Office – Preparing for Creation

Office - Preparing for Creation

My office on May 17, 2012. Creation involves a certain amount of chaos and I have to accept that I may muck up the place a bit. But, seriously, excessive clutter forces you to rely on the seat of your pants too much in the process. So, today, I’m taking a moment to pause, de-clutter, and prepare for more creative things. What do you do to be creative?

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

The unofficial mantra of the United States Marine Corps is “improvise, adapt, overcome.” Lately, that’s same mantra applies to creativity and success in church ministry. In my sphere on influence, I have to think beyond the traditional demands of music and arts rehearsals and preparation. I’m under increasing pressure to find new ways to get to the message of Christ out. No longer can one simply put the information out in the newsletter and expect people to show up. We have to cast a vision beyond those that attend Club UMC (United Methodist Church.) Adapting so that both those under middle-age and beyond it get the message is a full-time venture going beyond printed media and even e-mail. I must use all things social to help me. Yet, still making time to prepare for prayer, seeking guidance, rehearsals, casting a vision for music and arts, and taking time to be compassionate can’t be left to chance in a vibrant ministry. If I’m to stay true to The Great Commission, I have to be moving for a greater kingdom here on earth and communicating how we are going to do it. I have to stay clearly focused on Jesus but help others to seek him, too.

Improvise, adapt, overcome . . . the call of the day.

A Rant on Education

I was following a Facebook line of discussion on a friend’s wall. She posted up a rant by Ann Coulter about teachers. Now, I don’t really have a issue with her. She is quite frank about her opinions. She tries to be glib – throwing off comments that are intended to be funny and flippant, but are at times just irritating. However, at times, she has a way of being direct and quite correct.Where I paused for reflection is to consider what I hear a lot of these days. I’m tired of the constant attack on teachers and them having to bear so much of the blame for what ails us today. Is it correct to place blame for all that ills education next to the apple on the teacher’s desk?

I know:*For every weak teacher I had, I had dozens more who motivated and moved me to want to work harder. *For every unmotivated learner I’ve known, I’ve had dozens more who were eager & hungry to investigate new subjects further. *For every uncooperative & overcommitted parent I’ve witnessed, I’ve had dozens more who were thoughtful & supportive. Our problem stems from our refusal to have productive dialogue about education. What is a productive dialogue sound like?

Well, here is my first attempt to start it:

* There are those that will be encouraged not to teach.The old adage that “those that can’t, teach” must go away. If you don’t have the ability to do what you are supposed to be able to do, then you must not be allowed to not do that in my school district. This is a point in which Ann Coulter and I agree.

* Those who would be excellent at doing other things will have to be encouraged to forgo lucrative opportunities to enter a classroom & lead a new generation. Never will educating a child be as financially lucrative as those who run Fortune 500 companies. But, we should work to pay and encourage those that excel at it to remain at it. Maybe, some of those students who became Fortune 500 executives can help by encouraging their best employees to help schools & teachers find ways to cooperate to find, develop and pay new talent. All will benefit from that.

* Parents will have to set aside their own unenouraging, argumentative, destructive behaviors & wholly support their children and those who educate their child.
Show up, shut up, and roll up, and your child will grow up.

* Government will have to understand that money & standard testing don’t guarantee anything except fraud.
Money & testing must be strategically & equitably placed. And, we will all have to do more with less, since throwing money at things got us all into a big financial mess.

* Administrative structures will be demolished.
Over-burdened with administrations & structures, governments & school districts must work to reduce personnel expenditures on staff whose role it is to simply complete forms for the Dept. of Ed. Granted, it takes a village to run a school district but, again, more with less.

* Standardized tests must go away.
Teachers must creative & tailor learning to whose in the classroom – especially with the wonderfully diverse students who come from all corners of the planet and all levels of ability – and are the streamed into a single classroom. Right now, teachers are forced to spend months teaching test strategies rather than subject material. Let the individual districts and schools manage content. Test kids entering college and let individual results be sent back to the districts for them to modify material to develop better strategies. This isn’t pass or fail entrance exam but rather a skills evaluation.

* Property owners will have to pay significant school disrtict taxes to fund quality schools and support generations of students that those property owners will never know or see.
It’s expensive to educate & there are no outlet malls for educating young people. No cheap way out of it.

* Not all kids aren’t meant for college.
As the father of a son who is in trade school, college isn’t for all. And, there are jobs in the country in the trades industry right now that can’t be filled. Quit trying to push all to a four year degree.

* A place has to be made for the arts.
Arts aren’t fluff. Art shows how to critically solve a problem outside of the normal laws, rules, and limitations. Math & science are the tools in the tool chest. Arts are the diagrams used to put those tools into action.

* This will be very hard and unpopular.
We have to agree that it will be hard, feelings will get hurt, jobs will be gained and lost, and that making all comfortable with new things is impossible. But, we will have to do the hard work and critical thinking necessary to change things for the better. No whining allowed.

And, that is my one blog, glib response to education, Ann Coulter.

Ten Years

This Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of September 11. As I am prayerfully working through the liturgy for that day, I wanted to have a sense of where people were. Tonight at choir rehearsal, I asked for people to offer memories of that day. Amazing responses.

Many of my choir members are teachers and they talked of having to shield the days events from the children they taught. Several were at work and they shared their feelings of loss and helplessness. It was very interesting to hear their stories of that moment.

Even after ten years, emotions are still so close to the surface. One person’s voice cracked as they told their story. Another was passionately telling of friends or relatives that they knew in New York that were there at the time.

Ten years. Hard to believe it has been ten years. How will you mark the day with God?

To Kill a Mockingbird

If you’ve followed my recent Facebook posts, you know I’m enjoying Turner Classic Movies presentations of so many of the Oscar films.  So, it figures that in my exhaustion that I’d have a movie moment.

Work was crazy today, so I had some music on while I was accomplishing some simple tasks.  I was listening to iTunes radio while working when the theme from To Kill a Mockingbird came on.  With the first few notes of this famous music by Elmer Bernstein, I was so moved I had to stop what I was doing, close my door, and take in the sounds of this wonderful music.  It made for quite the blessing in a very busy day.

How many of you, at the mere mention of this film, began to hear Scout and Jim?  Or, perhaps you heard Gregory Peck speaking in the courtroom?  (He won an Oscar for his portrayal for Atticus Finch.)  Or, my favorite, when the Rev. tells Scout, “Scout, stand up, your father’s passin . . .”  What a moment!

So many things make this movie wonderful — not the least of which is that it so much reminds me of my small hometown.  While my upbringing certainly wasn’t The Great Depression, it was a simple time when people sat on their front porches and yelled at their neighbor’s kids when they saw them doing wrong.  (I couldn’t get down the street without my mother knowing what I was doing.)  Fresh vegetables were a part of our growing up as everyone had a garden.  Dominos were still played around tables by overall-clad old men who needed to interact with their equally-clad friends.  Most swimming was done in ponds, tanks, or lakes.  Few had pools. I could ride my bike everywhere and anywhere.   Summers were a time to be a kid.  Sigh, it was a different time.

I’ve had other connections to this film, too.  Odd as it was, one happened here at the Houston airport.  On a return flight from a conference, I was walking down the corridor and saw an older, white-haired man.  Barbara Roberson and Richard and Melissa Burnham and I were traveling together.  Melissa, being from the big city of Wharton, TX, immediately recognized him.  It was Horton Foote, the man who wrote the screenplay for the movie and won an Oscar for his adaptation of the Harper Lee novel.  As Mr. Foote was from Wharton, Melissa knew him and introduced me.  I don’t remember what we talked about but I told him that the movie he helped create, to this day, still speaks to me to me in amazing ways.  I will never forget that moment.

Richard says that there is a lot of truth in Mockingbird. I’d agree.  And, I bet Atticus would, too.

In this Oscar season, is there a movie that captures your heart?

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