Thursday, June 30, 2011

Things we take for granted.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine was the guest speaker in church.  He serves in a very closed country, and has had many adventures as a result.  Most of those adventures involved situations in which his life was under some kind of threat if he didn't handle it correctly.

There are no churches in that country, and for most of the few Christians, fellowship involves a coded conversation with one other person.

As I listened, I found myself struck by how much I take for granted, and the small things by which I am sometimes irritated.  I've got to admit, I really have it pretty good.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trying out blogpress

I have acquired an iPad, and it is fast becoming my "go-to" tool. This is the second time I have tried to post from Blogpress, an app I downloaded, and I am hoping that this post will actually publish.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I have hope.

Not hope like "I hope I win the lottery" or "I hope I can find a parking space close to the entrance of Target."

Hope like I know that I know that in the end it all works out for Good. That no mistake I've ever made is too big. That Someone else really does have everything in hand, that there is nothing new under the sun, that my life serves an eternal purpose.

I wonder how anyone lives without this hope. And I imagine that living without this hope is at least part of the cause of the general sense of anger so many people seem to have.

God will see to it that everything is put right in the end. As an old song says, it might look like Friday night, but Sunday's on the way.

That's why I have hope.

Do you?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Enjoying God, Enjoying Life

You've just got to laugh.

I mean, yeah, there's a ton of snow, with more on the way.  We have had five snow days in the last three weeks.  And there are one or two other storms that the meteorologists are tracking for next week.

The kids at school are all worried about losing February or April vacation days or coming to school on weekends.  We aren't there yet - actually, we are out on June 22 right now, which is when I remember getting out normally back in the day.  Three or four years ago, I mean.

So, you can whine and complain, talk about how much you hate it, and curse the weather.  You can tell yourself how terrible it is, how it isn't fair.  You can rail against the long winter with short days and no end of shoveling. 

And you'll believe you, and then it really will be terrible. And joy-less.

Or you can find some humor.  Watching a tiny dog struggle to hop around in it.  Seeing kids making a sledding hill out of the mound of snow that was once a trailer.  You can notice that it really is pretty on the trees.

Romans tells us we should be "transformed by the renewing of our minds."  Well, if it works for our lives - living by flesh or living by faith - can't it work for getting through a long, snowy winter of endless shovelling?

Maybe the secret to enjoying life and enjoying God is just finding some joy in the simple things.

Monday, September 20, 2010

God Sings

God sings.  Did you know that?


This past Sunday I went to church and was not in charge of anything – didn’t play on the worship team, wasn’t preaching, didn’t have the new friends and members class to teach.  I just went to church.  My friend Erik was leading worship this week, and it was a fairly small team.  He chose songs that communicated the immense majesty of God, as well as the fact that He calls His people close to Himself.  It was so cool!


It was so great to be worshiping with the Grace family.  We were singing our hearts out to God.


And then suddenly, I heard Him singing back.  It was through Pete’s guitar on a song called Here in Your Presence, and it was awesome.


There is a verse in the Bible that tells us that God rejoices over us with singing.  I know it’s true.  I heard it Sunday morning.

Friday, September 03, 2010


My next sermon topic - for 9/12 - is "Lost."  It's on the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin parables in Luke 15. 

I've been thinking about seeking.  How hard we seek depends on how much we care about finding whatever it is we're looking for.  And sometimes, there's that sense we're seeking something we didn't even know we were missing.

Ever feel like that?

There's something in us that is constantly on the lookout for that next thing.  Or person.  Or job.

Or maybe, there's something that, once we find it, we'll be so content that our hearts will stop seeking the unknown missing piece.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

An Occasion

This evening, at our final band camp session, a funny thing happened.
My Assistant Band Director, pictured, if this all works like it should, had his very first Starburst Fruit Chew ever.
"It's like taffy, with a very tangy taste. Here we go, diabetes."
He retired two years ago from a full career teaching elementary school instrumental music for 34 years.
How did he avoid Starburst for so long? "I'm more of a chocolate person. You offer me an Almond Joy or a Starburst, I'm taking the Almond Joy, you know with the chocolate. And coconut's one of my favorite flavors."
Me? I like Starburst. But add Mounds to the mix, and I take that. Because I like the chocolate and the coconut, but I'm not so big on the almonds added in there.
Strange rehearsal conversation.
But it sounds like the makings of a great end of season gift, to me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Now this is truly encouraging!

This article breaks down a poll, the results of which show that the American public is NOT on the same page as the Obama administration when it comes to school reform.

It seems the public has more confidence in public school teachers than all the recent media and speeching and such would lead us to believe.  The public would rather see teachers improved rather than see mass firings and school closings.  Read the article for more.

That is a truly encouraging fact.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

And they're off!

(This article has been cross posted at

We have just finished our first week of band camp, and we are off and running with a very good start.

I can hardly believe another year is upon us.  The summer, for me, has been one of reading blogs, conversing with teachers around the country and the world, and checking out all sorts of new resources.  Through Twitter, I have built a valuable and challenging Professional Learning Network, comprised of teachers, principals, educational consultants, and higher education professionals.  These people all have one thing in common - a passion for educating children to the very best of our abilities.

To do this, we recognize that there are some things about our system that must change.  However, we are of the opinion that it should be educators leading the way, because we know what's really going on.  Good as the President's intentions are, he has not been a public school educator.  Secretary Duncan is working to repeat strategies that he implemented in Chicago and which failed.  And our favorite billionaire drop-out, Bill Gates, and the group of "philanthropists" he has put together, simply think we can privatize it all and run schools like businesses.

We can't.  We don't make widgets.  We teach young people.

I have spent some time thinking about what I would like to do professionally this year - thinking about little ways I can begin to, as Ghandi said, "Be the change I want to see."  

I want to find new ways to help my students take responsibility for their own learning.  I would like to teach them how to use the Web 2.0 resources I've found - be it blogging, using online recording tools, or learning new methods - besides PowerPoint - for making presentations.  It will be a challenge to find ways this will all fit into my discipline of music, but if I want to give my best to my students I will do it.

As for our department, we have another busy and event filled year in store, and TMPO is bringing the Polar Express to the area.  We're going to be working long hours together - but that's the best part.  Through these events, through our work together, we connect and build community.

What's better than that?

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Why Teacher Tenure is Important

It is fashionable right now to attack education and teachers - at least, it's politically fashionable. These attacks are being led by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. And they are being pushed along by the billionaire boys club, led by Bill Gates, that seems hell-bent on taking over and privatizing education in the US.
Oh, they pay lip service to how much they respect teachers. But the rest of what they say flies in the face of the reality of the respect they claim to hold.
There's a lot to be concerned about, and I applaud those who are attempting to put their concern into action.
The problem is, they haven't bothered to really find out what they're talking about, and they conveniently ignore pertinent research that does not support their ideas and strategies.
There's a lot wrong with the "initiatives" being touted by this happy band. To keep this post focused, and short, I would like to remind readers about why teacher tenure exists.
I think we can agree that children are best served by teachers who are established, confident educators. And our schools need experienced teacher leaders. So the point is not jobs - it is serving the needs of children and the school communities of which they are part.
But, because we work in the public sector, we are not part of for-profit companies that can raise prices or sell more widgets when times get tough. We are in the business of people, and it is a different world. And, as in most every occupation, personnel is the most expensive part of the budget.
As a result, without tenure, come budget crunch time, school boards and superintendents might be inclined to simply fire the experienced, self-assured, established teacher-leaders in favor of hiring inexperienced, raw teachers right out of college.
I am not knocking young teachers. Indeed, the best faculty teams are comprised of a balanced roster of seasoned veterans and enthusiastic younger folks.
But, absent teacher tenure, I believe - no, actually, I'm sadly confident - that we would face the wholesale loss of all of the "expensive" people - our veteran educators.
The argument I most often hear against tenure is that it stops administrators from "getting rid of" the older, lazy, ineffective place-holders who are resistant to the changes being tried in schools. This argument is, quite frankly, bunk.
Administrators with some guts who are willing to follow the contractual process would find themselves able to take care of those issues. Unfortunately, it seems we have few administrators willing to do the job.
At any rate, tenure is an important factor for educators, and it is my hope that this little reminder of why it exists in the first place will help people understand why we must not lose it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What the President "forgot" to mention...

The President gave a big speech about education reform yesterday.  He touted his pet project - Race to the Top - and refused to budge.

And he told the great story of a successful charter school.

Larry Ferlazzo, an educator and blogger I follow, reminded us about what the President failed to share about that charter school.  Sadly typical of politicians.  Here's the link to Larry's post.

This charter school raised its students math and English proficiency levels.  At the same time they experienced a 42% student attrition rate.  Need me to explain that?

They kicked out the kids that couldn't hack it.  This is the untold story of most charter schools.

And Bill Gates, and the President, and Secretary Duncan think they're great.

What if your kid is the one who can't hack it?

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Weblogg-ed » We Need a Test for That

Lately, I’ve been finding myself wondering if maybe the best strategy for changing education is to join ‘em, not fight ‘em. I mean, if the only material that we think is important is the stuff that our kids are going to get tested on, well, then let’s have MORE tests! (Play along!)

Here's a cynical post on testing. Imagine me sharing something like that...

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"We've mined their minds like we've strip-mined the earth."

This is a talk by Sir Ken Robinson, delivered at TED in 2006.  With all the recent articles and discussion about the decline of creativity in our kids I found it really interesting.

He talks about our current system of public education as being a protracted entrance process for college and university, and noted that all public ed systems have the same hierarchy of subjects, where we end up educating kids from the waist up, and then only from the neck up.  In the end, we educate the creativity out of our kids.

We have to rethink how we educate our children.

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Monday, July 19, 2010


Being near water is good for the soul, I think.  I spent the weekend at a lake house with some friends, and I am headed to another lake house tomorrow for the rest of the week.  There's something relaxing about hanging out near water.

Maybe that's why Eden was at the crossroads of rivers.

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