about this for a minute...

A man attempts to hire someone to murder his unborn child.
And its a "horrific crime."
Says the news reporter.
And she's right.  It is.

A woman attempts to hire someone to murder her unborn child
And it is legal and an advertised "service."
Its a "choice."
The people say.

But how, from the point of view of the child, is it different?

In a way, it is the ultimate sexism.  The man is held responsible for his actions.
The woman gets handed a tissue, they pat her hand, and say "there, there, dearie, you couldn't help it."

Friday, February 27, 2015

God didn't ask what you think....

In Bible study last night with my congregation, we were focused on the passage "present your bodies as a living sacrifice."  Somehow I tweaked out the notion that "your bodies are worthy and good and beautiful."  There was a sense in the room that nobody had been told this before.   That nobody thought of heaven as physical and worship as incarnational and sacraments as material.  That this was new.

And the big question that hung in the air was "really? my body?"  Most of them have aches and pains (our church meets in a nursing home, so what do you expect is our demographic?) and don't think of their bodies as beautiful or good anymore. 

Beauty, after all, has become a lie our culture sells us.

But funny, back in Genesis 1, God didn't ask our opinion.   When  declaring all creation good, even very good, he didn't turn to Adam and Eve and ask, "so what do you think?"  Eve didn't get to ask to be skinnier.  Adam didn't ask for Eve to have longer hair and rounder hips.  Adam didn't get to look in a mirror and flex a bit before declaring his consent to the layout of his muscles and bones.  Nope, just here you go, its very good. 

We worry a lot these days about body image and public opinion.  I think we may be fundamentally wrong.  For the Christian, your body is good.  God made you to bear his image.  Jesus took on your physical nature and bears your image into paradise.  You can work, worship, and play. 

Suffering is not good, and you may suffer in the body.  But the reason suffering is no good is that it stands in contrast to what your body is.  Your body is good, noble, beautiful.  You are a hand painted icon of God.

And you're called to be a steward over that body.  You can never make it not-good, but you can cause it to wear out before its time. 

I think as so many of us try to give up chocolate, sweets, during Lent, secretly hoping to lose weight to make our bodies more "perfect" this may be a helpful thought.  Your body is good, very good.  You may need to discipline yourself to lose weight to steward that body (and perhaps Lent is a fine time for that, if it is a matter of worship and faithfulness) but not to shape it, carve it into what the fallen world thinks is beauty. 

Because you are already beautiful.  It is very good indeed.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Its been a long time since we've had a sijo.

Nothing more beautiful in the morning than a curling,
Rolling, rising, mist, fogging my glasses and warming senses,
Rising like prayers of dark, scented incense-- a cup of coffee.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday Unplugged... and somewhat silent.

Okay, so I have laryngitis.  Delightful.
Saturday was a joyful, incredible day, with an ordination in the morning and a Happening (teen ministry) event lasting late into the evening.  I left home early Saturday morning and arrived home in the wee hours of Sunday.   Thankfully I can generally get by on little sleep.

On the ride home from Happening, I began to lose my voice.  Not a common thing for me.  Not amusing.  So much for reading the Gospel or much of anything else useful in church the next day. I woke up Sunday morning with nothing more than a whisper.

To make matters more fun, we had planned to spend the entire day with the kids unplugged, no internet, no cell phones, nothing.  We had planned to go get a Christmas tree, decorate it, play games, make hot chocolate.

Cough, cough,  whisper, whisper.  Yeah, I'm kind of useless.

But in the end it was a blessing. My middle child offered to be my voice so I could join in the goofy games.  My own enforced quiet caused the world to seem quieter by evening.  And my compete inability to be useful in church is a reminder that we aren't loved by God for our usefulness, but because we just are. 

Yes, I was going a little stir crazy (still am) from the lack of both vocal and typewritten communications.  But I was reminded that there wasn't anything that couldn't wait until the working week.  Enforced priorities are not always a bad thing.

So today I'm much improved.  I can squeak and sound like a teenaged boy.   This is not amusing.  But I should be back in the rat race by tomorrow.

I'm not sure that's a good thing.