Because life is a series of edits

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Lawn Mower Civics

In Family, Holidays, Humanity, Places, Places & Spaces, Politics on May 31, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Mowing the yard is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend. I suppose caring for the tiny piece of land I own is my noble attempt at recognizing the American traditions of honoring soldiers’ sacrifices and observing summer’s arrival.

Perhaps like many, I don’t always think about the freedoms we Americans enjoy, which is why Memorial Day (and what we do on Memorial Day) is important. As we’ve done in the past, we went to Jefferson Barracks today (here are some pics):

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

Mowing on Saturday and attending the Memorial Day service today got me thinking about ability – specifically, all I am able to do in the U.S. because I happen to live legally within her borders and laws. Here are just a few abilities I have as a U.S. citizen not necessarily guaranteed elsewhere in the world:

I’m able to have four children (all girls). In China, I could only have one child (and the government would want that one to be a boy, so any girls might get aborted).

I’m able to keep a blog or a write a new book without having to submit either to a censor for approval. In North Korea, neither is really an option (Internet and independent ideas don’t jive too well with totalitarian government regimes).

I’m able to freely live and believe according to the Christian Scriptures. While ours is not (nor ever has been) a “Christian” nation, I rejoice at being able to live freely as a Christian within our nation (try testing day-to-day religious diversity in, oh, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia and see where and what that gets you).

Now, lest you think this is just a nice patriotic post on freedom (I’ve tried those a few times before – 1, 2, 3, 4 – but they never seem to end up too warm and fuzzy), let me talk honestly about some personal inabilities that I wrestle with in our fair democracy (for those of you with USA bumper stickers and T-shirts, you might want to stop reading now):

I’m unable to trust elected political leaders. It doesn’t matter the level – national, state, local – nor the branch – executive, legislative, judicial – nor the political affiliation – Democrat, Republican, or Independent – politicians do not have the luxury of asking for my trust and assuming they have it. I am sick of the lack of integrity, of the abuse of power, of the CYA spin, and of the arrogance to think I do not understand enough to know what’s really going on. As far as I’m concerned, politicians can save the rhetoric for their consciences (if they still have any left); their words no longer affect me.

I’m unable to trust government workers. Call it guilt by association, but I’m tired of hearing about those who work for a government agency who seem all too content to siphon off their part of my taxes with little to no thought as to for whom they’re really working (example). I’m not saying there isn’t a place for public service (and I’m not saying every government worker is like this), but there is a philosophical difference between earning a living and spending an apportionment, and most long-term government leaders and workers don’t understand it.

I’m unable to trust the media as a true Fourth Estate. It’s not as if I did before, but the more I read or watch supposed “trusted” news sources, the more the agendas (liberal, conservative, etc.) spill over. One can blame the Internet, I suppose, for severely crippling the budgets of most newspapers and magazines, but someone needs to explain to our media outlets that their job is not to sell stories but to tell them. I’m done with opinion columnists masquerading as reporters (are you listening, Newsweek?) and find myself incredibly skeptical of the phrase “Here’s what’s making news” when it should really be “Here’s what WE’RE making news.”

I’m unable to trust the American Dream. This has never been much of a motivator nor temptation for me, but if it were, it’s become even less so in recent recession years. While cries of socialism/communism have found their way into the public conversation of late, pure laissez-faire capitalism is not the answer either. If the past ten years have taught us anything, I would hope it would be that life and meaning are bigger than an economic system, regardless of which system it is.

Jane Jacobs, in her 2005 book, Dark Age Ahead, argued that “we’re stumbling into the same cultural decline that befell the Roman Empire.” One of her overarching premises was that mass amnesia – not only forgetting something but forgetting that you have forgotten it – is the main cause of a Dark Age. “When the abyss of lost memory by a people becomes too deep and too old,” she wrote, “attempts to plumb it are futile.”

Jacobs went on to identify five pillars of society we need and have come to depend on:

  • community and family
  • higher education
  • the effective practice of science and science-based technology
  • taxes and governmental powers directly in touch with needs and possibilities
  • accountability by the learned professions

She concluded that we in America “are dangerously close to the brink of lost memory and cultural uselessness” concerning these. I concur: We are suffering from mass amnesia these days about most things having to do with taxes, governmental powers, and accountability in the economic, scientific, technological, and (sadly) even religious sectors of our society. We have forgotten that we have forgotten. Memorial Day calls us to remember; interestingly, Deuteronomy does, too (fourteen times, as a matter of fact).

We in America are and always have been a country of ability, but are there others who sense a growing tide of inability washing away the sands of strength from our U.S. shores (at least the ones not covered in oil – thank you, BP)? Care to add to either list (ability or inability), or offer something you think we’ve forgotten that we’ve forgotten? I’d welcome your thoughts.

Until then, I may go mow some more…

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Last Day

In Education, Pop Culture, Westminster on May 28, 2010 at 8:40 am

Here's what I posted on my classroom door this morning, the last day of final exams:

“Mr. Dunham, do you have our tests graded?”

“No (insert name), but thanks for stopping by to say thanks for a great year.”

“You’re welcome. When will my test be done?”

“Today is Friday; grades are due Tuesday. Sometime between now and then, I’m sure.”

“Okay. Can I see what you’ve graded so far?”

“No.”

“Can you just grade mine real quick so I know what I got?”

“No.”

“Is this another one of those rare-but-important lessons in delayed gratification that challenges my moral therapeutic deism?”

“Yep.”

“Thought so. Hey, I guess I learned something after all. Thanks for a great year, Mr. Dunham.”

"You're welcome."

School's (almost) out for summer. Paging Alice Cooper…

Summer 2010 Preview, Etc.

In Books, Calling, Education, Family, Humanity, Internet, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians, Thought, Travel, TV, Vacation, Web/Tech, Westminster, Writers on May 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Sitting here on a Sunday night listening to some Lucinda Williams and doing a little writing. It's been a while since I've done a summary post of sorts, so since Megan and the girls are out of town and we're collectively an entire season behind to really make the LOST finale worth watching, here are a few things I've been thinking about and/or looking forward to:

School: This week is finals week, so I'll be spending most of my time grading. The good news is, unlike the past three years when I was evaluating projects and papers, I'm going into finals week with nothing other than finals to grade, so that should make for a little less consuming week in general.

In other school news, I've signed on for another year at Westminster, but my role is changing a bit as I'll be leaving the world of freshmen New Testament behind for fourth section of sophomore Ethics and one section of senior Worldviews next year. I'm glad for the transition all around.

One last note on the school front (this time the homeschool front), we're going to be entering a new stage of education here at home. This fall, our two oldest girls will be full-time students at Central Christian School in Clayton, while Megan continues leading the Classical Conversations group and homeschools our younger two (here are details from Megan's perspective).

Summer: In addition to writing (more on that below), my primary goal in June is to hang out with the little ladies, read some books, and get a few projects done around here. In addition, I'll help coach our Westminster summer baseball team for a week in June, as well as get trained on some new school information software, as I've been asked to be a mentor teacher to the rest of the staff this fall.

July ups the ante considerably in terms of travel, as we're planning a family trip to Colorado Springs, as the girls are now old enough (somehow) to attend The Navigators' camping programs (Eagle Lake and Eagle's Nest) we helped lead back in the day. I'll try to see as many folks as I can in a few days' time before I jump on a plane from Denver to Portland for my third year as part of Westminster's Summer Seminar. This time, I'll be investing ten days with 25 soon-to-be seniors in Washington state instead of South Dakota, after which I'll fly back to Colorado and then we'll all drive back to Missouri.

August sees staff reporting as earlier as the week of August 9th, but I'll have a few publishing projects to edit and design from the Washington trip, as well as a fair amount of prep work to finalize for my new
Worldviews class. Orientation starts the 12th and the first day of class is the 16th.

Studying: Despite baseball high-jacking my time and energy, I've been reading in a couple areas of interest this spring, not the least of which has been the study of the end times, or eschatology. N.T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, has been helpful, as has revisiting my notes from seminary (particularly Dr. Dan Doriani's notes from his Epistles and Revelation class). Of the three years I've taught Revelation to my freshmen New Testament classes, I feel like I've done the best job this year.

I'm also finishing up a couple books on education, namely John Dewey and the Decline of American Education by Henry T. Edmondson III, Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes-Jacobs, and The Secret of TSL by William Ouchi. It seems I've been reading these for a while (and I have), but there's been some good content that's come as a result.

Looking ahead, I have some Worldviews reading to do this summer, including (Re)Thinking Worldview by J. Mark Bertrand; The Compact Guide to World Religions edited by Dean C. Halverson (ed.); The Journey by Peter Kreeft; Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey; and The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire. Should be fun.

Writing: Now that my second book, Learning Education: Essays & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching, is finished, I'm turning back to finishing the ThirtySomewhere manuscript this summer. I'm still looking for a formal publisher to get behind it, but now that I've experimented with the self-publishing gig a bit (and am still experimenting), I may go with what I've got at some point this fall and see what happens. We'll see.

I plan to continue blogging here, though I really wonder how much people are interested in anything longer than 140 Twitter characters these days. Speaking of which, I've enjoyed Twitter enough to keep using it, but there again I just have no way of really knowing how far the medium's actual reach is so as to invest more time in it. Oh well.

Guess that's it for now. There's more, but this is long enough. I'll try to post a few more thoughts later on this week (nothing brings out literary creativity like the desire to avoid grading). Have a good one.

Five Years Later

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Places & Spaces, Seminary, Theologians on May 22, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Here are a few shots from Covenant Seminary's 2010 graduation, in which I earned my second masters, this one in educational ministries. Here I'm receiving my diploma from seminary president Bryan Chapell while commencement speaker Alistair Begg looks on):

IMG_5286

With professor Jerram Barrs (I was Jerram's teaching assistant for a year-and-a-half and love him dearly):

IMG_5294

With Dr. Donald Guthrie, lead professor of Covenant's education program (I am the Padawan learner to his Jedi knight):

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With Dr. Bob Burns, professor of educational leadership and an elder at our church:

IMG_5291

With Tom Rubino, with whom I started summer Greek in 2005 and at last finished in 2010 (Tom earned his M.Div. and M.A.C. (counseling) degrees). It meant a lot to both of us to start and finish together.

IMG_5288

And of everyone at commencement, here are the five who matter most (thanks, ladies):

Family Graduation 2010

It is finished.

Let the Commencin’ Begin

In Calling, Education, Seminary, Westminster on May 19, 2010 at 10:43 am

I finished my last seminary class on Monday with my Educational Capstone portfolio and presentation. Unless I hear differently between now and then, I'm set to graduate from Covenant with my Masters in Educational Ministries (for those keeping score, I graduated last year with a Masters in Theological Studies).

Five years – that's how long all this has taken. When people ask if I'm planning on going for a Ph.D., my answer is standard: "I'd love to (and I really would), but only if someone else is paying for it." (Feel free to submit all benefactor/patron/Sugar Daddy offers in the comments below.)

As a way of bringing some initial closure to my seminary days (and as some pre-celebration before graduation on Friday), here's my final reflection paper from my Capstone project. For what it's worth…

In considering my Educational Capstone experience, my feelings are mixed, though not in an altogether negative way. As was intended, I can vouch for having a sense of accomplishment from looking back over coursework from my education career at Covenant. I can also give testimony that the portfolio concept of review intended to capture and showcase such accomplishment is good and one I enjoyed very much. That said, my mixed feelings regarding the Capstone stem from my own imagination of how much more this final seminary class could have been had I not been so involved in, well, my education career.

Reading through my portfolio, one thing I consider a huge strength of my Educational Capstone experience has been my opportunity to be an education student while working as a full-time teacher. The benefits of having a hands-on, ready-made laboratory of learning are innumerable and really comprise the theme of my enclosed book, Learning Education: Essays and Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching. It’s been a great opportunity and a real advantage for a multitude of reasons in my time finishing my education degree.

However, I can’t help but wonder how my experience might have been different without being a teacher while taking the course. Had I been a full-time student (rather than a part-timer perpetually scrambling to make time to attend class meetings and complete various stages of work on assignments and projects), I wonder what different themes might have been more dominant in my encounter otherwise. It’s not that I regret the challenges of the past three years, but I do wonder if/how I would have learned and applied the theories, concepts, and applications of Christian education differently if I weren’t so desperate to use them immediately on a weekly/daily basis.

In looking back through assignments, reflections, concept maps, outlines, and notes for my project, the general sense I had was that, because of my life situation (full-time teacher, part-time student), I probably rushed through absorbing many of the conceptual and technical theories in order to get to the application of them as quickly as possible. In other words, it’s not that I don’t understand many of the presumptions behind Christian education, but I don’t feel they are as much in the forefront of my mind as I would like since I’ve had to focus so much on doing the actual work of educating throughout my time.

Thankfully, I realize that none of this is without potential amendment, and I am certainly willing and able to design a summer course of my own to review what I may have been forced to hastily read and try to understand (and I did read, by the way, every assignment with highlighter in hand). The question, of course, is will I this summer? And if not this summer, this year? And if not this year, then when?

But here is where the two main points of what I’ve learned in my course of study – God as Master Teacher and Teacher as Learner – bring comfort and hope. While my formal degree program of study may be coming to a close, God’s program of study continues, and if I am at all “smokin’ what I’m sellin’” when it comes to teaching and my passion for it, I do not doubt that my study of all things education is still really just beginning.

As I know to be true (academically as well as experientially), we tend to learn when we’re curious, and even writing about my curiosity of what I may have not fully grasped makes me want to start all over again in two weeks with Michael Anthony’s Introducing Christian Education to figure out the questions to the answers for which I’m looking. This, I suppose, is the fun part about the field of education – the accepted default is not that one has learned all one needs to, but that one has learned much about all there still is to learn – and this is the sense I have finishing my degree, which seems good to me.

My other thought with regard to my Educational Capstone is how so much of my life has seemed designed to support what I’m doing now. This should not surprise me, as I believe in a sovereign and involved God who often blesses His people by surprising them with His creativity, but there were several tangible times across the semester when I vividly recall sitting back, shaking my head, and marveling at just how something I’d already learned and experienced was of benefit to me in the here and now.

Truly, God does not waste life. The examples are myriad: growing up on a farm and learning the value of hard work; being a student who always seemed to love school; playing sports and always wanting to coach; participating in extra-curriculars of music and speech and being able to speak with a measure of understanding in both; approaching college for both the personal development as well as the academic degree; investing ten years in youth ministry with The Navigators and learning so much about kids, leadership, and the practical realities of ministry in the process, all while working in areas of graphic design, public relations, program planning, counseling, and administration; receiving training in Reformed theology in seminary and (finally) being able to name the doctrine of common grace as so much of the explanation for my perspective on culture and people – by God’s grace, everything seems more intentional than accidental.

My Educational Capstone experience has helped me recognize all this in both tangible and ethereal ways, and I’m grateful that I can not only say it is so having learned as a student from God the Master Teacher, but that I also know it is so, as the desire to teach and to learn in service of Christian education continues to burn within me. It is one thing I do not doubt, but instead resonate with the psalmist when he writes:

“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:17-18)

And for that – all of that – I am most grateful. Thanks for a great education experience.

Out Standing in My Field

In Education, Places & Spaces, Sports, Westminster on May 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Coach My first year as a junior varsity baseball coach has officially come to a close. We finished 13-8 – a good season, especially after starting 0-4 in early April. We had a great mid-season run in which we won 12 of 13 games, and we could/should have won four of the seven games we lost, as they were all 1-2 run games.

The three things I preached all season were the importance of attitude (heart), ability (hands), and adaptability (head). Because of the nature of JV baseball – games bumped, umpire no-shows, guys transitioning from varsity – the adaptability point became a favorite joke for the team (as well as our only hope of making it through with our sanity).

A personal highlight was working with JV assistant coach, Slade Johnson. Slade played four years at WCA before playing ball at Wheaton College, and he's starting down the path I just finished – taking classes at Covenant while beginning his teaching career at WCA this coming fall. He brought energy and experience to our team, and we co-coached our way through the year pretty much on the same page the whole way through.

Craig and Slade

We had some Field of Dreams moments as well as some scenes straight out of The Bad News Bears. We had a variety of personalities on the team and some players with multiple personalities on the field. We got better as the season went on and learned to play the game with intensity and pride. We made mental errors that led to physical ones we had to shake off, get over, and move past. Parents were supportive and got behind us, and Megan and the girls were our biggest fans.

The Baseball Ladies

In addition to trying to help the guys learn the fundamentals of baseball, we had plenty of opportunities to help them learn some fundamentals of life; sports – especially team sports – are so good for this. Some things I heard myself say repeatedly this season:

  • Practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.
  • The only thing you can control when bad breaks happen is how you respond.
  • Sometimes you have to deal with bad or unfair calls, so start now.
  • It's only the first inning; relax.
  • Respecting those on your team can sometimes be hard, but it is not optional.
  • Don't make excuses; take responsibility.
  • There's nothing you can do about it; it's not your fault.
  • Let me do the coaching; you do the playing.
  • Win humbly; lose graciously.
  • Play the game and have some fun.

JV Baseball 2010

While we had a few injuries and the occasional sore arm, nothing was paralyzing or fatal, which is not insignificant when one considers the number of baseballs flying around practice, warm-ups, and games during the course of a season. I'm sure we had a few bruised egos here and there (cursing, throwing equipment in frustration, or showing up late without reason guarantees time riding pine), but those heal eventually and "build character" as my father used to say about all things hard.

As much as I could write about the season, this picture with Mark sums up what WCA JV baseball is all about – smiles, smudged eye black, and dirt on the uniform. Love it.

Craig and Mark

(Special thanks to George Sneed and David McFarland for a season of great pictures.)

Learning Education: Second Endorsement

In Books, Education, Seminary, Westminster on May 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Here's a second endorsement for Learning
Education: Essay & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching
,
this one from the seminary professor level:

Learning Education (cover)“How
does a teacher learn how to teach? Craig answers his own question by
weaving together a colorful tapestry of reflections, papers, logs, and
reviews from his own early teaching odyssey. Teachers from every
experiential strata will identify with his heartfelt descriptions of the
highest highs and lowest lows. They will also appreciate Craig’s
ultimately hopeful, redemptive tone that reminds us that the best
teachers are those who love to learn. They are those who take their cues
from the Master teacher who embodies the grace and truth Craig so
skillfully reflects.”

DR.
DONALD GUTHRIE
, PROFESSOR OF EDUCATIONAL MINISTRIES, COVENANT
THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

If you haven't done so yet, click here
to order
your copy. And please help spread the word via your blog, Twitter, or
Facebook account.

Journeying On

In Books, Calling, Church, Thought on May 2, 2010 at 8:33 am

Read this in The Valley of Vision this morning:

JOURNEYING ON

Lord of the cloud and fire,
I am a stranger, with a stranger's indifference;
My hands hold a pilgrim's staff,
My march is Zionward,
My Eyes are toward the coming of the Lord,
My heart is in thy hands without reserve.

Thou has created it,
redeemed it,
renewed it,
captured it,
conquered it.

Keep from it every opposing foe,
crush it in every rebel lust,
mortify every treacherous passion,
annihilate every earthborn desire.

All faculties of my being vibrate to thy touch;
I love thee with soul, mind, body, strength,
might, spirit, affection, will,
desire, intellect, understanding.

Thou art the very perfection of all perfections;
All intellect is derived from thee;
My scanty rivulets flow from they unfathomable
fountain.

Compared with thee the sun is darkness,
all beauty deformity,
all wisdom folly,
the best goodness faulty.

Thou art worthy of an adoration greater than
my dull heart can yield;
Invigorate my love that it may rise worthily
to thee,
tightly entwine itself round thee,
be allured by thee.
Then shall my walk be endless praise.

Wow and amen.