I spent the day packing today. I leave for Singapore at 10:15 in the morning from the Springfield airport, God willing.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Monday, July 25, 2005
I am currently reading an excellent book by Robert W. Buinsma called The Joy of Language. It is the best book about teaching English from a Christian perspective that I have ever seen. Whereas some so called Christian literature attempts to canonize phonics or take a reductionist approach to language arts education, Bruinsma takes an honest and reasonable look at a broad spectrum of educational literature- from Vygostsky to Piaget, whole language to basal readers- in an attempt to find out how to best teach language to children.
Buinsma's conclusion is that in order for language to be effectively learned it must be put into a context and community. Most kids do a fine job of learning language until they start to sit in school desks and then their development hits a brick wall. Most teachers blame this phenomenon on the students' lack of will power or lack of aptitude. Bruinsma proposes that, especially when it comes to elementary school students, the answer is none of the above. The reason many students language learning capacity slows down so much in school is that the information is presented out of context and fragmented. When a student learns language in the home it helps them navigate and make sense of their world. When a student learns reading, grammar, or writing in school they get it in sometimes indecipherable chunks and then they get a letter grade for it.
Brunisma's solution is to make language exciting by providing interesting things to read and problems to solve that the student cares about. He also reminds us that the ways of learning often required in school are almost the antithesis of the ways of learning that are required by most homes and the workplace. When a father teaches a son how to mow the lawn he doesn't sit them at a desk and teacher them theory and facts. The son watches the dad and eventually gets his turn. The son will develop more and more competence with the mower until the dad lets him mow the lawn all by himself. Yippee!
As I am preparing to leave for Singapore I am increasingly thinking about what God has placed in my life that would make such an opportunity appeal to me. One person that I always keep coming back to in my memories is a high school Japanese teacher named Carol Lund. She made us speak Japanese as much as possible, sing hokey songs, do exercises to Japanese rajio, and solve problems. I think she would have been a big fan of the Hiragana Song. At times she treated us almost like elementary school students, some of my classmates hated her for that, but to me it always made sense because we were infants in what we were learning.
As I reflect on my own teaching I realize that I too have been guilty of presenting material in fragmented chunks. Why should a kid learn to find predicate nominatives except for the grade that I give him or her? Unless you just like playing with language, why should a student create ten sentences that use adverbs in different ways? Even if I did dictate the formate, I nearly always let the kids pick their writing topics, hoping they would select a topic that sparked their interests and passions. At times I seemed like I was in a double bind. If I went by the old Holt book it was boring and the students disassociated themselves from the material and if I did a simulation the students felt like they were "playing pretend." If I treated the most struggling high school students in a way that I was consistent with their apptitude level or had my classes singing hokey learning songs they probably would have burnt down my house. (However, I once parodied Fifty Cent's song In 'Da Club to teach the writing process, but I decided it would have been met with too much ridicule to even provide a shred of learning for the students so I held it back.)
In conclusion, I really like Buinsma's book, but I am not quite sure how to implement those ideas in a way that is relevant to an entire high school classroom. My largest class had twenty eight kids and I find it incredibly difficult to contextualize all of the learning objectives in a way that is relevant to all the students in the class. Maybe it is an impossible question that will never have a pat answer. Maybe the mark of a master teacher is that he or she never stops mulling over that mission, but yet they get better and better at fulfilling its goal.
To conclude, I'll post that song parody. No student ever saw it, but somebody ought to read it.
In Da' Class
A Parody Written without Regard to SAE
(With Sincerest Apologies to "Fity" cent and the St. Lunatics)
Write, write, write
Write, write shawties
On your paper
Start with an introduction on your paper
Explain things clearly on your paper
Proofread and check
All Your Paper
Plagiarisms when you dub, don't give me any crud
Listen in class I've got the aides, if you want to make good grades
I want to see success don't want to see you flub
So think before you write, don't give me any crud
I like double spaced with a twelve point font
Roll out two pages deep and a title in the front
Some students mess with Hartley, don't show any love
Don't listen in class, throw spit-wads up above
To double space control down with 2's up
Read 7-7-4 in the book to see what is up
Listen to teacher in class- writing's easy and simp.'
His truck's been hit with shells, but he don't walk with a limp
At Maries county student's saying we write a lot
You need to know sequence of events and understand the plot.
You need to write well to prove you're not loco
Control what you say, put it in a choke hold
You're feeling focus man, your thesis on your mind
You need to elab'rate on text ev' within your grind
I hope you've studied writing and you're feeling the flow
Two supporting points down just one left to go
"Chronic"-o-logical is a sequential o'doe
Or you can list important things
Like Plot, like theme, like diction, imagery
Don't need to be rich, I shop at K-Mart and don't have change
You should love writing, way more than you hate it
Primary sources come from the ones that seen it
Ambiguities, Complexities, and Nuances are a part of life
You should discuss them in your writing- right?!!
You've got a simile with "like" or "as" you know you're on
Metaphors are direct comparisons to what you've done
If the school is on fire don't let it burn
Teachers don't make money, so please have concern
Be consistent in your writing, don't switch the style up
Work hard when you write
Watch the grade points pile up
If you fail in school and just drink bottles of bub
You know where you be..
Don't act like you don't know when your writing is due…
Work hard in the class..
Sunday, July 24, 2005
I was watching a media roundtable on C-SPAN's American Perspectives today and I heard a funny interchange.
Q: Will blogs displace the traditional media?
Mark Whitaker (Editor of Newsweek): If traditional news disappeared, what would blogs have to talk about?
Last summer when I was working on camp staff we all decided to go into Colorado Springs for the weekend. A girl who I was on staff with grew up in the Springs and we all bummed food off of her folks and stayed at her place. During the weekend we did the typical day off camp stuff. We ate fast Taco Bell, bought over priced outdoor gear, went to movies, a couple of girls got their nose pierced, and we went to the mall.
I'm not a big fan of malls. If you can stand the stuff you buy being a little older you can usually get it just as good from the Salvation Army. If I'm with a group, I like to walk the mall once and go back to the foodcourt, eat some bad Chinese or a half-pound meat and potatoes burrito from the Bell and people watch until everybody else gets back from the Gap.
On our staff's weekend off, the foodcourt happened to be hosting a gameshow called BACK AT 'CHA. It was a low cost cable stunt done for Adelphia cable. The host acted like Guy Smiley and the set was a chintzy sign and a couple of desks. One player would get control of the question board. The premise of the game is that you could keep asking questions until you got one wrong and then your opponent would get to answer questions and score points. However, there was one exception- if you came upon a toughie, you could throw it to your opponent by saying "Back at 'cha!" Even if the opponent got the answer and the point, you would still keep control of the board. The grand prize for dominating in this setting was a sixty inch TV and three months of free cable.
As I was sitting and eating my taco I decided that I wanted to know more about this show, so I went to go talk to a guy who was wearing a headset and looked of importance. Without even getting a chance to say the first word the guy introduced himself as the producer, handed me a sheet of paper, and asked if any of my friend or I wanted to be on the show. I said sure, but convincing my friends was another matter. I even tried to cook up a scheme so that one of us would get the TV no matter up. My efforts were of no avail. I couldn't convince anybody to go on a two bit game show. They were all either too bashful or too worried about their hair.
After my failed lobbying attempt, I signed the paper given to me by the producer and he told me I'd have to wait for about two hours for my turn. I knew I would miss a couple of opportunites to shop at sporting goods stores, but I decided to wait for my chance to be a TV star.
Sometime during the waiting period I met my opponent. The guy was a piece of work. He was a big awkward single guy a little bit older than me. While we were waiting he shared some stories about failed suicide attempts and finding new hope in life while watching Star Wars. While we were actually playing the game he made wild gestures and snubbed his nose at me.
Needless to say, I beat the guy. We stayed neck and neck before the first two commercial breaks, but after that it was all me. The entire town of Colorado Springs knows who rules the Back At 'Cha board, and let me tell you it ain't him.
Unfortunately, the prize was bunk and I you couldn't advance to play another game. I would never get the chance to rival Ken Jennings. Unbenounced to you, the viewer at home, the winning contestant could only keep the TV from three months because it was borrowed from Aaron's rental center and you had to live in the Springs to get cable. I was given a meager twenty minutes of fame on Adelphia's celluloid cablestream.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
I'm a lucky fellow. I have one surviving great grandmother on my dad's side of the family. She has two sons, six grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. In ninety years she has gone from living on a farm and going over to neighbors' homes to huddle next to radios for entertainment, to having all of the conveniences and comforts of the twenty first century.
I have gotten to spend the better part of a few summers living with Grandma and helping to take care of her. She lives in Columbia, home of the University of Missouri, so I am just one in a long line of itinerant college students who have lived with her.
Great Grandpa died over thirty years ago, almost a decade before I was born. When Grandma tells her life story she always says that she never felt like she was living until after she married Grandpa George. She also said that she felt like her life ended when he died, but being more powerful than an Energizer Jackrabbit, she keeps going and going and going.
Old age has been wearing her down for over the past decade. She has a little apartment in the basement of my Grandpa's house (the one of the left). She is slowly losing the ability to take care of herself and there is a great emotional toll that comes on her as she is getting older... seeing friends die, and losing the abilities she has had for the past eighty years.
However, I am greatful that "the old woman is alive and still kicking" as she occasionally says about herself. I am glad that I was able to hear her stories, eat her pies, and hear her count "one two buckle my shoe" over a game a Wahoo!.
It is disappointing that she is not more spiritual. She was a believer in Jesus and was baptized in high school, but stopped going to church in the fifties when my Grandpa took a job with the MFA that required him to travel and be gone from his work; as a family they wanted to spend more time together. And, you know how it is, once you start to slack off in the spiritual disciplines it is easy not to start back up again. However, Grandma is someone that as far as I know has never slacked off on the command to give kids a glass of "cooool water" as she always says, making sure to extend the o's and punctuate the syllables in "water."
As the oldest great grandchild, I'm not sure if its true, but she always seemed to be exceptionally nice to me. When Grandma decided that she was getting too old to drive safely on the road, she tearfully gave me the keys to her old 1978 Ford Granada. She is a slightly stubborn woman and said that she would decide when should couldn't drive before one of her sons made the decision for her.
This week I had another tearful parting, one that is potentially much sadder, maybe premanent. I had to say goodbye to Grandma Alice. I am preparing to move to Singapore to teach at a Christian school and I have signed a two year contract. I will probably only be able to return in the summer. She has macular degeneration and today she tearfully looked at me and said that due to her deteriorating vision she may never be able to look at me again. She also cried and told me that she would try not to die for the next couple of years. Her reason being so that I could preach at her funeral when I get back.
I don't know if she will keep on keepin' on or return to the dust, but I do know that there is not much that could make the parting any more difficult.
Monday, July 18, 2005
My Grandma Inez lived one of the most difficult lives imaginable. She was the oldest of five brothers and sisters, one of whom died. She survived the depression by farming and by getting up at four in the morning to cook at a Boy Scout camp. Soon after getting married my grandpa was drafted to be a medic in Germany. She had to scrimp and save in order to buy a farm after the war because my grandpa liked to spend money. She had three children, but two of them died in infancy. In addition to farming and raising a family she worked odd jobs, including a factory in Clinton and the Osceola school cafeteria.
After retirement, my Grandpa got Altzheimers disease. The disease made him forget his family, damage things, and sometimes become violent. She didn't put him in a nursing home until the very end, even if it meant having to change his diapers and occasionally tie him to a chair. After Grandpa died, her house slowly began to deteriorate. Even though we could afford it, she didn't let our family do significant repairs or put her in a nice place to live. She became a shut in that got out of the house a few times a month. At the age of 87, she had a stroke and lost the ability to talk, eat, or walk. All of her close friends died. We had to tell Grandma about a neighbor and lifelong friend, Hazel, who died while Grandma was in the hospital dying herself. We could have put Grandma on a feeding tube, but even if the best case scenario had occurred she never would have never been able to talk, walk, or eat on her own again. Grandma died last year.
The picture I posted is of the brooder house on Grandma's farm. About sixty years ago, Grandma and Grandpa spent several months living in that house while their larger house was constructed. Chickens lived in that house until about twenty years ago. Now it is a shed full of junk.
Everybody I know in my generation is weak compared to my Grandma. We sit in complacency in our air conditioning in front of TVs and computers, venturing out only for profit or luxury.
I read a book on mentoring that claimed the global war on terror and emergent technology and ideas would propell the generation born into the early eighties to be the "next great generation." Given what I know about my grandma's life I think that such a distinction would be both a blessing and a curse.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
If you haven't noticed I've got a bunch of junk in the bottom of my screen that is supposed to get more a few more hits. One oddity about Blogger is that the "Next Blog" feature allows people reading some pretty strange sites to come across you site. Somebody apprently surfed to this Arabic website.
Weird Arabic Website
If you come across this and have the foggiest idea what he's talking about please leave it in the comments section.
One remarkable new internet program that I have started using is called Bittorrent. After years of having to fight bandwidth and try to find working servers to download programs and media, Bittorrent has somehow created a way to manage it all and equally distribute the upload/download ratio between the client and the server computer. Like pizza, the program can be used for good or evil. However, my vote is for good.
Once you've downloaded Bittorrent, a great place to start finding content is Legaltorrents.com. People who use Creative Commons Licenses post links to their content and you don't have to worry about the copyright infringement that can be a hazard with so many other file sharing sites.
If you go to Legal Torrents you can scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen and find a little gem called Free Culture. The PDF document may not be any literary diamond, but it provides a comprehensive background of the history of copyright in our society and how we are slowly, due to corporate interests, moving into a culture that is less and less free. It makes the case that most of today's media establishment gained their dominance by screwing the other guy and now the trend is to use copyright laws in ways to suppress competitions.
One specific anecdote that clearly sticks out in my mind is when Lessing describes how RCA did everything in its power to suppress FM radio from the late 1930's. FM was a superior technology to AM, but RCA owned the AM patents and didn't want to lose its cash cow. RCA was able to beat down AM for half a century by relying on litigation. Today, Lessing argues that the cycle is being repeated over and over again with rapidly growing internet technology. Yes, global piracy is a huge problem for the entertainment industry, but the culprits who should be aggressively prosecuted are not digital tinkerers who make almost no profit, but the large bootlegging shops overseas who sell billions of dollars in illegal intellectual property.
This whole issue has personal relevance to me because I've seen the changes and I know folks who go overseas and buy fifty cent (not the rapper) DVDs. About 1998-99 the internet was a goldmine for whatever content one wanted to find. Most of what would not be considered "piracy" wasn't even prosecutable until the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) came into effect. Where there used to almost be no structure to the network, now, increasingly, useful internet content is basically filtered through Microsoft, Google, AOL, or some other service. Don't get me wrong, the internet is still great, but Americans are only a few pieces of legislation away from having a highly regulated and highly structured internet. Meanwhile, the rest of the world who is not affected by American copyright laws and regulations will be free to distribute culture however they want.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Last night Conan told a joke that made me laugh. Hillary Clinton made a speech comparing George Bush to Alfred E. Neuman. In a return statement George Bush apparently thanked her and said, "Finally somebody made a literary reference I understand."
You can download Conan O'Brien Episodes off the net.
There's a couple of folks that I'm friends with that are either attending seminary or on their way to seminary. They read this thing sometimes; I think. I just thought I'd let them know that I've finished Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology after eleven months of on and off again reading. I think if God wanted a book like Systematic Theology to be taken seriously he would have had some Jewish scholar write it one thousand nine hundred and fifty years ago. It is so convenient that almost all of today's theological and social problems can be neatly wrapped up and solved in a book that contains more pages than some Bibles.
For the time being I have no interest in reading theology. I hereby vow to spend the next year reading epic poetry to cleanse my mental palette. Milton here I come!
Sometimes being a goal oriented person can be boring. Maybe, just maybe, I need to just go back to reading Mad magazine.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Monday, July 11, 2005
I was required to write this after attending NICS Pre-Field Orientation.
Attending Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) has increased my awareness of the struggles and issues that teachers face when they work at international Christian schools. By sitting through many long lectures conducted by top notch presenters and by engaging in a few experiential learning activities designed to simulate the transition to another culture, I feel I have been equipped with the basic knowledge required to enter, teach, and conduct ministry in another country. While I have previously attended a rigorous teacher training program at the University of Missouri and have passed the neophyte stage in the teaching profession with a few years of classroom experience, the instruction at PFO has exposed the gaps created by my secular school education experience and filled them with rich, warm lessons grounded in Christ-like love to prepare me for the international teaching environment. Specifically, the complex issues that surround educating third culture kids have been illuminated, the specifics and philosophy behind Christian education has been clarified, and I have even gotten to know my strengths and weaknesses a little better through the use of psychological testing.
In December, 2004, after I spoke to Joe Beeson and committed to teaching at the International Community School in Singapore, all that I can recall are questions and apprehensions churning in my mind. At the forefront of the questions concerned the type of student I would be teaching. Would they be American? Would they be smarter than the students I was currently teaching? Less intelligent? Would the students speak English? Would they behave in class? I moved closer to knowing the answers to these questions by learning a new classification of student- the Third Culture Kid (TCK). While I have personally known several missionary kids, I had no idea they were just a tiny segment of a larger population of transnational, independent, unique and relationship-oriented individuals. The implication of this in the way that I run my classroom is that I will have to be cognizant and aware of the unique needs of these students in order for them to reach their maximum learning potential. For instance, within the mono-cultural context of the American public school system there is usually a shared body of common cultural knowledge amongst the students. This could include anything ranging from what the political parties believe, what applesauce tastes like, or what side of the road to drive on. With TCKs, given the transient nature of their background, the shared cultural heritage will not be present and I may find myself having to explain ideas and concepts that I might have been considered basic to American public school students. Conversely, the TCKs and their parents will bring a wider variety of experiences to the classroom than what might be found in public schools and this can add to the richness of class discussions and curriculum. I also expect to be more oriented toward creating warmer, friendlier professional relationships with my students. In the United States students often view their teachers with either apathy or hostility, but by teaching at an international Christian school I see the potential to help students grow both spiritually and academically.
Along those lines, it has been extremely helpful to participate in classes and activities that help clarify the goals and explain the value of Christian education. Most significantly, I have learned that there is "no neutrality" in education. By the teacher's choice of instructional materials, method of presentation, and relationship with students he or she is inevitably going to communicate values, morals, and a worldview to the students. When it comes to the Christian faith, I believe the teacher will communicate it by both the overt spiritual material in the curriculum and his or her lifestyle example. One lesson taught to us was that teachers at Christian schools have the option, but not the requirement, to include faith in every facet of the curriculum. The PFO classes emphasized it is important to be culturally sensitive, biblically sound, and educationally appropriate. One example that really stuck out in my mind was that of including spiritual questions on assessment. For instance, when creating essay questions you might ask students how they would respond to a work of literature from their own personal spiritual perspective or the teacher might word an open-ended constructed response question by saying something such as, "Given what you know about Jesus, how would he respond to this…?" It was also emphasized to us that as foreigners in foreign countries we would stick out and our behavior would be constantly on view. In order for any teacher to function in a spiritual capacity is it necessary to have a strong, consistent relationship with Christ. Daniel Egeler, director of international school services for the Association of Christian Schools International, refers to this as "passive mentoring" and claims it is the first step to being able to develop closer, Christ-centered discipling relationships with students (89).
One of the most interesting things I have been able to do at PFO was view the results of psychological tests. I feel these tests have provided a useful, analytic view of my personality. Notably, I learned that I posses a "blended" communication style that is versatile and able to reach most people. Unfortunately, the tests have found, and I agree, that I am occasionally inhibited when expressing my viewpoints in some social settings and that is possible for me to fall into skepticism in some scenarios. Another test found that I tended to be a slightly introverted, but yet intuitive, thinking, and perceptive person who functions best when able to work on single tasks without distractions. Being placed on the field with people that I don't know, I understand I will need to communicate these personality traits to others when I am working in a team setting and it is my responsibility to stretch out of my comfort zone and overcome some of the weaknesses when they have the potential to negatively affect my job performance or ministry.
Robert Bruinsma, professor at King's University College, says that it is the duty of Christian Language Arts instructors to help "their students to love God and neighbor linguistically (19)." I firmly believe that the experiences and lessons that I have learned at PFO will play a fundamental part in helping me achieve that objective when I begin my ministry in Singapore.
Bruinsma, Robert. The Joy of Language. Colorado Springs: Purposeful Design. 2003.
Egeler, Daniel. Mentoring Millennials: Shaping the Next Generation. Colorado Springs: Navpress. 2003.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
About two years ago I went to a religious "humor" website and it featured an article called "The Church Mystery Shopper. The shopper's job was to randomly enter a church and critique things such as the flavor of the church coffee and how many people with nametags were standing at the door to greet people. I recall the rest of the shopper's report as continuing along the same superficial lines. However, one of shopper's confessions that I distinctly remember was that the church mystery shopper secretly admitted to counting the number of times the word "just" was said in each evangelical prayer. I'll provide some examples for those of you who don't attend evangelical churches. Someone might pray, "Father when we come before you today we just want to glorify your name," or, "Heavenly Dad, we just want to thank you," or, "Lord Jesus, we just want to focus on you." Ironically, immediately offering up such exaltations to the almighty they would then pray a long list of more self centered prayer requests: We just want to pray to do well on the test, we just want to pray for our sick grandma, we just want to pray for our own personal safety.
Last month I shared the observations with a fellow camp staff member and he whole heartedly agreed that "just" was over used. He noted that he had already spent some time thinking about it and that he felt the worst offerenders were people who say "just umm" in an attempt to sound pious. For example, "Father, we just... um would like you to bring peace to the Middle East."
Combing the experiences of reading that article and having a conversation and ruminating on them in my mind, I have developed a tendency during long, and dare I say boring, prayer times to count the number of times someone says just when praying (sometimes up to 12!) and on occasion I have had to hold in a chuckle when I get a really on fire "just... ummer."
I recognize these idiosyncrasies as judgemental spiritual deficits and, fortunately, a book by Thomas Keating titled Open Heart, Open Mind has helped redirect my thinking on prayer. The book focuses a form of prayer called contemplative prayer. Keating claims that this is an inward centering prayer, written about by mystics and bearing some resemblance to Eastern meditation, that was once commonly used in the church, but questioned heavily during the inquisition and discredited by schools that taught theology when human knowledge came to be seen as more concrete during the sixteen and seventeen hundreds.
The basic premiss behind centering prayer is that you learn to quiet all of your inward voices and focus you attention on the still, small voice that dwells within you in the form of God. Keating lays out a step by step process that involved clearing your mind and increasing your focus. Iit does involve quite a bit of time, two half hour periods a day for the rest of your life, and you aren't praying for tangible things but hoping that God will change you and make the fruit of the spirit more evident in your life.
If you are like me and not familiar with Catholic writing or doctrine, you might be a little cautious when you begin reading the book. A couple of times he diverts into discussions of odd things like the story of a medieval Catholic monk who possessed the spiritual gift of "levitation." However, I think there are lessons in the book that anyone, regardless of denominational background, can learn from reading Merton's writing. Primarily, that prayer is not about us, but about God and to be successful at prayer we need to get over our own selfish hang-ups and just umm.. spend some time focusing on what God wants for our lives and what he has to say.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
At the conference I am currently attending I made a buddy from Brazil who is also an amateur photographer. When I look at the photos it seems like Isac had taken some of those cheesy slogan "teamwork" photographs and injected them with a shot of artistic originality. He also sells them.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
I recently heard about an eighty year old Bible translator in Equador who was asked if she found her work fulfilling. She look gave a stern look to the man who asked that question and replied that she was there out of obedience and not for happiness.
I've recently been in the middle of reading a series of books by a man name Brian McLaren called "The New Kind of Christian Trilogy." In that series of books he questions the fundamentals of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian faiths and seeks to find a subtle, introspective view of the bible and church doctrine that attempts to include the dusty eyed perspective of the Hebrews who wrote the old testastament as well as ideas of those involved in modern academic thought.
When I read McLaren's writing I become enthralled. It is liberating know that there don't have to be pat answers to all of the theological questions and that we can't expect to understand everything, not only because God said it in Corinthians, but also because we can recognize the cultural blinders.
Yet, McLaren's ideas, and those like him, seem to have a downside. While they might purport to be expounding on a more three-dimensional view of the gospel, instead it often seems like they are offering that I use a piece of quartz or a prism to help me see the text of scripture, when I really need to just put on my spectacles.
I've spent the last eleven months also reading a book by Wayne Grudem called Systematic Theology. I'm about one hundred pages from from finishing the 1,100 page behemoth. When I started reading the book I first found it neat because it was like every sermon I had ever heard at an evangelical church was condensed and put into one book. I was learning every church word, historical doctrine, and Bible fact there was to know. Unfortunately, the thrill wore off about half way through and, because I am a goal oriented person, I am now trying to slog my way through the rest of it before I drop the one ton book on myself and smash my brains out.
Unlike McLaren, Grudem's view of the gospel is strictly two dimensional- everything fits neatly on a page. Still, it seems like it is lacking something. How do a search for God without putting my own novel distractions in the way or whittling him down to something he's not?
Sometimes I feel like the solution is to become like that single old woman who no longer cared about her own fulfillment. By entering into obedience and being willing to do tedious gruntwork, she no longer had to worry about her own thoughts, disposition, or ability to connect the doctrinal dots. All she did was search for God in away that she knew that her own self didn't matter, only the people she served and the one who lived inside her.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Unless I am already tired, I am the type of person that hates to sit around and waste a lot of time and I've usually got plenty of pent-up energy to spare. Today, feeling fidgety from sitting through a bunch of classes, I left the professional development conference that I was at to go visit downtown Memphis. It was 4:30 by the time I was finally able to get away and by five I was at the National Civil Rights Museum. It is chilling to think how complacent and easy my life is compared to that of many other Americans. In the museum I saw a photo exhibit of all of the various rights movements of the nineteen sixties. Blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, gays, and feminists, and American Indians all latched on the anti-Vietnam fervor and fought for their particular causes. The most real and legitimate concerns had to do with groups that faced systematic economic oppression in the face of violence. Some protestors got the results they wanted, some are still fighting, and others were just hit by firehoses.
The most of impressive part of the museum is the perfectly preserved exterior to the Loraine Hotel, the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. The've even preserved the apartment where James Earl Ray fired the bullet on April 4, 1968. In the apartment you can see the evidence for his conviction laid out. (After reviewing the museum exhibit, I believe he acted alone, but was funded by some unknown outside agency.)
After I was done at the museum, I decided to leave my pickup and walk down to Beale Street. Up and down the street were groups of bluesmen, some black and some white, each playing rhythm, rock, or blues music. Most of the musicians played recognizable cover songs for the hoards of touring nuclear families that were walking up and down the street. However, sometimes the groups would play their own compositions or just jam for a while. I thought it was slightly ironic that groups of white folks would sit around listening to stories of cocaine romances and love gone wrong while going in and out of stores like Tater Red's, but I guess I can't criticize since next month I will official be starting a job as a missionary to Singapore.
Except for the waitress at B.B. King's place that served me a steaming plate full of pulled pork and collared greens, I didn't really talk to anyone except for one homeless man. It was kind of odd. He pulled me aside and told me that he thought that I had the looks of James Earl Ray right before he assassinated Dr. King. I said that that was unfortunate and from there the conversation somehow went into the fact that he could do "Martin Luther King Jr. impersonations." He proceeded to change his voice and spent a couple of minutes quoting the speeches. The impression was passable, which was odd since he was a scrawny, wiry short fellow who carred a small knapsack of possessions on a stick. After he was done with that he then started to tell me about all of "experiences" he had seen in his 51 year; he had apparently lived in several cities, participated in the Memphis riots, seen Martin Luther King Jr., been in the Vietnam War, and played trumpet for the Bar-Kays. He wanted some money so I gave him fifty cents, then he wanted a meal. I said maybe he could eat with me, but I wanted to walk up and down the street to see what was around.
Out meal never happened. As we walked down the street we saw the Beale Street bouncers guards (not the Memphis PD) and he felt the need to skeedattle. He pointed to a scar on his forehead and said that they didn't like him and he didn't want to get another one. He left and I never saw him again.
As I reflect on my walk through Memphis I wonder how much of what I've seen is a show and how much represents real change. I once visited Paseo Academy in K.C. and I distinctly remember a teacher spouting the typical Booker T. Washington line that the only way for justice and equality was if they bothered to educate themselves. Beale Street is a government funded project, with only a minimal amount of real, gritty authenticity. It is almost like you go there and expect one of those cheesy Satchmo dolls to come to life- Smiling, happy and producing art without a context.
No matter how you look at it, this country still has problems if a black homeless guy feels the need to maintain a subsistence living by giving corny impersonations of Martin Luther King Jr to tourists. I don't know if his stories were true, but the most believable one was that he was a war veteran. Shouldn't he have some marketable skill or some support structure that provides him with a better way? I'll end with the rhetorical questions because it is eleven o'clock and I am almost... speechless.