Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Conversation with Class

This is an interview between Woody Allen and Billy Graham. This is an example of respectful dialogue mixed with humor and a healthy dose of not taking themselves too seriously. They seem to be genuinely enjoying one another and it is one of the best conversations between two people I have ever seen. It is in two parts due to the length, but it is well worth the view.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Gone with a Tip of His Hat."

Dr. Seuss died today at the age of 87. I have to admit, when the students bring in yet another Dr. Seuss book for me to read to the class, I moan slightly because my mouth gets tired by the time I reach the end! When they bring one in they want to read to the class, I know it is going to take longer than I would like for them to do so. His books go on and on. However, the children LOVE hearing the rhythms, patterns and word plays. They love the characters and wacky stories he masterfully wrote over his lifetime. For many these are the first books they learn to "read". I am amazed at the creativity and imagination of Dr. Seuss and read more about him over at Today in Literature.

They write, "...When Geisel was a student at Oxford, and banned by school regulations from driving a motorcycle, he tied dead ducks to his handlebars to pass his vehicle off as that of a poultry deliveryman. When living in New York City and finding himself with a telephone number one digit different from a local fish market, he would send his own cardboard fish to those who called him with their order. When trying to quit smoking in his fifties, he carried a corncob pipe empty of tobacco but full of dirt, in which he had planted radish seeds; he would suck on the pipe while riding the bus, stopping every now and then to take out an eyedropper of water and squeeze a few drops into the bowl. To anyone who took the bait he would explain that he was "Watering the radishes."

At the age of eighty, Geisel had his anti-nuclear war Butter Battle Book on the best-seller lists for months; at eighty-two, he published his last book, You're Only Old Once, and told reporters that "Age has no effect on me. I surf as much as I ever have. I climb Mount Everest as much as I ever have...."

". . . Then we saw him pick up
all the things that were down.
He picked up the cake,
and the rake, and the gown,
and the milk, and the strings,
and the books, and the dish,
and the fan, and the cup,
and the ship, and the fish.
And he put them away.
Then he said, "That is that."
And then he was gone
with a tip of his hat."

We miss you Dr. Seuss.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jesus Camp

I finally watched this movie over the weekend. The beginning had a variety of things being said by conservative Christians, one of which mentioned something about how we were in a "culture war". The voice said something like, "we didn't start it, but we will end it." Then you see the radio DJ, Mike Papantonio, from the Ring of Fire radio program mentioning that he was also a Christian but he grew up hearing the Sermon on the Mount from the book of Matthew that spoke of the peacemakers. He does not see the entanglement of religion and politics as a good thing.

The movie talks of children being taught that global warming is wrong and doesn't exist. We can cut down all the trees we want, use the environment however we want to because this is not our permanent home anyways and the Earth belongs to the Lord. I do not hear humility in words like this. I see in Genesis God giving Adam and Eve very special jobs to name and care for the animals and the garden and his creation. I hear an arrogance in these other words.

There are some wonderful children in this film that I believe have a sincere love for God and have many different talents. They are special and sweet and captured me. A ten year old little girl named Tory, loves dancing and admits to sometimes dancing for the flesh and how she needs to rid herself of that, but that oftentimes she dances for the Lord. I see her at the camp later and she gets quite emotional. I see her as a wonderful, sweet, honest, loving girl who wants to please God and others. She has deep compassion as well. I worry that as the camp focuses on sin and guilt that she takes on the shame and guilt of the world. She is wise and I hope she hears the message of how loving and forgiving God is and how he accepts his children. Another boy seems extremely sad at the camp as he admits to how much he doubts God at times. He is an intelligent boy in my mind that doesn't blindly accept things without examination and I hope that someone teaches him how strong a faith can be even when there is doubt. He is surrounded with very charismatic people and I hope he learns that is not the only way to worship and be a Christian. The most dynamic duo are a brother and sister, Rachel and Levi, and I do adore them. They love the Lord in a charismatic, on-fire for Jesus kind of way and they are clearly entrenched in that life. It looks like they have been given clear answers though on everything there is a question for. Rachel talks about the difference between "dead churches" and "real churches". She seems to have opinions and beliefs for everything you could think of. She is about ten and has all the answers and I do not think she is even asking questions anymore.

Most of these children are home-schooled. A statistic was given that 75% of homeschoolers in America are Evangelical Christians. I have strong reservations about home-schooling children and one thing I see in a statistic like this is that children are being indoctrinatied only into whatever their parents believe, instead of learning about the world and being given the gift of thinking for themselves. They show children watching creationism videos and being told that science is "stupid" and doesn't prove anything. The public schools must sound like very scary places for these children, as does Harry Potter. At the camp Pastor Becky preaches on Harry Potter being a warlock and that warlocks are enemies of God. She talks about that Harry Potter would have been put to death back when warlocks were put to death. At dinner later that day a boy talks about how a child at the table looks so much like Harry Potter and that his Mom doesn't let him watch it, but when he stays with his Dad he gets too. You should see the looks on the other children's faces! The horror that he watched Harry Potter!

The camp is run by a very charismatic pastor that admits how tiring her work is, but she does seem to have a deep passion and love for children. She has a gift for speaking with kids and I believe she connects with the children at the camp. She listens to them, gives them her time and attention and the response is strong. She teaches some interesting object lessons that I actually would not mind using if I ever end up teaching a youth group again in my lifetime. However, it does seem to go to far extremes. The camp shows children telling ghost stories and then getting a lecture for telling them instead of honoring God. I see a lot of fear being taught and at one of the meetings they wash their hands with bottled water to repent of their sins. There are lots of tears and emotions and drama...

Near the end the Pastor gets interviewed by the radio DJ and she mentions how children get told what to believe. The sad thing to me is they do not really get to learn, they get fed what to read, what to think, what to do. The gift of childhood is a time of discovering and guidance is definitely needed along with wIsdom, love and support. The problem is when someone is dealing with extremes, taking the gift of choices away from a child, not allowing a child to figure some things out on their own. I think of children on the other side of the world, learning hate and warfare at an early age. Children are so impressionable and it is a tricky thing to balance what and how to teach. The parents in this film believe they are doing what is best for their children, bringing them up in this way. I pray that God helps these children to learn the art of loving and compassion and thinking and seeing things from more than one point of view.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Keeping My Soul Awake

I think that it is a challenge to keep the soul awake. The first few weeks of work have been packed and heavy with many tasks. The beginning of the year can be exciting, but also exhausting and overwhelming at times. Today, I actually started reading again. I began a book called The Kite Runner and it felt so wonderful to be entrenched in a story again. My soul started waking up a bit.

Also, I listened to my ipod tonight for the first time in a while. Such joy filled me! I listened to Bob Dylan's Buckets of Rain, Joni Mitchell's Circle, Modest Mouse's Float On, Bill Mallonee's Chameleon, a bit of Tori Amos and some classical piano. I could feel the layers of air that had been covering me begin to lift and waves of peace came on me as I felt myself remembering my true self. Emotions also come along with this as I realize if I'm not careful, precious days of my life can slip by unnoticed. Time is so priceless and limited for all of us.

The beginnings of fall crept into Michigan this weekend and oh, how I love it here! The trail at Yate's cider mill is a path I have been walking for over ten years and I never get tired of it as I revisit each autumn the first chance I get and continue to go as often as I can until the mill closes after Thanksgiving. Walking the trail was refreshing and awakening as well. The sunny, crisp, clear blue skies fill me with gratitude for life.

I feel a bit of a sore throat coming on, a bit of familiar exhaustion from day to day living creeping in and I've only been back with students for two weeks! Somehow I hope to keep capturing moments of rest in the midst of the working. A balance is possible and is necessary in order to live well.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Madeleine L'engle

Madeleine L'engle passed away Thursday. She was 88 years old. I loved her dearly even though I never got the opportunity to meet her. I know so much about her from all the wonderful stories and books she has written over the years. I have never felt so much affection for an author. I am certain we were kindred spirits of sorts. She valued so many of the things I do.

I have been thinking about her a lot today. I think about how she loves to travel. She actually traveled to Antarctica once! I loved reading about her adventure into such a unique place to go. I remember how everyone had to wear red so that if they were lost when they were exploring they could easily be found.

I remember how much she loves classical music and playing piano. She was able to relax as she played and got lost in her songs. I feel the same way. When I am practicing, I often think of her. She also loved nature and needs to walk outside to remember who she is and what she is about. I also need this time to unwind. So many people do not seem to need their solitude and I often have felt like I am the only one who does. Then I read some of the things Madeleine has written and I do not feel so alone in those feelings.

She also believed strongly in male and female friendships. That is almost impossible to find in today's society. It is a breath of fresh air to hear her talk about it. I feel validated and assured that my ideas are not so strange, just different.

She loved the theatre and had such a brilliant imagination. She loved children. She loved animals. She loved people. She loved God. She was one of the first intelligent Christian women that talked openly outloud about how metaphors can still be real. She loved the art of a story. Stories have so much truth in them. She was an intelligent, thinking, loving person that had a unique way of seeing the world and didn't try to be anyone but herself. I respect her so much and look up to her.

I feel like pulling out everything I have by her from my bookshelves and reading everything all over again. I want to be near her ideas right now and honor her memory. She was one of a kind. She will be missed.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Happy Labor Day

It seems an appropriate holiday to end the summer break on. I return to work tomorrow to begin my thirteenth year of teaching. I always look wistfully back on the summer and there is a fair bit of adjustment returning to a work routine after a couple of restful months off. However, I must say I am very grateful to have a job and I love my career. It is hard work but rewarding to spend the day with children. I love being able to start fresh every September.

I look forward to sharing wonderful stories, songs, lessons and conversations with my students. We will share seasons and holidays together for a large handful of days and bond in a way that only a teacher and student can do. I pray that I can do my work well and be a blessing to my students and their families. God please help me to have patience and love and understanding for all the individual personalities that enter my classroom tomorrow.

A Quote about Seeking

"The end of all seeking is purity of heart- a clear, unobstructed vision of the true state of affairs, an intuitive grasp of one's own inner reality as anchored or rather lost in God" ~Thomas Merton