Trick or Treat?

Having opted for a jaw with a dear friend while I was stretching my back, and deciding to get some Bible study in before heading out, I leave late for my constitutional walk this morning. Tending still in the direction of imagined ‘efficiency’, I assemble the garbage and opt to enjoy Former President Carter’s company on my iPod. Last walk I’d stopped off somewhere at the end of Chapter 1 in Our Endangered Moral Values, so I stop in the garage to retrieve it. I can’t unlock the car. The remote key or the actual one does nothing. Suspicion tells me I left the lights on but my conspiracy theorist wants to take me on a journey that begins with Big Brother turned it off because they haven’t yet logged your late payment and ends somewhere with me fantasizing about towing the car in and asking what it would cost me to break the lease agreement. Will continue after class. This blog was intended to be about having patience and not just the appearance of it.

After class I lost access to the server where class notes are stored. Today, someone came to fix it. I’ll paste the notes I took and maybe / maybe not come back to add to the discussion.

What do YOU want?

  • I want to be successful to be able to live on my own, to be able to pay bills on my own, be able to accomplish my goals in life and be the best I can be.
  • I want to be happy. To be able to do, have, and give what I want. It includes a lot of stuff, it can include being successful, a good son, husband, student, and to accomplish every goal I have.
  • I want to be financially stable. In more control of my spending habits and learn more about how to establish a financial base within the stock market and be able to build my foundation as an individual.
  • I want to be successful in what I do and have a good career, to be proud of what I’m doing in life, helping others. I want to wake up one day and not be negative and not wish I would have done this or that, forget about the past and just keep on going with what I’m doing today not focusing on what I didn’t do. I struggle with that a lot. I go to the past and beat myself up for something I didn’t do.
  • I want to be successful, not like rich and stuff, but get by and not have to struggle but I want to struggle to learn, to prove people wrong who think down on me.
  • I want to leave an impact on the world. I want to be someone that changed a person or a group of people, like their views on life, positively. I’n not talking about fame, but influence.
  • I want to be successful like rich and look back and see what I accomplished and prove to others who said I couldn’t but did, not to take the easy road but to take the hard road but because in the end it will be satisfying.

This is how we arrive at the freewriting topic for the day: What in your life is working toward that vision and what in your life is working against that vision?

This all came about as a result of my giving up. The best, most powerful classes always do. So, in surrender, I ask Jesus what He wanted, though I directed my attention to the students while doing so. Their answers are as follows:

I prefaced my question with something close to the following: I know that one way to cultivate patience is to suspend my will, get my mind off outcomes. The problem is I’m really just two years old: I want, I want, I want.

What I want for you is to know what you know and how to find out what you don’t and how to ask for help when you need it. Those are noble goals but for the next five minutes, I am going to suspend my wanting them and ask you, What do YOU want?


Three more students stroll in at this point I catch each of them up on the process of where we are in the learning cycle of the class and continue writing. It is 11:30 and the team that was scheduled to teach has only one, self-avowed unprepared person present. I propose freewriting until the partner arrives but getting even to that and through it has taken this much time.

Their answers in larger discussion give me ways to talk about creating effective thesis statements, interrogating your writing, polishing your thinking through writing and vice versa, loving the mind you were born with and giving it every advantage, not settling for the limits education would have you wear like a crown and so much more. In the end, giving up makes room for possibility. Parker Palmer would’ve been proud of me light and shadow sides did a mean cha-cha.

We Interrupt This Blog…

To thank God for His mercy and goodness. The twins celebrated six, I resisted several purses, and the building was in use when I popped by my campus office. Woohoo x three! Grading of midterms is proceeding apace though I wish I were in the habit of gleaning quotes in progress the same way I send out requests for permission to share great team projects when they appear. Something to look forward to I suppose. That and getting enough rest, exercise, nutrition, genuine connection and purposeful activity all on the same day.

Matthew 9:28: Mission Possible – Believe

Hosea 12:6 in the King James Version reads:

Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.

Matthew Henry’s Concise commentary on the Bible about the surrounding verses enjoins us, “Let us wrestle with Him for promised blessings, determined not to give up until we prevail; and let us seek Him in His ordinances” (MHC 12:1-6). This a wake up call to be sure and requires ‘limitless confidence’.

It is also confirmation of Pastor House’s message regarding Deuteronomy 2:3 at last night’s Bible Study. 

How else are we to go and disciple nations if we are not similarly disciplined? Right relationship, not successful service is, says Oswald Chambers in the devotional for October 27th, “the great secret joy” that comes of right ‘being’. Right being is the service we render daily or not at all as partial obedience is disobedience.

Turning this corner, and the next, going up higher with new expectation each day, will require courage. Yet God’s Word is true: Hope maketh not ashamed. We can walk in such authority, waiting patiently for His favor to open doors for us, allowing Him to bless ‘all the works of our hands’ (Deut 2:7).

Pray the Devil Back to Hell Reprise

In preparation for a retreat in celebration of teaching, I google those words and meet again The Honourable Leymah Gbowee who was among the winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize and gave a talk at the Conference in Celebration of Teaching and Learning. PBS has created a series of lessons on the non-violent protests of women around the world including those that led to the end of civil war in Liberia in 2003.

It is no surprise to me that this is the task I begin with this morning. Rather, it is no surprise that at Intercessory Prayer this morning I was struck by the woman next to me who, when asked to lift up prayer on behalf of the sick and bereaved, boldly prayed demons back to the pit of hell. In short, her prayer was an answer to mine for holy boldness. I love the continued state of awe and wonder in which Our Father holds and keeps me.

Tools of the Trade

Has God given you a job, a partner, a crisis or event, a moment of prayer, a season of silence, an angry customer, an obedient child, a natural disaster, a new or just another day, a purpose, a position, a predicament, a prophecy?

Whatever He’s given you can be used to cultivate a heart that beats to His (MSG Acts 13:22). Once drafted into His army let Him have His way.

Strength to Witness

I am in an open lab for faculty who need help with the college’s learning management system. At least one other colleague shares my heartbreak over students present levels of learned helplessness. What else can we do to support their learning? No amount of effort on our part will increase the minimum level of engagement on theirs. A majority of students in one of my subjects failed their Midterm exam even though the article and prompt for the in-class essay was available online a week earlier. Friday, another colleague recounted how his students failed an open-book test. We are weary beyond words.

I called a student who had confirmed her office visit via email and yet was 15 minutes late for it. Happily, she was on campus and came right up. Sadly, nine weeks into a 16-week semester she is still reeling from the ‘discovery’ that the class is a hybrid. When she asked what the chances were of her completing the course with an A or B, I told her plainly that it is unlikely that a person who cannot extract basic information from the first page of a syllabus, or every screen in the course shell online, one who does not check for a reply to a question sent by email and who does not take the initiative to find a faculty member’s office location on the day of her appointment is not likely to take the initiative necessary to submit timely, above-average assignments.

We went on to discuss a few of the assignments and how deliberately repetitive they are so students can master basic paragraph form and sentence skills. She asked me where I got the ideas for the assignments I give. I said I got them from students and explained how the Spaghetti Edit came to be. This provided an opportunity to share how I made it through a rough transition from private to public school during 10th grade and she ended up saying that many members of the class think I should be a motivational speaker. I can’t find any evidence in their grades that what they say should be. The drop rate remains unchanged and the pass rate has plummeted to new lows. What am I missing?

I am part of a team facilitating a campus-wide faculty retreat to build community and reenergize our commitment to teaching. How will we create a space to hold the tensions of despair against dwindling hope? I pray the Source of All Knowing to give us continued strength to witness.

Not Quite Molting

Grading Midterms is a mixed bag. I look forward to them in most classes and always have one or two pleasant surprizes. But always, every semester, there are at least a few students who ‘strain out gnats and swallow camels’. Each time such evidence presents itself I fret wondering what more I could have done eventually reminding myself, or being reminded by the designated colleague, that I can’t care more about ‘their’ education than they do. Yet, caring more, impossibly, immeasurably more is in fact my job or mission – or at least that is how it has habitually felt all these years. Now however it’s as if a new paradigm is emerging and unseating the other. Something is coming untethered. Something else is emerging in its place. There will be consequences.

It Is Begun

Listening to Stan Kenton as I prepare for tomorrow’s Adult Christian Education class, having returned from a campus locked for the night, I recall parts of the letter I transcribed this morning and know in my bones what next must be done. I thank Adrienne and Lee, Lucille and Douglas for diving into the wreck of our lives ahead of me. Even submerged one needs good company.