Category Archives: Education

Activate prayer any time, any place, anyway you can

Last week, I was fortunate enough (maybe I should say, blessed) to attend a Ruby Payne conference, attend a Passion City Church worship service, and bond with two passionate Christians seeking to learn more about how to make pathways out of poverty—more specifically how our churches can make pathways out of poverty.

 

Certainly that is a great deal to list in the first paragraph of a blog, but I needed to jump in and get started (that helps me when I have departed from a routine).  Please allow me to continue.

 

The Missouri UMC Conference established an initiative for the 2019 year: to increase the church-school partnerships from 10 to 40% in an effort to create “pathways out of poverty.”  This is a lofty goal, indeed; and an educational task force is operating to assist this effort.

 

At least that is the structure that is currently established.

 

Three of us attended the Ruby Payne conference, Addressing the Challenges of Poverty,in Atlanta on September 23-25.  The focus was on how to work with the multiple agencies that provide resources for those in poverty, aka the under-resourced.

 

About 20 years ago, I attended a Ruby Payne conference that introduced me to her framework of poverty.  That experience taught me so much about the hidden rules that exist not only for the socio-economic poverty class, but also for the middle class and the wealthy.

 

The knowledge base made me much more accepting of others who were in different life circumstances than my own.  In fact, I had to reassess my own background and figure out my own hidden rules.

I firmly believe that it made a tremendous difference in my teaching and continues into my ministry.  I have not one doubt that this information is a key to the conference’s initiative, too.

 

But, I am wondering way too far from my blog’s opening title.

 

Our small team was asked to use prayer as we stepped into the conference: Prayer for guidance.  Prayer for understanding.  Prayer for the conference.  Prayer for the churches.  Prayer for the people in our communities.

 

Growing up, prayer meant a formal set of words offered at specific times with specific purposes.  Prayer had a visual appearance of head down and hands folded.  I was a kid, learning.

 

Prayer was given at each meal in our household and even today, I yearn to hear my dad’s words.  I cannot remember them all and my family has tried to rebuild it, but we can’t.

 

Prayer was used in church and we all had to memorize the Lord’s Prayer. The minister, aka pastor or preacher typically offered prayer.  Sometimes lay people prayed, but I never really felt like prayer was used all the time, any time, or anywhere.

 

Then, I grew up.  I begin realizing prayer was a tool, a connection with God.  I participated in a small study group about prayer.  I began hearing about prayer differently.  And even through the discernment process and the training to become a licensed local pastor, I continued to learn about prayer.

 

And I used prayer—officially.

 

And I used prayer—personally.

 

Then this summer I read the book, Talking with God by Adam Weber, and I became comfortable with prayer in an even deeper manner.

 

Prayer is a tool but it is even more.  Prayer is a conversation with God, one that never has to cease, that can change on a whim, that can be tears or laughter.  Prayer is essential in our Christian lives.

 

Prayer is any time.

 

Prayer is any place.

 

Prayer is anything.

 

Throughout the days of travel, conversation, presentations, meals, walking, and more, prayer is all that you do when living as Christians.

 

The Missouri Conference has a dream, and that dream can involve every individual through prayer.

 

The work that Ruby Payne has done is prayer in action as the educators, the agencies, the legislators, and the interested citizens work to address the difficulties in life that come through the barriers created by the hidden rules of socio-economic classes.

 

There is no reason to believe that any church denomination has an answer to the problem, but there is a reason for each Christian—regardless of denomination—to join in prayer that we can do all that we an for all those we can in any way we can wherever we can and whenever we can (yes, John Wesley said it and we should continue to say and do as the same).

 

Prayer is the first and most essential task we all can participate in doing. We can pray regardless of age, gender, or race.  We can pray alone or we can pray in groups.

 

Yes, I did mention attending a worship service while in Atlanta.  I was not familiar with Grace City Church, but when I started learning about it I wanted to go.

 

What an experience!  The church was an old Home Depot store transformed into a worship space.  No stained glass windows.  No pews, just padded chairs.  No alter.  No typical appearance associated with the traditional church in which I grew up or am accustomed attending.

 

But there was Jesus!  There were people—everywhere.  There was music.  There was a sermon.  There was an offering.  There was PRAYER!

 

And I know that God was pleased.

 

I walked away from that setting and discovered that I had witnessed just a miniscule picture of what true Christianity can be.  The congregation was not what I have witnessed before.

 

The people were all one:  No race mattered.  No age mattered.  No gender mattered.  No social class mattered.

 

Only one thing mattered:  God’s unconditional love.  Prayer was alive and witnessed.

 

Dear Loving Father,

 

I am with you always, and I pray always.

Use me in ways I may not understand

So that I can share your kingdom with others.

 

I pray when I struggle, and I know you listen.

May my unconditional love of others

Provide a prayer for them in their struggles, too.

 

I pray in order to hear you, and yet I am unsure.

Let me continue to pray and to do all that I can

In any way, for all, in any way, at any time I can.

 

Thank you, too, Father, for all those who join

In prayer to do the same wherever they are

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Reading, learning all the time: All the time reading, learning.

 During the past week, my focus has waivered.  I started off on Sunday facing a medical emergency with my pet, Possum (really my 4-year-old Havanese).

 

For the first time, I had to take a pet to a vet and leave him not knowing what would happen. Luckily, 48 hours later, he came home—exhausted.  Today, you would never know he had been so sick.

 

This experience has made me think about how much unconditional love we experience with our pets and I cannot miss the lesson that gives me about God’s unconditional love for us.  There is no better example of unconditional love of a pet and for a pet.  Why, then, do we even question God’s unconditional love for us?

 

The more I read, the more I learn.  I was on line reading all I could on Sunday trying to understand the problems Possum was having.  This equipped me with the best words to share with the vet on the phone.

 

I learned a lot and I am reminded that we all have much to learn about God, too.  I ended Sunday studying the lectionary to prepare for the lectionary discussion on Monday.  Always reading and always learning even though the verses are familiar.

 

This week the reading from James seemed to echo words I read in the late 1980s while working to establish a dyslexia program at Wentworth Military Academy.

 

During that time period, I was fortunate to be guided by alumnus and co-workers to learn more about the business leadership structures.  As the 1990s passed, I also learned about educational leadership. The common denominator was the concept of democratic leadership.

 

No, this is not a political issue; this is a leadership style.  Reading James 3:13-4:10, I discovered that even James, Jesus’ brother, shared the same principles of leadership:

 

True Wisdom Comes from God

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.[a]

Drawing Close to God

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers![b] Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.[c] And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”[d]

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

 

If all leaders, in all phases of our culture, used these principles, one might only wonder at the changes it would bring to our world.

 

For years, my reading was limited to professional materials and curriculum demands of the Course of Study. Yes, I was reading all the time in an effort to continue learning all that I could.

 

But my learning was to streamlined, that I was in a tunnel.  Since stepping away from the pulpit, I have broadened my reading.  I am also broadening my learning through the reading.

 

Just like God expects us to read scripture (as well as John Wesley does), we also need to see how it is applied in the real world.  Joining the lectionary group has broadened my learning by sharing and listening to others ideas.

 

Reading is how we learn things that interest us, to entertain us, and to educate us.  With the base of knowledge and ideas and skills that we develop, we still need human interaction to take that information into our real world.

 

My reading during these past two months have included following the KC Star’s opinion pages—stepping beyond the front page news; and I have picked up books again.

 

I am reading and listening to the ideas and experiences of others.  I am reading and learning to think beyond my own immediate life experiences. The reading leads to learning. The learning leads to reading.

 

Even the fiction reading I have jumped into has shared themes that I find in scripture.  I learn how these themes affect our lives and continually intertwine with the themes in scripture.

 

Whatever denomination to which we chose to align ourselves, the scriptures continue to drive our lives forward. John Wesley knew this.  The theological instructors know this.  The believers who read scriptures know this.  Why, then do we continue to ignore reading scriptures?

 

Reading a historical fiction novel about the Biblical figure Sarah is teaching me to think about Sarah differently.  It triggers a desire to learn more about the ancient cultures that are woven together in the book.  It makes me want to read the Biblical story again, along with study notes and analysis.

 

At the same time, the novel brings up the same principles of leadership in James and in the business and education materials concerning democratic leadership I had read 30 years ago.

 

Read to learn, but also learn to read.  We have a huge responsibility to make sure that we are doing that for ourselves, but also that we are imparting that skill to the following generations.

 

Dear God,

Thank you for the words so many have written

Creating the scripture through which you speak.

Thank you for the words authors continue to write

Creating books to share ideas in new ways.

Thank you for the ability, the gifts your provide

Creating the learning we gain from reading.

Guide us through the words, but also through the power of the Holy Spirit.  –Amen

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Barbara Bush: Passionate Model

Today we celebrate, not mourn, the life of one of the strongest women who served as First Lady.  Interesting, that her station in life propelled a personal passion forward that seldom gets the focus so needed–dyslexia.

Having the opportunity to hear her talk at an Orton Dyslexia Society conference (now the International Dyslexia Association), I continued to push students to learn how to read and to write despite the difficulties they faced as dyslexic.

One of my personal drives was to be passionate that all students can learn to read and to write even if they were dyslexic.  The work that I have done to teach dyslexics was energized when I listened to Barbara Bush.  Her style, her honestly and her passion made such an impression on me that day.

As I watched Jenna Bush-Hagar battle the tears yesterday morning, I could only empathize with her impending sense of loss, but more importantly her pride in her grandmother.  Over the past few years watching Jenna, yes I want to just call her Jenna as a friend, I see the beauty and the passion of her grandmother shining through her, too.

Sometimes we get so bombarded by the polished images of public figures, esp. in the entertainment industry, we become jaded.  Barbara Bush was real and I believe her genuineness is reflected by those in her family who follow their passions and try to model their grandmother, their mother, their mother-in-law, their aunt, and their friend. We should all be so fortunate to have that type of influence in our lives.

Thank you, Barbara Bush, for the grand woman that you are.  You live even though you are no longer in our world.  Thank you for the work you did in such a classy manner.  I know you have and will light the fire in those who knew and will learn who you are.Barbara Bush: Passionate Leader

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In reply: “Gone Missing” Letter to the Editor

In Re: Curriculum for the 21st Century: a reply to C.D. Rinck Sr.’s Letter to the Editor, March 21, 2018.

D. Rinck of Mission, KS, has a valid point. He asked, “ What happened to all those government checks and balances I was taught in high school?”

He goes on reflecting on his own education, “”They must have suffered the same fate as diagramming a sentence as I learned in English Class.”

Rinck should be concerned. Having taught for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2015, I have taught both—how to diagram sentences and the US Constitution. I also taught journalism.

The Constitution provides the clear separation of powers as a means of preventing any one branch from taking control. The checks and balance system is critical to a democracy including the republican democracy of the United States.

At no point should one branch have power over any other branch. In Sen. Jeff Flake’s comments to the National Press Club last week, the same topic of checks and balance is referenced.

Flake said, “Defending democratic institutions ought not to be a controversial idea, and hasn’t been until very recently. But recognizing that our institutions are under threat from within, with clarity, seems to me a basic obligation of the Article I branch of government—the congress, whose power is, in theory, equal to that of the president’s…”

Jennifer Rubin, from The Washington Post, was published in the KC Star editorial, “The problem: Flake can’t win in today’s Trump GOP” also focused on checks and balance.

American textbooks include the principle of checks and balance as a primary theme to be taught in civics and government classes. The class used to be taught juniors not freshmen as it is today. (And as an aside, I question whether freshmen are developmentally prepared to discuss the theory or to fully comprehend the value of the US Constitution.)

The American checks and balance system has also included an additional watchdog—freedom of speech that includes professional journalism. I taught journalism as the social responsibility as I was taught at MU during the mid-1970s. Journalists are to report the news objectively not subjectively, unless in editorials.

Our schools must teach students how to be critical readers, good communicators, and independent thinkers. I am concerned that emphasizing technology education and student achievement testing undermines what education must be.

Language curriculum needs to include sentence diagramming again. Diagramming teaches students how words communicate. Students need to understand value of the word, the difference in denotative and connotative meanings, and how to write clear statements. Sentence diagramming teaches analysis of language.

An example of applying critical reading and understanding language’s structure as evidenced in today’s KC Star article, “Trump’s phone call to Putin raises hackles,” about the President congratulatory phone call to Putin included one biased word: stubborn. Look at the paragraph.

“Trumps comments came five days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and other “malicious cyber-attacks.’ It widened what has become a familiar gulf between the Trump administration’s tougher actions and words toward Russia and Trump’s own stubborn reluctance to criticize Putin.”

Let the facts speak without adding the opinion.

Of course, our school’s curriculum and the emphasis placed on education must be a priority for our society, too. Our students will be left behind if the curriculum does not teach the skills to be critical readers, analytical thinkers, and good communicators.

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no. No. NO! Do NOT arm teachers.

I am a retired teacher.  I retired after teaching in alternative educational program for 20 years.  The President’s statement that we need to arm our teachers, much less to provide them a monetary bonus for carrying a gun into the classroom outrages me.

Teachers work to develop positive relationships with students.

How does a gun demonstrate trust?

Teachers already serve as surrogate parents (known by the legal phrase in loco parentis) while our children–students–are present on school grounds.

How does a gun teach students healthy relationships?

Teachers are coaches for our young people struggling to manage the game of life.

How does a gun teach life skills?

Teachers spend hours preparing lesson plans trying to teach basic knowledge in as many ways possible to meet the individual needs of the students.

How does a gun meet a student’s individual needs?

Teachers are paid only a nominal salary to fulfill all the educational, emotional, social, and basic needs for this country’s future.

How does paying a bonus to carry a gun improve the educational system?

The endless list of questions can continue, but there is absolutely no answer that makes any sense that our teachers should be armed.  Would this lead to colleges of education requiring certification in marksmanship?

The final suggestion that teachers be given a bonus for carrying a gun just appalls me.  We cannot pay our teachers a reasonable salary for all we expect them to do already, why would paying a bonus to carry a gun be appropriate?

Paying bonuses to workers who demonstrate exceptional salesmanship or innovative business skills has long been a practice in the corporate world.  Never, never has such a practice been part of the educational paradigm.

Gifted teachers focus on developing relationships with the students.

Gifted teachers focus on finding ways to teach to the individual needs of the students whether educational, emotional, social, or technical.

Gifted teachers operate out of a sense of unconditional love for the individual students who grace their classroom.

Why would anyone think it is beneficial to arm teachers in the classroom when their full focus is on doing whatever it takes to protect those kids in that critical moment that an armed intruder is storming through the school?  Stopping to pick up a gun and turn away from the kids may destroy the very lives they are working so hard to prepare for productive adult lives of our country’s future.

Do not insult the integrity of the teaching profession by rewarding them to carry a gun into the classroom.   No.  No.  No!  No guns in the classroom.  And absolutely no bonus to encourage these professionals to carry a gun.

Reward teachers by respecting the profession and paying them appropriately for being in loco parentis in those classrooms.

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Social media are today’s glass houses

The familiar saying, “He who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” keeps bubbling up in my head.  This morning I suddenly realized that today’s social media is the equivalent of the glass house in this saying.

According to the website, https://www.phrases.org.uk/, which I accessed this morning,  “PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULDN’T THROW STONES – “Those who are vulnerable should not attack others. The proverb has been traced back to Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ .”   . . . [and] Benjamin Franklin also referenced this saying with a slight adjustment,  “‘Don’t throw stones at your neighbors’, if your own windows are glass.'”

Today we live in a transparent world when we step onto the world wide web through any of the social media available to us.  The social media is our glass house and what we post has the potential to damage another as easily as a stone destroys glass.

When I taught high school students journalism, I used to ask students would they want their grandmother to read what they wanted to print (yes print medium rather than broadcast medium was the standard in the 1970s and 1980s) if that was said about them. It seemed such an easy way to have them self-edit their work before publishing anything.

Today, that no longer serves as a good test as we are so removed from the social stigma’s of the ’70s and ’80s when grandparents were part of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation.  Now the grandparent has evolved to those in the Baby Boomer generation who lived through the 1960s and 1970s when social standards began shifting–or tumbling.

Today we need to teach our young people, and maybe reteach even the younger Baby Boomers, that what they post on social media is forever printed in one manner or another.  The social media makes spreading gossip or menacing words so easy and once posted is there forever.

True, the social media has the positive value when spreading good news or complimentary words, but sadly our society seems not to share them as readily as they do the negative–another concept that needs direct teaching.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people from the first click of the electronic devices that what they say has tremendous power to damage someone else’s life.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people the power of the social media to do good, also.

Once that final click to post is made, there is no way to take away the effect of the words posted.

Let’s use the social tools we have available to keep the glass houses in tact rather than destroy with social media stones.

 

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Prayer for our students

I cannot imagine leaving the latest school shooting out of Sunday’s service.  We may live have a nation away from Florida, but our schools are being shaken repeatedly by shootings.  The country needs to pray for healing and for answers about how to stop the violence.

When the UM News department posted the comments from Florida’s Bishop Carter, I could not ignore it and felt that it provides us the tool we need.  Please read and join in prayer:

The statement issued by Florida Area Resident Bishop Ken Carter, who is also the incoming president of the Council of Bishops, reads as follows:
On this Ash Wednesday, our services announced the biblical imperative to “repent and believe the gospel.”  In light of today’s shootings, we repent from our participation in a culture of death, we acknowledge the harm we do to others, and we claim the power of the cross that breaks the cycle of violence and retaliation.  We also grieve with the communities of Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida, in the deaths of seventeen persons and the wounding of many others on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A number of surrounding United Methodist Churches have students at this school, and our connection will support their healing ministry in the days ahead.

 

Using these words, let us pray together:

 

Dear God,

We accept the role of being your servants,

But sometimes we cannot be all that we want to be.

We hear the news and cry out for answers,

And we forget to turn it over to you.

We feel anger boil up within us and we scream,

As we try to renew our faith during Lent.

Let us begin with Bishop Carter’s words:

“In light of this week’s shootings, we repent

from our participation in a culture of death,

we acknowledge the harm we do to others,

and we claim the power of the cross

that breaks the cycle of violence and retaliation.

We also grieve with the communities

of Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida,

in the deaths of seventeen persons

and the wounding of many others. . .”

Guide us in our prayer life

To share our pain and to hear your words.

Guide us in our scripture reading

To find wisdom and encouragement.

Guide us in our fellowship

To love one another,

To make disciples of others,

And To transform this hurting world

So all my know grace and love

Now and forever through your son, Jesus Christ.–Amen

 

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