Monthly Archives: July 2010

It’s good to be gotten

One of my good friends came by to see me in my classroom today.  I was working on a few ideas, away from my sweet, noisy family.

I had lent her a book that I read this summer, one that I particularly loved: “Chasing Francis.” She had texted me the first day that she had it to say that she liked it very much.

“How’s the book going?” I asked.

“I am loving it.”

“I thought you just might.” She so has the make-up of someone who would love the contemplative lifestyle.

“Yeah.” she offered. “A friend of mine told me the other day, “You are a mystic! Did you know that? You all about connecting to God in places, like specific places and all.””

My friend laughed and said, “She is exactly right, I am a mystic.”

I love having my friend around. She makes me feel not so strange, not so out there. She gets me. I remember when we first met many years ago now. One of the first real things she said to me was, ” I’ve been watching you, reading what you write, listening to you talk to people – I get you.”

She didn’t know it, but it was maybe one of the most important things that anyone had ever said, had just volunteered to me. It turned a key in me, here…in this place, this hard, rocky place which felt nothing like home – where even the ground seemed to resist me.

I don’t think you have to be just like someone to “get” them. I think you just have to be open to see them in all their glory, for who they really are. My friend is an inspiration to me, to try to do that also – to “get” the students that I teach… to watch and listen so as to let God render a bit of who they might be – in all their glory.

It’s good to be gotten, really good.

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Creed

I read an article today about the necessity of creed in the spiritual formation of young people. The host of the blog in which the article was relayed did not believe that youth were truly capable of digesting creed. I tend to disagree. Creed for me, growing up Methodist, was the first thing I really got, in my gut, got. Creed is not specific doctrine derived from specific views and orientations of scriptural thought, but generalities of beliefs which bring both unity to the Church and help dot a line of community about us.

Creed is uniquely beautiful, as much poetry as prose. It is stark and yet subtle. It is clear, but it leaves room for many opinions and impressions of just Who God might be. I miss creed spoken together, affirmed aloud amongst the brethren.

KOREAN CREED

Minister:

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the one true Church, apostolic and universal, whose holy faith let us now declare:

Minister and People:

We believe in the one God, maker and ruler of all things, Father of all men, the source of all goodness and beauty, all truth and love.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, our teacher, example, and Redeemer, the Savior of the world.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, God present with us for guidance, for comfort, and for strength.

We believe in the forgiveness of sins, in the life of love and prayer, and in grace equal to every need.

We believe in the Word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments as the sufficient rule both of faith and of practice.

We believe in the Church as the fellowship for worship and for service of all who are united to the living Lord.

We believe in the kingdom of God as the divine rule in human society, and in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

We believe in the final triumph of righteousness, and in the life everlasting.

Amen.

Amen, indeed.

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deep greens and blues

I grew up going to Panama City Beach every summer with my parents and sister. There is nothing like the squeak of that sand, the brilliant  greens and blues of its sea and sky. Panama City is brightly beautiful. Sun glasses are a requirement at PC. My older eyes cannot exit the room anything but blind apart from them.

My kids are getting old enough for me to let them play in the waves: boogie boarding and body surfing, while I sit on a bluff carved by the morning tide. Usually, I ride every wave as well. But yesterday, I took the opportunity to sit and stare out into the deep greens and blues. The sky was cornflower colored with wisps of white and the water had that sunburned brilliance that is so hard to communicate to those who have never seen our gulf. I tried to drink in those colors, stain my mind with the pigments…afraid that the sea will dim, will be dank the next time I make my way there.

I have stood along the stony shores of Maine, the waves dark and threatening. I have tiptoed the cool waters of Cape Cod’s finger. I have ridden good, strong waves at Myrtle Beach, seen the brown, sandy trails of sea turtles at Hilton Head, come to know the specific briny perfumes of Jekyll, St. Simons, and Cumberland. I have driven down Daytona, searched for shells at St. Pete and found sanctuary from a named storm at Madeira. I have dug my feet deep into gray-brown sand above Santa Rosa and felt the 747 sounds of the Pacific roar through me. I love the beauty of all of these beaches…New England’s steel grays, the South Atlantic’s muted blue greens, the Golden isles sepia tones, but nothing cuts through like the color of our gulf – blinding beauty – stronger than even our sun.

I have also seen the foam and stain that is Mississippi and Texas. Motor oil is my favorite color plastic worm, but my least favorite color ocean.

God, please continue in your mercy.

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A box of new books

I am a library rat. I love the library. I like the smell of the books, the relative quiet of the cool space. If I had to choose one place to be “stranded” for days on end, I would choose the library.

I live in a small town. Our library is not much to brag on, volume wise. But the librarians are wonderful: friendly, helpful, they call me by name when I walk in and ask how I liked a book that they recommended a few weeks before. Problem is, I’ve pretty much read everything in stock and have to go to other local county outposts to find selections. And I do.

Sometimes, I splurge and buy books, books I really want to try to keep in my personal library, or try again, I am notorious for giving it away. I bought five new books this week, books I cannot find in my county’s library system because of the newness of the publication or the obscurity. A big brown box of books arrived on my front porch, Monday. Christmas in July indeed!

I have read three of the five and a library book that I had started. I really like to read. It s a great vacation reward and a necessary jump-start to my mind. Reading about the diverse topics of these new books helps me in my endeavor  to creatively impart knowledge and, more importantly, its pursuit to young people. I have been made angry ( nearly to tears) by the stories and conditions espoused in some of the books that I have just read. I have been encouraged and exhorted to continue to grow by others. I have found friends in the authors and those who assisted them. I have seen worlds unknown to me  and relived circumstances all too familiar.  I have been stretched, confronted and challenged to change and bring change in my wake.

And I read a little mystery just for fun.

If you have a hard time finding a good book, contact me. I have an uncanny knack for finding really good ones. And, at this very moment, I still have a decent library.

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paradigm shift – Matthew 13:45

Wednesday

July 14, 2010

LAYING DOWN “HEAVEN”

FOR THE KINGDOM

PART ONE

Questions – small groups

1.Think of a place you used to play when you were little: (K-5 and under) little, somewhere really magical: a fort, a play house, a castle you built from cushions, a treehouse, a garden, etc. Take yourself back to five and tell me ( another five year old) about it – describe it for me.

2.Now return to your age and describe the “play place” for me quasi-adult to quasi- adult.

3.What changed from the first description to the second, why? Did you gain some insight – what kind? Did you lose some insight? What kind?

Intro – I want to talk to you about paradigm shift. A paradigm is a construct, a way of seeing, perceiving. It’s the beliefs and assumptions you consciously or subconsciously hold and filter all input through. These things change as you grow, if you grow.

Story –

When I was five and had graduated to Kindergarten, a non-nursery status, I got to go Sunday School. We had teachers in Kindergarten, not nursery workers as beloved as Miss Minnie was to me. We had activities and books and felt boards. It was the big time.

I had tried for a while to peep into the “big’ class” whenever we passed the hulking door to meet my Nana at her classroom, which was on the same hall. I tried to glimpse the wonder that was Kindergarten.

Young Harris United Methodist Church was named for….you got it, Young Harris, a leader in the early Methodist Church in Georgia, he was a famous Methodist lay-leader. Camps and colleges and churches like ours, were named for him. He actually used to live in our church, well part of it. The Sunday School rooms for the junior high, my Nana, and kindergarten – filled the old building. It was a beautiful antebellum home in a more french style, her second story was supported architecturally with filigree iron work, not columns. The old lady’s domain was now about a city block – but many of the town blocks behind us, now full of quaint 1920’s to 1930’s cottages, were once a part of the Harris property as well.

I digress. My sunday school room was awesome. It was huge. The door was heavy, heavy –  solid oak, deeply stained. I needed help to open it. It had a brass handle worn smooth by so many years of use. It had slick faux marble floors, that you could dance and slide on in your Mary Janes, socks were even better if you could get your shoes off without Mrs. Bracket, our brave teacher, noticing. Shoelessness was frowned on in kindergarten, regardless of what Miss Minnie let us do. The room was long and wide, it was the whole length of the great house and half its width – it had been the ballroom – Methodist do dance. But most incredible were the windows of this monstrous room – they were 14-16 feet high and wide, like twice as wide as normal windows and multi-paned. Each pane was nearly as big as me. And those windows did not even reach the ceiling. There was large architectural detailing above them. The ceiling was probably a soaring 18 feet – 20 feet.

The room seemed Sistine Chapel like to me.

I loved those windows. They had a large sill that I could stand on and be in the window. I would climb up and press my body against the great glass portal. The arms of ancient oaks would reach out toward me and squirrels would run at me, only to abandon course and leap to the rooftop right as they approached.

It seemed a wonderland, life in and looking out of that space. I loved going every Sunday and struggling with the great door.

I went back to Young Harris United Methodist Church for my Nana’s funeral. They set up a reception in the Grand Hall, what we had just called the Kindergarten Room. They had put down thick persian style carpeting. I rolled my eyes that they thought such an improvement. It was still a large room by house standards, spacious with impressively high ceilings, but I had grown, a little, and those ceilings no longer soared. I stood at the window and could not help but make out the Georgia Power Building through the branches, a 1970’s architectural blunder at best. I climbed into the window sill, afraid to mar the new paint, it was now some homey cream color.The nearly blinding white we had loved had been overturned by more tender sensibilities. The squirrels still scuttled through the branches, but there no longer seemed the same friendship between us. My heaven had receded.

Had it grown less? Had I grown more? I was taller. A little. And though the room hadn’t shrunk, just yellowed a bit, my measuring sticks had changed. That window was no longer the most powerful that I had ever stood before. What it opened to me was no longer the most fascinating or widening of visions. I now had knowledge of the background as well as the foreground of that aperture. I had grown – now I saw the power company – symbol of man’s greatest and most pressing challenge to maintain “life as we know it.” I saw the health clinic across the block, where AIDS patients in Athens line up for treatment, where the indigent take their children to see a doctor.  Just beyond the clinic is the intersection where prostitutes appear in the night to make a little money to feed a habit or maybe their child. All that was in the background of my view out of that window, but it was invisible to a five year old.

Let’s talk a minute: Do you ever remember returning to something and finding it smaller, weaker, more narrow, less colorful than you remembered? maybe a treehouse or a boat or an attic space?

Something that once held you, defined an existence for you, something that gave you safe boundaries to wander and wonder? Have you, in your few years, come upon those places again as the taller, larger, better traveled you? It feels like the very universe shifts when you do so. Like someone broke the spell and left you old and less at home.

That my friends is paradigm shift. That is seeing from a different place.

God, family, learning, safety were in that Kindergarten room for me. Everything I knew to love at five. Jesus was there in His felt board cut out self and Zacheus and Mary Magdeline. All the necessaries.

But I couldn’t read too well at five. I didn’t know the history of the world, of the church or of it’s saints. Heck, I didn’t even know who Young Harris was. I had never been beyond Panama City Beach. I didn’t know anyone of another color or country but Miss Minnie and my maid, Ida. I hadn’t tasted any food but what my mama and grandmothers made and maybe a trip to DQ now and then. I hadn’t seen anything much on TV but ball-games, even Seseme Street didn’t exist yet. I hadn’t met the people who would come to be my friends, my husband, my children, nor had I met you.

Did I want to go back? to try and stay there? When I stood in that room after my Nana’s funeral?

Yeah, I did. I wanted it all back. The simplicity and surety. But not at the cost of not knowing you.

I had give up what I had ( that kindergarten heaven)  to know all that I hope to know and I have come to know since… including you.

Matthew 13:45

“God’s Kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for many years and then accidently found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic! What a find! and proceeds to sell everything that he owns to raise the money to buy that field. Or, God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything that he owns, everything to buy it.”

The treasure, seems so much more than ever expected by the traveler…He wasn’t looking for it, never even dreamed to look for something like that. It was so much more than he even expected to see, much less have working in and through his life. But his stumbling upon it, it changed everything about who he could be, what he could do. Maybe you are that traveler.

The pearl, was something this merchant was looking for, had been trained to discern and find. And yet, when he finds it, it is so much better than he expected, so much so… that nothing he has ever found, nothing that he has ever discovered, that he has ever paid dearly to own before has any real comparative value – economic or political or sentimental. The most expensive pearl that he has ever bought is now sellable, the pearls he bought with his partners are now sellable, even the pearls, that sit on his nightstand, that he once gave his deceased wife… are now sellable.

God’s kingdom is worth the sacrifice, the death of whatever we have held as heaven- the best, the important, the dear.

I’m not here to tell you that heaven is not. I am here to tell you that the Kingdom of God is so much more than what you have ever settled as “this must be it,” ever expected to stumble upon, ever expected to discover by pursuit.

It is paradigm shifting: (it’s worth it to erase everything, everything on the blackboard of your/ my understanding and start over) MORE.

Let’s ask God to let us stumble upon, maybe even dig up some treasure/pearls as we go along this year. I’m going to ask you to hold your own “kindergarten classrooms” ( your heavens) with loving, open hands.

Let’s pray:

God, to help us lay down our expensive – “what cost us something, something huge” heavens for the kingdom, Your Kingdom.

God, to help us lay down our relationally beneficial – “what others in our lives, often relationships of blood or our choice, expect us to believe and act on” heavens for the kingdom, Your kingdom.

God, to help us lay down our sentimentally valuable  “thankful for what they were, aware of what they are” heavens – for the kingdom, Your Kingdom.

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I have the task of relating a parable at Epoch tomorrow

I have the task of relating a parable at Epoch tomorrow. Not my usual venue. It’s  a tough crowd. Unlike my classroom, where I can, if necessary, throw someone out, or Edge – where everybody pretty much wants to be there for what we all share – Epoch is a hodge-podge of every kind of teenage motivation.

I like what I have to share very much. I can’t much get through it without tears. But, I am not sure that  it will impact them so much, immediately. I’m talking about how perception changes with growth, how cherished, old, good things sometimes need to be traded up  for us to walk with God in our grown up ( and more responsible) selves.

There is really two parts to what I want to share: the reality of paradigm shift, which one has to deal with all the time, if one wants to walk with Jesus, and some possible shifts in what the kingdom of  heaven might be. I’d love to address both, but I don’t think I can hold the attention of the 2/3 of the crowd that won’t be listening sufficiently anyway: pearls before swine and all. I think I will just set the table tomorrow, sow some thought questions among the Edgers, get them thinking via FB and such, and let Jeremy throw out the…. “Maybe the kingdom of heaven is like”…via some other parable or genius intro.

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working on new ideas for my classes this year

I’ve been working on a new portfolio of materials for my classes this year. I have a lot of good stuff, but I have to keep it fresh, for me, too. Having all the Macs in my classroom makes it easy, and in my mind necessary, for me to continually find better and better material to convey the standards I am to teach. I have about 100 new bookmarks that I have found this summer – good stuff. There are articles which are insightful and provocative (new and archaic) enough to garner an 18 year old’s attention, there are fabulous documentaries which will hopefully expose us and others worthy of such, there are activities and games and really good questions we all should examine from time to time in our lives.

Problem: I  don’t know how to get it all in. I’ve discovered that my students can read, but they struggle to read material in a timely manner, they don’t know how to effectively skim. Lord knows that’s what college is all about: our knowing what to give what amount of energy and gray matter space. One of my jobs this year is to help my students with that skill – reading, effectively and efficiently.  I will do my best, but the only real way to increase their proficiency is for them to read and to engage challenging media. You learn this skill by doing it, a lot, for a long time. So, in economics and political science and computer class, any way that I can get to them, we will read and process intelligent media presentations, all the time.

I am so thankful that my family encouraged my natural love for books and documentary. Maybe you or your child does better with periodicals or movies, maybe word games or computer games inspire more thoroughly, maybe even field research – seeing, examining for themselves.  Whatever the media, envoke it to gain knowledge, some understanding.

To live free we must have the skills and knowledge necessary to rule ourselves. That means that we can process proposal along the axis of truth and fairness. Mimicry of taking heads, those wearing blue ties or red, or  projecting propaganda lines: sound bites and campaign rhetoric, will never produce  such. Thinking, honest, justice minded folks don’t just pop from the womb. They are fashioned, they are lovingly developed. Curiosity and candor and conscience must be rewarded by those seeking to assist in this processing.

I covet your prayers and your input. Got something great that you have come by that really turned your apple cart over, made you think and draw deep on the well of God’s heart. I’m interested, very interested.

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