Because life is a series of edits

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Camping with the Prophetesses

In Family, Young Ones on September 27, 2009 at 9:42 am

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It's been a bittersweet weekend. The sweet part was our second annual camping trip to Babler State Park. Last year, Megan and I had officially decided that, since I am finished at school by noon on Friday of parent/teacher conferences each September, we would plan an annual fall camping trip that weekend. This year, being our second time around, we knew a lot more of what we were doing, had assembled a few extra pieces of equipment that came in handy, and really had a good time. Though we only stayed out one night due to the weather, we had some great time around the campfire and even got a memorable rainy (but not too wet) hike in before coming home Saturday afternoon.

Camping is something my girls absolutely love. Here are some pics to illustrate:

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Good time had by all…until, that is, we got home. The relaxation and enjoyment of the previous twenty-four hours somehow evaporated later in the afternoon thanks to a room re-arrangement/clutter explosion (two things that absolutely drive me up a wall). This culminated in my own explosion at one of my daughter's blatant acts of disobedience (there had been several already), and I totally went off in anger before eventually shutting down emotionally.

To her credit, she came to me to ask forgiveness five minutes later, which I did not grant at the moment – partly because I was up to my eyeballs in putting together a set of bunk beds, but mostly because I was still very, very angry. New tears as she left the room told me I was being selfish, but I hardened my heart. Thankfully, later that night (and again of her initiative), we were able to reconcile the shared tension caused by her disobedience and my overreaction to it. But then, another daughter, who was lying in the bunk above and listening to our conversation, asked a very convicting question:

"Daddy," she said, "who do you obey?"

"What?" I asked, fighting my defensiveness.

"Who do you obey?" she repeated. "We're supposed to obey our parents. Mommy's supposed to obey you. Who do you obey?"

I was dumbfounded. Though I don't think she was trying to make a point, the power of her question was not lost on me. I paused for a good twenty seconds, trying to come up with anything I could say that would not betray the hypocrisy I felt surging through my body. I awkwardly rattled off the best list I could come up with: God, our church's session, my headmaster and department head at school, the President and our elected authorities, etc., but it felt so fake.

Was she asking for the list of who I was supposed to obey, or the list of those I really did – that is, doing what I was asked, with the right heart attitude, and in an immediate manner (which is what we've taught our girls make up true obedience)? I was so shaken by the question that, as I went to bed and rehashed the events of the day, I wasn't sure I truly obeyed anybody. Even this Sunday morning, I'm still not sure.

Earlier in the week, yet another daughter – one who was to directly benefit from the aforementioned re-arrangement of her room – said to me at bedtime:

"Daddy, I promise I'll get my room picked up so you can put the bunk beds up. Or at least I hope I promise."

I've thought about her statement for days, as it seems to sum up the worst of my blackened and unfaithful heart: "I promise…or at least I hope I promise." How often is an unsure, wavering "promise" (rather than the true, unfailing variety) really what I mean when I use the same words…in my prayers? in my vows? in my parenting? "I promise…or at least I hope I promise." Could I be any more despicable as a Christian? as a husband? as a father? I am so ashamed and in need of the gospel of God's grace.

I confess that, after this week and weekend, I feel like Philip the evangelist, who the Bible says, "had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied." My daughters are teaching me so much for which I'm too often only grudgingly grateful; I am embarrassed and humbled there is still more I need them to teach me. Though I've yet to hear from daughter #4 this round, I'm wondering – albeit somewhat fearfully, given the lessons from the other three this week – how God may choose to speak through her.

Whatever happened to the days when my children were simply cute and cuddly and not really aware how broken, immature, and needy their father was? And what's up with God actually using my children more in my life than me in theirs?

God, who do I obey – really obey? For the sake of my children (among others), teach me to obey you – doing what I'm asked, with the right heart attitude, and in an immediate manner – in response to your mercy and love. I am so wretched and needy. Forgive me.

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Aussies (or at least this school in Australia) Get It

In Education, Internet, Thought, Westminster on September 21, 2009 at 7:17 am

I don't know if you've heard/read about this, but my Bible department head, L.B. Graham, is married to an Aussie who happened to be on the receiving end of the following email:

"This is the message that the Maroochydore High School, Queensland, Australia, staff voted unanimously to record on their school telephone answering machine. This is the actual answering machine message for the school. This came about because they implemented a policy requiring students and parents to be responsible for their children's absences and missing homework.

The school and teachers  are being sued by parents who want their children's failing grades changed to passing grades – even though those children were absent 15-30 times during the semester and did not complete enough school work to pass their classes."

Attached to the email was this audio attachment containing the school's aforementioned voicemail message – a swift kick in the parental pants that American educators can only dream about giving. As the Aussies say, "Dig a hole and bury me, it just doesn't get any better than this!"

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership

In Books, Calling on September 14, 2009 at 5:45 am

Practice of Adaptive LeadershipI've been reading a really great book called The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Ronald Heifetz, Marty Linksy, and Alexander Grashow (otherwise known as the Cambridge Leadership Associates). These three guys teach leadership in executive education programs at Harvard, New York University, and Duke Corporate Education, and unlike a lot of leadership authors I've read (and there have been many), they do a great job converging the theoretical with the practical in very readable prose. Two quotes and a couple thoughts from the first 25 pages:

“People love change when they know it is a good thing…What people resist is not change per se, but loss…Adaptive leadership almost always puts you in the business of assessing, managing, distributing, and providing contexts for losses that move people through those losses to a new place.” The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, p. 22-23

I tend to enjoy rather than dread change. This may surprise some who know me as a systematic thinker – an intuitive creative-type both logical and methodical in his art – but while I don’t consider myself particularly entrepreneurial, I get bored with the status quo. I tend to embrace change not for change’s sake but because there’s a problem that requires a new solution; as I like solving things, change then – regardless of what it is or entails – becomes an accepted and necessary means to resolution, no questions asked.

Megan, on the other hand, is addicted to change – she loves it and craves it (thankfully, she has yet to scratch the itch of being married to the same man for nearly thirteen years) and adjusts fairly well in the midst of it. I’m grateful for her flexibility, and have more than taken advantage of it by moving our family 9 times in the past 12 years.

Because of my temperament (which in the midst of change tends to be especially objective and detached, probably as a protection mechanism), I can forget about the loss that change often represents to others. I experienced this in the later years of our time with The Navigators, when every day of trying to turn an ailing ministry property around was full of change, and people’s unwillingness to accept it seemed ridiculous. Why would someone want to stay in a system that wasn’t working? Why resist change when the status quo was just that?

The answer I didn’t see then – partially blinded by zeal for what I was being asked to do, as well as by my age and experience up to that point – was that it wasn’t change people feared, but loss – of the familiar, of their control, of their identity. There’s a difference between causing change and being changed; most of us prefer the former to the latter.

“When your organization calls you a leader, it is rewarding you for doing what your authorizers want you to do…Adaptive leadership is not about meeting or exceeding your authorizers’ expectations; it is about challenging some of those expectations, finding a way to disappoint people without pushing them completely over the edge.” The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, p. 26

I recently had an experience in which I did something that, were it not for the politics involved, would normally have been affirmed and held high as an example by the leadership over me of what we as an educational entity are about. Instead, because of what I perceive to be equal parts fear and picking one’s battles, my actions were approved of (but not applauded), tolerated (but not endorsed), and largely ignored (but hardly forgotten). Honestly, I can’t deny my disappointment, but in a fit of maturity (and they don’t come too often), I suppose I understand.

I remember once – after experiencing a similar situation with different leadership over me – asking my director at the time if I was difficult to lead. I imagined that a response of “Well, sometimes, yes,” might help me understand why I struggled to toe the party line, especially in light of the politics of that situation. Strangely (to me, at least) the answer was “No,” which was also disappointing – in my pride, I thought I was more of a handful than he gave me credit.

The good news in both of these situations is/was that I have/had good leaders above me who do/did not react with knee-jerk force – they presumably saw my value, both as a person and employee, and did not try to lessen my contribution by censuring or firing me for my ideas and actions. The bad news is that I continue to wonder where the line is between being a “yes man” and being an adaptive leader willing to challenge my organization’s expectations of me for the sake of the greater good.

More thoughts to come, I'm sure. If you're looking for a book on leadership, this would be a good one.

Stairway of Dunham

In Arts, Family, Marriage, Places & Spaces, Young Ones on September 12, 2009 at 8:09 pm

We've got more pics to print and more old frames to repaint, but I like the results so far:

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We're big black and white fans around here (not a hint of color in our entire wedding album). It's going to be fun to add pictures to the Stairway of Dunham in years to come.

Closure?

In Calling, Education, Internet, Westminster on September 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Been trying to figure out how to bring closure to the Obama speech conversation. Terry Mattingly's Scripps Howard article from our interview might suffice. Enjoy (or don't).

Putting the Mental in Fundamentalist

In Calling, Church, Education, Internet, Politics, Thought, Westminster on September 5, 2009 at 9:01 am

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The hubbub caused by President Obama's planned "Welcome Back" speech to school children on Tuesday is interesting to say the least. For those of you just tuning in to the debate, here's a helpful summary of arguments from all sides concerning the public school arena – not much I could or would add to any of that. However, as I haven't read much from a Christian private school perspective, let me get the conversation started.

On Friday, Westminster received several phone call from parents asking if the school was going to participate in watching the President's speech. The official WCA position for this and other such live presentations is that they are not to take the place of our own academic presentations – those prepared lessons that fit within the planned curriculum for the courses we teach; thus, as guided by our scope and sequence, there is no official planned showing of the President's live presentation in WCA classrooms on Tuesday.

Maybe because we've already had three weeks of school and the idea of a "Welcome Back" speech seems past the expiraton date, I didn't think too much about the email. While I always want to consider whether something like this applies to what we're talking about in Ethics, in light of the fact that my students are gearing up for their first major test next week (and Tuesday finishes up our discussion for that), I figured I'd watch the speech on YouTube and, if anything seemed to apply, bring it in to class afterward.

This idea might get complicated, however, as apparently we had parents (not a lot, but a vocal few) express that if WCA showed the speech, they would keep their kids home from school.

Seriously?

When I got home later in the day, I asked Megan what she had been reading in the blogosphere about President Obama's planned speech, and she told me there were several "sick out" campaigns being organized for Tuesday, mostly by parents whose kids were in public school (though homeschoolers seemed all too eager to jump on the bandwagon as well). When I told her about the phone calls at Westminster, her response was the same as mine.

Seriously?

Am I missing something here? If it's not in the home (and why a homeschooling family would not use this as an opportunity for discussion I have no idea – we are), I would think parents would at least want their kids engaging live presentations like President Obama's in a Christian school, where I as a teacher am going to ask questions like "What can we affirm?" (importance of education, faithful study, etc.) or "What needs to be challenged?" (ideas different from Scriptural truth, etc.). It shouldn't matter who the speaker is – these are the conversations I would think a parent would be PRAYING to take place. Why keep your kids home from them? This logic does not compute; after all, why are they/we here?

At some point, Christians have got to stop putting the mental in fundamentalist and start interacting with the world. Teaching our kids to stick their heads in the sand and ignore anyone they may not totally agree with is, in a word, unChristian. Folks, we can't counter the culture unless we encounter the culture, so let's take off the blinders, read through Acts 17 again, and be some salt and light around here for crying out loud.

Thoughts?