Archive for July, 2011

Homeschooling and the Church 2

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

            “Why, big boy,” I forlornly asked, “Are you weeping?  Daddy is carrying you!”
            To cover myself with his mother whom I earnestly wanted to believe I was not neglected our youngest charge, I loudly repeated, “I AM carrying you. What else do you want?”

            “I need mommy, Daddy, I need mommy,” Peter exclaimed.

            Now, these are sublime words to my quickly tiring arms, but, Peter knew, as I knew, that my wife, his “mommy,” was not above implementing a needed maturity lesson, even on a three year. So I persevered.

            With ear shot of my lovely wife, Karen, I subtly but loudly quipped, “Why mommy? Daddy is carrying you just fine, right?”

            “No, Daddy, I so tired that I need Mommy.”

            Well, that was that. I gratefully handed him to my wife and Peter proceeded to tell her about his woes.

            “I am tired mommy. “

            “My feet hurt.”

            What the heck?  I took care of those things for him.  But I was missing the larger point . . .

            His mommy listened to him and hugged him. That is all.  I did that too. But Peter  needed was empathy and love from him mommy.

            Peter reached a point where he needed his mommy. Period. Daddies are ok but the really serious hurts require the mommies–at least in my family. ; And it wasn’t just that Peter wanted to be carried; he needed to share his journey with someone who cared and, if need be, someone who would kiss a boo boo or two. His journey had carried him from comfortable epistemology to uncomfortable metaphysics,  a need for empathy, a need for revelation of the nature of being and beings, existence, time and space, and causality and he preferred his mother as a traveling companion on the latter leg of this summer morning journey.

            Which is one reason I look forward to going to church every week. I want to be with my church family. I want to be with people of faith whose world views extend beyond their epistemology.  My epistemology—everyday struggles and challenges—can only take me so far.  And in Church I find again my way to the Cross.

            I have walked all week to the beach and now I need my church family to help me a little. Lifting my hands in praise and adoration of a God who extends beyond my experience, I relish every praise song, every biblical truth. Out of the fog of doubt and tentativeness, I find in my little mountain church, people who can carry me the last 100 yards, who let me be myself, and love me anyway. They let me tell them the woes of the journey so they can remind me of the joy of the journey.  And, ultimately, we always make it safely to the beach, together!

Homeschooling and the Church 1

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

            Eons ago, I was serving as a summer pastor at Matinicus Island, ME (as in Keep the Light House Burning Abby!, by Peter and Connie Koop). I was  with my whole family, Karen, my wife, and our four children. Summer pastors served congregations for a month or two and for payment we were able to live in the parsonage rent free.

            My duties were pretty light. I preached on Sunday and handled emergencies. But most days we were free to explore this exotic paradise, full of exotic Puffins who delighted us with their reticent composures and dark Russian U-Boats who lingered off the coast in Cold War stealth.

            Almost every day we loaded up our backpacks, and three year old Peter, our youngest son, on our backs and headed to the beach (about a mile away). We aggressively negotiated with Peter him to be a big boy and walk a little. Being a good natured child, he always succumbed to our approbation.

            And he walked for about a mile, bless his heart! Despite occasional excursions–like a  butterfly expedition–and an inconvenient potty break–a task at this stage of his life was generally relegated to the male member of the team (me!). But we made pretty good time and Peter walked with no more encouragement than the nudging of his older sister.

            Inevitably, though, about 100 yards from the beach, Peter began to cry,  “I am tired daddy I am tired!”  Peter, even at age 3 knew that his dad’s commitment to character building, if it meant necessary suffering, was much more fragile than his good mother, and he also took advantage of my detestation of his lamentation.

            So I carried Peter in my arms.

            But my humane intervention could not diminish, much less abrogate, his weeping. In fact, the closer we got to the beach, Peter became even more agitated.

Moral Man, Immoral Society: Part 2

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

 Individuals can be moral in purpose and in actions.  But, combine a bunch of individuals into a coercive group can cause the group to become immoral.  For example, Adolf Hitler’s rise to power was initially a good thing for Germany.  He brought jobs and prosperity to his people.  However, as he gained power, the moral imperative became the despotic immoral coercion.
 The answer to this apparent contradiction is, of course the Gospel.  Neibhur stresses the role of the Holy Spirit (what he calls the “religious imagination”).   In a sense groups, political parties, remain moral because the individuals in that societyanswer to a “higher power,” not to the coercion of the group or to the agenda of the group.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German World War II martyr, for example, was perhaps the most patriotic of Germans because he loved his God and his country enough to obey God and His Word above all persons.  This was the only way, Bonhoeffer understood, that his nation could be moral and right before the God he served.  Unfortunately he was a lone voice in the wilderness!
 Today, young people, as you look ahead of you, do the right thing.  All the time.  Every time.  Do not seek to overcome evil with evil, even if your society tells you it is all right.  Make the Word of God central to your life and, as you do, and as thousands do, society will change too.

Moral Man and Immoral Society, Part 1

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Moral Man and Immoral Society

Moral Man and Immoral Society, by Reinhold Neibhur, was written during the period of the Great Depression (1929-1940). In Moral Man, Reinhold insists on the necessity of politics in the struggle for social justice because of the sinfulness of human nature, that is, the egotism of individuals and groups. He fervent hopes–and that is all it can be–that a person can experience redemption, and redeem his socidety, by a Hegelian, reductionist struggle with sinfulness. Niebuhr advanced the thesis that what the individual is able to achieve singly, cannot be simply regarded as a possibility for social groups. He marked a clear distinction between the individual and the group; lowering significantly the moral capacity of the group in relation to that of the individual.
He sees the limitations of reason to solve social injustice by moral and rational means, “since reason is always the servant of interest in a social situation” (xiv-xv). This is his critique of liberal Christian theology, which strongly believes in the rational capacity of humans to make themselves be moral, and he accepts this vulnerability as our reality. In other words, Neibhur correctly saw the immorality of systems in society (e.g., social welfare) and its futile attempts to ameliorate individuals and their needs through systemic interventions.
Neibhur cautions us about embracing “herd mentalities.” According to him, individuals are morally capable of considering the interests of others and acting. That is, individuals can be unselfish. Societies, however,  cannot. “In every human group there is less reason to guide and to check impulse, less capacity for self-transcendence, less ability to comprehend the needs of others, therefore more unrestrained egoism than the individuals, who compose the group, reveal in their personal relationships” (xi-xii).
My point is, some politicians may be sincere in their understanding about several issues.  In fact, they may be right about some issues.  But when that group gains political hegemony, it can lose focus and direction.

ACT Test Taking Strategies: English

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

English Test Strategies

 First, thakfully, spelling, vocabulary, and verbatim recall of rules of grammar aren’t tested.  In fact, the test consists of five prose passages, each one accompanied by multiple-choice test questions. Different passage types–history, science, literature, music– are included to provide variety.
 Some questions refer to underlined portions of the passage and offer several alternatives to the underlined portion. You must decide which choice is most appropriate in the context of the passage. Do not read the questions before you read the passage.  Memorize the “type” questions that you will encounter before you take the exam.  Then, during your active reading experience (mark it up!) you should naturally identify possible questions.
 Some questions ask about an underlined portion, a section of the passage, or the passage as a whole. You must decide which choice best answers the question posed.
 Many questions include “NO CHANGE” to the underlined portion or the passage as one of the choices.

Bokononism: Choices in Homeschooling 2

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

  Pastor  Gardner quotes Edward O. Wilson’s Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.   Wilson’s grand conclusion is that “all tangible phenomena, from the birth of stars to the workings of social institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately reducible, however long and tortuous the sequences, to the laws of physics.” He envisions the unification of the natural sciences with the social sciences and humanities. As he puts it, “The human condition is the most important frontier of the natural sciences,” and “the material world exposed by the natural sciences is the most important frontier of the social sciences and humanities. The consilience argument can be distilled as follows: the two frontiers are the same.”
 The bird is being lowered into the mines .  . .
 Can you imagine how much fun it must be to sit through a sermon with Brother Clinton?  Wow—Consilience—nice word.  What biblical text would he use?  Existentialism and nascent naturalism can be pretty cold bedfellows.  Ain’t gonna mend many broken hearts though!
 Seriously, though, these peckerwoods are arguing quite eloquently that 1. My fundamentalism is not only irrelevant, it is uncool and rude (what a low blow!).  2. My belief that that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God is, well, old fashioned.  3. Finally, my belief in a 24 hour creation is likewise dumb.
 What can I say?  I believe all these things and more.  The God I serve is amazing, far more amazing than the God of Brothers Clinton and Edward. 
 Pow  tee weet

Bokononism: Choices in Homeschooling 1

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

 The late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s  Cat’s Cradle  creates a new religion, Bokononism. The bible of Bokononism is the “Books of Bokonon”, written by Bokonon — a British Episcopalian black  from the imaginary Carribean island of Tobago whose real name was Lionel Boyd Johnson– as a way to distract the people of Tobago from their unhappy lives.
 What is important to Bokononists? Not God; just one thing: man.  Bokononism is a strange, Post-modern subjective faith that combines nihilistic, and cynical observations about life and God’s will.  The supreme act of worship is an intimate act consisting of prolonged physical contact between the naked soles of the feet of two persons, supposed to result in peace and joy between the two communicants.
 Hummmm . . .
 I know a lot of Bokononists these days.  Post-Modern, Post-Christian Bokononist American leadership are asking us to suspend belief.  Pastor Clinton C. Gardner, in his book Beyond Belief: Discovering Christianity’s New Paradigm, “raised on Christian fundamentalism, he felt liberated by the grand picture of evolution and the empirical science of the Enlightenment.”  Ok Brother Clinton!  Imagine,  there are people who believe that God really loved us enough that He sent His only Begotten Son to die for our sins!  How uncool!  And, get this, some of those  remnant fundamentalist Christians—who have not yet bowed down and worshiped at the altar of Bokononism—actually believe that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life.  How old fashioned can you get!
 The last line of Cat’s Cradle includes a warning that I offer here: Pow Tee Weet. At one time song birds were lowered into coal mines to ascertain if methane gas was of dangerous high density.  Everything was fine as along as the miners heard “Pow Tee Weet.”  However, quite literally, if the bird stopped singing, everyone is in trouble.
 I wonder how much longer the song bird will sing.

ACT Test Taking Advice 2

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

 This is a content driven exam (vs. the SAT which is a critical thinking driven exam). Note which content areas make up a large proportion of the tests and which do not (for example, there is no history). The specific topics included in each content area are examples of possible topics; they do not include all of the possibilities.
 Refresh your knowledge and skills in the content areas.
 Review those content areas you have studied but do not have freshly in your mind. Spend your time refreshing your knowledge in the content areas that make up  
 If unfamiliar content areas make up major portions of the tests, consider taking coursework to help you gain knowledge in these areas before you take the ACT. The nice thing about the ACT is that you can significantly increase your score in 6 weeks. However, because the ACT measures knowledge acquired over a period of time, it is unlikely that a “cram” course covering material that is unfamiliar to you will help you improve your scores. Longer-term survey courses in the subject matter will be most helpful to you, because they aim to improve your knowledge in the area.

ACT Test Taking Advice 1

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Choosing a Test Date

 Before you choose a test date, consider the application deadlines of the colleges and scholarship agencies that are of interest to you. It will take four to seven weeks after a test date for ACT to mail your score report to you and to your college choices.
 I  recommend that you take the ACT during the spring of your junior year. By this time, you typically have completed most of the coursework covered  by the knowledge driven ACT.
  There are a number of advantages in taking the ACT junior year:

 • You will receive test scores and other information that will help you plan your senior year in high school.
 • Many colleges begin contacting prospective students during the summer before the senior year.
 • If you do not score as well as you believe you can, there will be opportunities to retake the ACT in the fall of your senior year and still have the new information available in time to meet admission and scholarship deadlines (usually by deadlines lie close to January 1).

Pretending: homeschooling in love 2

Friday, July 15th, 2011

 After establishing our password, Zion and I grabbed our browning automatics (broken broom handles), grenades (plastic donuts from Zion’s sister’s pretend kitchen set), and bowie knives (Karen’s carrots) and quietly, with great alacrity, approached the dangerous mail box.
Along the way, of course, we were attacked by banzai warriors (our four barn cats), a German Stuka (our Black Lab), and an enemy patrol (Our neighbors on a walk).  Against all odds we made it.
 But not without casualties.  I sustained a serious leg injury and Zion was nicked in the left arm.  In fact, we lost several good pretend companions. 
 Sly Zion, halfway, as we hid behind the chicken coup insisted on a field promotion to lieutenant or he would desert.  I reluctantly agreed.  In the midst of such carnage, what was I to do?
 After such an arduous and dangerous mission newly promoted Lieutenant Zion and I celebrated at Granna’s kitchen table.  She unceremoniously served us A-rations (Christmas cookies) and mess coffee (hot chocolate with marshmallows).
 It doesn’t get much better than this, 10-4?