Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Joy to the world

Can there be a more magnificent sound than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Joy to the World?

This 300-year-old carol was Isaac Watts'interpretation of Psalm 98--"Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth." An innovator in the field of church music, Watts has been called the inventor of the English hymn.

As I listened to the tape in my car tonight, the phrase "he rules the world with truth and grace...." popped out and grabbed me. If we could only let go of the notion that WE rule the world, what a better place it would be!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Moving on

I am getting to the point in looking at things in closets and trying to decide whether to move them to Nashville that I just want to throw all of it away. So my first New Year's resolution is to clean out closets every January and weed, weed, weed (in librarian's terminology).

I don't know what has happened to me--I was known in the AISD as the world champion weeder of libraries. It did not bother me to throw an old book in the trash, especially one that said, "When we go to the moon...." or one with racist illustrations or one that was falling apart and had not been checked out in 10 years.

But here I am with closets full of memorabilia, pictures, cassette tapes, old records ( I don't even have a record player!) unread magazines, and just plain old trash. REPEAT AFTER ME, I WILL NOT BUILD BIGGER BARNS, I WILL NOT BUILD BIGGER BARNS, I WILL NOT BUILD BIGGER BARNS.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


Today is the first Sunday of Advent. When the ancestors in my fellowship decided to rid most religious traditions from their practice of Christianity, they sometimes shot themselves in the foot. Such a time came when they forsook the celebration of the Christian or liturgical year which begins today with Advent.

Advent comes from the Latin word for arrival or coming and is a period of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It always begins four Sundays before Christmas.
It is a period of waiting in joyful hope in which the participant is given scriptures to read which not only look forward to the birth of Jesus, but which are about the importance of that birth and how it changed the world. It is a time in which we can rid ourselves of the hurry and anxiety of the season and slow down to meditate on the gift of God.

For example, tomorrow's readings include Is. 4: 2-6 in which Isaiah envisions a time of peace brought by the coming Jesus. And Mt. 8:5-11 in which a Roman centurion risks all to come to Jesus for the sake of his servant. Tuesday's verses are Is. 11:1-10, a beautiful and glorious prophecy about the coming of Jesus and Luke 10:21-24 as Jesus tells the disciples how blessed they are for seeing what they see as they watch him.

How about it? Could we slow down enough to spend 20 minutes every day until Christmas thinking about other things than presents, food and decorations?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Christmas with the Kranks

While 3/4ths of Abilene was in Dallas watching the Abilene High game (they lost by 5 points unfortunately--kept up with the #1 team in the nation and scared the pants off of them), I went to see the new movie Christmas with the Kranks. It is taken from John Grisham's book Skipping Christmas which I read and enjoyed.

The movie underscored to me just how manic many people are about Christmas. The Kranks are ostracized by their neighbors when they decide to skip Christmas and take a cruise instead because their daughter is in Peru in the Peace Corps and is not coming home for Christmas. So they do not put up outside decorations, have their usual Christmas Eve party, nor buy a tree from the Boy Scouts.

When daughter changes her mind at the last minute and calls from Miami, the neighbors help the Kranks decorate and get ready for the party, and Luther Krank (the Grinch of the movie) does something very nice for his neighbors across the street whom he doesn't like very much. The movie is a little slow in areas, but the last half of the movie is fun and has the appropriate poignant Christmas message necessary in movies of the season.

Father, we so need to drop our self-indulgent bent for the next 5 weeks and remember just why you sent your son and what his entering our world brought to us in terms of your gift of love.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Divine Presence

Jeanenne Nichols had introduced me this year to Joan Chittister, a Catholic writer from whom the following statement comes:

We pray
to see life as it is,
to understand it and to
make it better that it was.

We pray so that reality
can break into our souls
and give us back our
awareness of the
Divine Presence in life.

Can the divine presence really be a reality in our lives? Obviously writers like Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis, and Chittister believe it can. May we find it often as we approach December.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Give thanks

Even though the Pilgrims buried more people than they built houses for, they still found a reason for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of the more fun holidays in a school setting--there is no demon lurking behind the corn stalk, and no pagan holiday trappings to avoid. Kids love to dress like pilgrims and Native Americans and to share the holiday at school. At the schools where I was librarian, I always got invited to their thanksgiving feast where they actually ate sweet potatoes, popcorn,nuts, chicken and cranberry sauce. It was a treat.

I am thankful for many things this season--thankful that God is giving me a new adventure in Nashville, that Brandon, Sheryl, Maddie and Ella are all healthy, fun, and Jesus loving, that I am warmed, fed, and comfortable. I am sharing the holiday for the first time in a long time with my brothers--one lives here and the other is coming from Kansas. We always have a good time. I am taking hashbrown casserole (Sorry, Brandon; we will have one Christmas) and the Brandon fruit salad--apples, mandarin oranges, bananas, lots of whipped cream and pecans.

Dear readers, have a wonderful holiday and be safe.

Lord, we thank you for all we have, all you are and all the blessings you have given us in the past and will give us in the future.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Big names

Two big names in the world of children's literature died this week. Give me your indulgence while I talk about them.

Nancy Larrick died last week at the age of 93. She made history with the publication of an article "The All-White World of Chiidren's Books" in 1965. She analyzed more than 5,000 children's books published from 1962-1964 and found that only about 6% of them included an African-American child in either the text or the pictures. Coming at the height of the Civil Rights movement, editors and publishers
were then influenced to begin publishing books with authors and illustrators of color. She virtually changed the world of children's literature.

Trina Schart Hyman died too young this week of cancer. A Caldecott medalist for St. George and the Dragon, the paintings she did were beautiful. I have never seen a greater rendition of a dragon than in her winning book. My students can probably remember my going on and on about her. I am so sorry we were never able to get her at the NCCIL.

Thank you Lord for skilled, courageous people who change our world.

Monday, November 22, 2004

A day to remember

Had Sam lived, today would have been my 42nd wedding anniversary. We had 29 good years together laughing, traveling, playing and teaching--all things we both loved. And of course, the best thing to come out of it was Brandon Scott Thomas, the love of our lives.

We celebrated our first anniversary on the day Kennedy was shot. What a day to remember. I was teaching English at Eula High School when the superintendent came in and said that school was cancelled for the next two days because of the death. My class and I just stared at each other for a long while and finally we let out a large collective sigh and filed out of the room. We couldn't wait to get home to the television news. It was certainly a weekend when television news came into its own--we all watched every minute of the coverage with tears and real thoughts about what was happening to our world. It was the most unimaginable thing to have this young vigorous popular president gone in a moment AND FOR IT TO HAPPEN IN TEXAS! And to watch the young courageous widow say good-bye was so sad.

And then 28 years later, I had to say good-by to my wonderful "Hon" and begin a new phase of my life. I am not the same person I was 13 years ago--Brandon says I look better (Thanks Babe!); I know I am a stronger, deeper follower of Christ; I know that I have changed many of the theological ideas and beliefs I had, and that
"is a good thing."

Thank you Lord for the years I had with Sam and those years which followed without him. You are my strength and light.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Christmas music

As I mentioned earlier, I love Christmas music and begin to listen to early. It is my custom to buy at least one new cd a season. However, I have not found one this year that really strikes me--anyone out there know one?

One of my favorites is 2 years old I think--Avalon's Joy. "Jesus, Born on This Night" and "Good News" are just outstanding. And another favorite is God Came Near by Max Lucado and company (including Brandon Scott Thomas). The segment where Jesus enters the carpenter shop to say goodby always gets me. What a wonderful gift Max has for touching the humanity in all of us.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Hallelujah! March On!

I think it was Mother Teresa who said, "Thank you God for all the things I do not have." My tune today is, "Thank you God for the things I no longer have." Looking over a garage full of "sale items" gives one a new definition of materialism. Tables full of things I no longer want or need bring to mind the man who built bigger barns.

So glad the garage sale is over; the tables are down and everything is tidy in my garage. A wonderful moment today came when I called the Salvation Army to come get what was left. Thanks to God, a truck came this afternoon, loaded the leftovers and took them all away. The men who came couldn't have been nicer, loading things quickly, saying the money used at the thrift house helped the homeless and then they left saying, "God bless you."

Having known a family helped by the organization this year, I can do nothing but sing the praises of the Army and wish them more marching time and God's blessing on them. I highly recommend support of their endeavors and pray for their continued concern for people we sweep into the gutters.

Fun days with friends

The last few days have been enjoyable ones with friends. Morgan and Pat Phillips (long-time friends dating back to Brandon's babyhood) and I traveled to Graham Thursday to research one of Sam's relatives in an old Primitive Baptist cemetery out in the country--The Medlan Cemetary. It is serendipitious that both Pat and Sam have relatives buried in the same place. The cemetery is well-kept and in a beautiful place surrounded by trees. It reminded me of Groesbeck.

Today Kaye, Jeanenne and I took a last road trip to Fort Worth. We love going to Camp Bowie and visiting the Logos Bookstore there--the owner knows her merchandise--she actually reads and always has something new to recommend. Love it!
Then we paid our favorite shopping place a visit--The University South Shopping Center. Ate at the Blue Mesa Grill--very different Mexican food with a wonderful smoked mesquite salsa on the table with sweet potato chips and tortilla chips. We had gauacamole (eat your heart out, Mike Cope) made at the table --it was all great. Of course we had to make Chicos and Pottery Barn too. We didn't have time for Barnes and Noble.

Tonight Ronnie and Darla Lorenz helped me get ready for the great garage sale tomorrow. Darla has retracted her statement that "you really don't have much to sell." It is amazing what breeds in quiet, dark closets. Ronnie reminded me tonight how great it is to have a man around--he organized the garage by moving all the boxes, set up tables, actually swept the garage! and generally did things I could not do. Darla organized the tables and helped price. I can't wait until tomorrow is over.

Friendship is one of the best inventions of God.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Triumphal procession, scented purpose

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." II Cor. 2:14

How often do you picture yourself in a triumphal procession spreading the aroma of God? This scripture has really spoken to me this week. I like the idea of being in a triumphal procession with God as the drum-major. I like the idea that we are marching with a scented purpose--not a dogmatic, agressive smelly one. What a worthy endeavor--marching in step in Christ with the purpose of showing others God.

Father, help my aroma to be one that you approve and enjoy smelling.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Anna Quindlen, Loud and Clear

One of my favorite columnists is Anna Quindlen. Following are some quotes from one of her recent books Loud and Clear:

"The death of the book is highly exaggerated. In 1999, 84%!! of Americans responded Yes to the question, Do you happen to be reading any books or novels. In 1963, only 50% and in 1952 18%."

"The most curious people are those who have shelves full of stero equipment and not a single book in the house, and the only thing their children see them read is Car and Driver at the Quick Lube." Judy Thomas's take on this that most parents who complain that their children must read the classics are those who read only People or Entertainment Weekly.

"Well-written stories with interesting characters manage to find an audience."
My question, can you find one of these on the best seller lists today?

"The Best American Short Stories sold just as well as Dilbert Gives You the Business in 2000."

"In 50 years, few of us will remember who survived (Vanadu), but they will remember "Harry" (and standing in line in costume at midnight to buy the latest copy.)"

Guess you can see why I like her--may her tribe increase.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A living legend

Last night the AISD librarians gave me a going away party. It was fun and very humbling.

At least four of the group said I influenced them to go to library school. Others still remembered taking my children's lit class and then going to library school because of it.

The notes they wrote me made me cry. I guess I am a living legend--and I am glad--to be living, that is.

Thank you Lord for kind people who forget the stupid things I do and still love and admire me. Help me to be an influence in Nashville on those I meet.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A child is born

35 years ago last night, Sam and I were fighting football traffic around Shotwell rushing to get to the hospital in time for Brandon Scott's birth. He waited a while and was born at 6:34 a.m. on November 15 at Hendrick Hospital. He weighed seven lbs. and nine oz. and was 20 1/2 inches long with little fluffs of reddish brown hair around his head. Our long-awaited son (we had been married seven years) stared at us with beautiful blue eyes (I think most babies have blue eyes). My doctor was an Abilene legend Dr. Ray Buzbee.

My parents had beaten us to the hospital the night before and happily waited all night for the birth. I remember holding my Dad's hand during contractions. He was their first grandchild and became greatly loved by his Paw-Paw and Granny.

His name has an interesting origin. Sam's father was Adelbert Brann Thomas. His brother was Adelbert Brandon (His mother didn't like the Brann) Thomas. My maiden name was Brandon. Brandon was a natural for the first name. For his middle name, we chose Scott after Scott Hays, Sam's beloved principal who was dreadfully ill with cancer. So we had Brandon Scott Thomas. I think Sam's parents were disappointed that we did not name him Sam; however there were already three Sams in the family.

Down the hall, awaiting birth was Kaye Novak Price. Her daughter Hainey was born on November 16 at Hendricks. Hainey and Brandon became great friends later.

Apollo 12 was on its way to the moon on Nov. 15th. Sam and Judy Thomas felt like God had given us the moon and the stars too. No little boy was more greatly anticipated and loved. Thankfully, I was able to be a stay-at-home mother for at least four years, while he learned to talk, walk, play with friends, eat honey sandwiches with Paul Phillips and love church.

At age one, he began to hum little songs he made up (Much like Ella today) and he loved falling off the couch into Daddy's arms. He loved the story he called "Little Miss Riding Hood" and could say nursery rhymes at an early age. We have a tape of him singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star at age 2. The love of music came very early.

He loved running and playing with his dog Snoopy, craved dry oatmeal with sugar and Fruit Loops. His early birthday cakes were made and decorated by his dad--he learned early to love celebrations! Christmas was the most fun; we soon found out that he was allergic to real trees and quickly went to artificial. Teasured ornaments today are those we bought during his pre-school years.

When I went back to work, he stayed with a succession of baby-sitters including Maudie Bramhill and Flossie Stovall. At age 6, Sam took him to Bowie Elementary where he was principal for the year with his best kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Baxter.
I think he reminded some of the children several times that he was the son of the principal. One day he came home and told me that "Mr. Thomas" visited his class that day.

I am sure this is more than my readers ever wanted to know about Brandon, but I just can't help it. He has grown into an amazing man of God of whom I am inordinately proud. I wish Sam could see him now.

Happy Birthday, Babe. I love you!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Lorenz family

Warning: over the next few weeks there will be several "end times" blogs which will help me prepare to leave this place I have lived for 47 years.

For some reason this weekend, I have been thinking about and grieving over leaving my friends Ronnie and Darla Lorenz.

My very thoughts have been: "I will never again have friends who have loved me so dearly and taken care of me so completely."

Ronnie and Darla were babies when we met them (in their 20's) at the Minter Lane Church. We helped grow that church together as we grew in friendship. We weathered new youth ministers, slow growth of the church and the marriage crisis of close friends. Eventually, because of the youth progrom, they left for Highland.

But a new link was forged when Sam persuaded Darla to become his secretary at Bowie Elementary School. Despite her early protest, it proved to be a partnership made in heaven. She was still his secretary at Austin Elementary School when he died.

Ronnie and Darla saw me through Sam's death and the aftermath with loving hearts, although they were grieving terribly too. Ronnie quickly became Brandon's surrogate father. They took Sam's place at Brandon's Senior Dinner and graduation at ACU. We got through what could have been a huge problem with Brandon later ( a problem which ultimately remade BST into the man of God he is today). Then I got cancer in 1997, and again, they were there. Darla was with me when I had to call Brandon and tell him I had cancer. After the hospital at Darla's insistence, I spent several days in their home.

I have watched Ronnie grow from a young man to full maturity as an elder at Highland--highly respected by the church and all over Abilene as a man of ethics and compassion. Darla has become not only an excellent school secretary, but she is also a spiritual leader in her school.

Darla always checks up on me at least every other day. And if she does not hear from me, she has been known to send out a posse. One day she even left school to check on me when I didn't show up at a meeting I had forgotten.

We sit together in church holding hands during prayer and often eat lunch together on Sunday--which is the lonliest day of the week for me otherwise (Bless those widows you see sitting alone in church and take them in). We attended the West Texas Fair and its parade for years, parking Sam's pickup so we could all sit together in folding chairs and watch. We played in New Braunfels several summers and ate our weight there in the downstairs kitchen at The Other Place. We celebrated birthdays, Christmas, and snow. Their girls treated Brandon as their brother and saw him through Sam's death, braces and girl friends.

They are my shadows and my dearest friends. Thank you Lord for them and bless them with long life to serve you.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The fruitful season

When my brothers and I were young, most of what we got in our stockings was fruit, nuts and candy. I guess that is why I go way overboard stuffing stockings now.

It is the season for Clementine oranges--wonderful round delights--easy to peel, no seeds and luscious. If you haven't tried them, break open your wallet and buy a box. Here they are 3.99 a box for about 20 oranges( on sale). Not a bad deal for a healthy snack.

On Nov. 1, Christmas cds go in the player and Christmas tapes go in the car to be enjoyed until Dec. 26. And even then some of the George Winston cds can go through January.

I guess you could say the Thomases are Christmas people--love the season, the weather, the stores, the music, the decorations, the gifts, etc.

Father, we celebrate your Son every day of our lives. Thank you for opening our eyes to the fact that it o. k. to celebrate his birth with the rest of the world on Christmas Day.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Polar Express

I went to see The Polar Express today. I think I was the only one there without children.

Turning a beloved short picture book into a full-length film is a gamble. But most of the film rang my bell--It was So Chris Van Allsberg. The animators need to work on their characters' eyes some more and some of the movements were jerky, but children don't notice that. The train is magnificent! And the scene at the center of the city at the North Pole when Santa leaves gave me goosebumps--it was magic. The ending of the book was handled very well in the film making me misty as I always am when I read the book aloud. The addition of a ghostly hobo and slap-stick engineers stuck a jarring note--I did not like that at all; the rocking elves after Santa left was another useless addition. I liked the character development of the children on the train (not in the book). Tom Hanks was also very good as the conductor. All in all, it is a keeper and will be one of the stellar repeats of the season from year to year. I can't wait to buy a copy of the DVD.

Toys R Us is across the street from the theater, and I felt pulled to go and shop for Maddie and Ella. I was bad, but not as bad as I usually am. I am excited about Christmas in Nashville.

Thank you Lord for teaching to us to give gifts to those we love and to give ourselves to You.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Wray family clan

Yesterday I had my last appointment with Dr. T. James Wray who practices with his brother John Wray. These two gentle giants (tall) have a huge following in Abilene. Their father was a chiropracter and an elder at Highland. Their brother David is head of a department in the Biblical Studies Dept. at ACU and is hands-down one of the best teachers I have ever had. He is even taller.

Over the past 20 years James has steered me through cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, and a host of other ailments. Thank you James for your gentle spirit, soft laugh, and sharp skills.

David's daugher Wendy was a huge part of Brandon's life as they grew up. An accomplished pianist, she accompanied him often, and they performed together frequently. She is now one of the ministers at a church in Dallas. Her husband Jon is the worship minister there.

The Wray brothers had the good sense to marry very strong, very intelligent women who have contributed much to Highland and the Abilene community.

So thanks to the Wray clan for letting your light shine in many venues for the sake of others.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Revolution and the retired ones

I attended the retired teachers' dinner sponsored by AISD today. It was good to see all those folks--never seen so many gray hairs in one place except at a rural Church of Christ.

The entertainment was a group of students from Abilene High and Cooper High--the group had about 15 violins, a bass guitar and 2 drum sets. They were magnificent! Watching the retired teachers around me reminded me that people don't know how to respond to performances. Some had very sour looks on their faces; some talked to their neighbor; some got up to hunt coffee. This is true of many adult audiences when students perform. A little smile goes a long way to a performer and an engaged listener is a joy. To give the teachers credit, they did give the group two standing ovations which were highly deserved.

Thanks to the kids and their teacher for a well-spent lunch!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Learning Commons

I have spent the last three days visiting ACU's library as part of the visiting committee. Great things are being planned for that facility. Before the Centennial in 06, they plan to implement a "learning commons" which will feature at least 14 new public access computers, a writing consultant, and a coffee shop for those students who want to come into the library and write and finish a product before they leave. Larger schools like Trinity and TCU have similar affairs and are raving about them.

It is nice to be on the cutting edge of something instead of lurking behind and griping about change. The new librarian hired last year from Purdue has been a glavanizing force in league with the provost Dwayne Van Rheenan. What a pair--ACU is so fortunate to have them.

Collaborative learning will be emphasized. As Marc Hamilton put it in a meeting, the 20 page print paper is here to stay, but many professors are asking students to do more visual alternatives with pictures, audio, video, theater components. And that jives so well with what I have been hearing about postmodern students. They crave such assignments. How exciting to watch a new generation!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Telling stories

"The disciples came up and asked (Jesus), "Why do you tell stories?" He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight." Matt. 13:10-13 The Message

This morning, Mike told the story of the Bible from Creation--Genesis to Revelation 22; closing with "Come, Lord Jesus. And he did it by telling stories--those stories we all learned as we came up through Bible school--the stories we got star stickers on a chart for knowing; the stories that brought us to read the real thing in the Bible. We wondered if it were really a whale that swallowed Jonah and found that it was a "great fish." We wondered if David really danced naked in the streets, and sure enough....They were stories that nudged us toward receptive insight...stories that led us into the deeper life of the Spirit as Jesus described the woman with perfume in Mark 14 who "did what she could when she could."

Thank you Lord for stories. May we never denigrate their importance.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

God's Poiema

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Eph. 2:10

"...God says to us in Ephesians that "we are his workmanship"--his work of art.
Another translation: We are his poiema--his very own handwritten Shakespearen sonnet. You're made in the image of the God who can take disjointed words and make beautiful lyrics out of your life...." Joy Sawyer, The Art of the Soul.

Isn't it nice to know that we are a poem written by God for the good of others?
Do we live up to the Creator's goal in making us? I so want my poem to be a classic like Emily Dickinson's, and not a Shel Silverstein poem. I want my poem to mean something to those I love and to those I serve. I want my poem to be included in the unabridged version of "The Great Cloud of Witnesses" when I am gone.

Father, help me to live my poem to your expectations and show me grace when I fail.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The future

Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the U. S. Patents Office announced in 1899,
"Everything that can be invented, has been invented."

I am glad he was very wrong. I had cataract surgery this week--the doctor cut into my eye, emulsified the cataract, and put in a new lens. It only required local anesthesia and one day of not bending over or picking up anything heavy. The next day I was driving, attending a luncheon, and watching television as usual with better eyesight which should get even better as the week goes on. I don't think they did that in 1900!

Futurists have a hard time, particularly if people live to see what they predicted really didn't happen. There are those who always despair about the future, seeing dire things happening--Christians should be among the most optimistic people living because of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. Martin Luther wrote, "Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace. It is so sure and certain that a person could stake his (her) life on it a thousand times."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bloom where you are planted

"Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin." Willa Cather

Paul Zelinksy said today that his job as a children's book illustrator is to make the words of the story bloom. I like that metaphor. Pick up any children's picture book, choose a word and see just how the illustrator has made it bloom in the picture on the page.

It strikes me that as a Christian, it is my job to make the words of Christ bloom on this earth. The blooms open not in extraordinary ways--but in the very simple, ordinary hours when we pat someone on the back, encourage a child, take food to a home of illness, make a short phone call, or pen a warm note. The words "cup of cold water" bloom in us and spread his light (to mix metaphors).

"Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side." Mark 9:41 (The Message)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Speaking the lingo

Acts 17 is a very interesting chapter to read every now and then when we tire of the "talking-head" culture in which we live.

Paul is visiting Athens; he sees a city full of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who like to shoot the breeze on virtually every wind of intellectual discourse. Joy Sawyer says in her book The Art of the Soul: Meditations for the Creative Spirit "The same people today would hang out at the local Starbucks, sipping lattes and arguing over the validity of deconstructionism and postmodernism."

As Paul continues to talk all over the city about the resurrection, these learned Athenians ask him to speak to them. He seizes the opportunity by using the Athenians' own philosophy, poetry, religion and basic logic in order to help them understand God. He actually compliments them on their own interest in religion, treating them respectfully. And then he proceeds to tell them about "The Unknown God."

Some sneered; some said they wanted to hear more; and several believed, including a woman Demaris. (I wonder if she was one of the Athenian philosophers?)
At any rate, Paul did not shirk talking to people who were "of the culture." How often do we do that? Maybe it would not hurt us to bone up a little bit on deconstructionism, postmodernism, and the emerging church--we might save a few more of our young adults and those who are dallying with other forms of religion.

Father, help us to be more like Paul and less like the folks in Laodicea.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Pray for the creators

We are opening a new exhibit tomorrow at the NCCIL (www.NCCIL.org) with the new work of Paul Zelinsky. His Rapunzel in medieval dress won him a Caldecott in l998.

I have been asked to lead a prayer for the luncheon honoring him on Thursday. In thinking about that, I tried to picture a world without artists, musicians, writers, actors, or poets. I don't think I would like to live in that world.

The following quote is from Jeff Berryman at the Zoe Conference several years ago: "If you want changes in Hollywood, in the mass culture, and in the lives of your children and grandchildren, do this simple but hard thing, and my intuition tells me things may just change. Do this. Go to the artists in your churches, the poets, the actors, the musicians, the designers, the painters, the potters, and the screenwriters.

Go to them, wherever their lives are at, and hold them. Tell them to pray and work. Tell them to write. Tell them to unfold their poetry to God and to ask the Holy Spirit to be present in the work. Tell them to dream films, and to envision plays, and to dance with the gift that God gave them. Tell them that you will pray for them, and then do it.

Accept their oddities, forgive them when they sin, and extend to them the safety and freedom to do their work. My faith is that God will bless them and care for them. One other thing, tell them that nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus."

Father, thank you for all those who create beauty and cause us to think. Bless them all tonight.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Reader's choice

For several years, I have ranted in every forum possible about the Accelerated Reader program which is now taken over the schools in Abilene. In that program, students are allowed to choose only the books that are listed in the program (all are identified by certain colored dots). The program covers only fiction--that means the 3rd graders who used to dash to the dinosaur books can no longer do that.

An even more egregious feature of the program is that after students have read the book, they must take a test (most questions are phrased so that the student can answer with a short answer of one or two words--in other words, fill-in-the blank questions which are the lowest form of learning.) The questions are on a computer dedicated to the program. If the student cannot pass the test, he or she must reread the book and take it over. Points are given for scores on tests and in some schools, points earn special favors or gifts. A trip to McDonald's in a limosine comes to mind. Other little gifts are like those in Cracker Jacks. Teachers have been know to grab books out children's hands saying, "You can't check that out; its not on the accelerated reader list." In some schools, teachers are checked by the principal to see if their students have enough reader points. If not, they are called on the carpet. In a school district down the road, the program is tied to students' reading scores on their report card.

How would you as an adult like to have to take a test after every book you read?
What if your salary depended on it? What if you really loved non-fiction books about dinosaurs, dogs, Texas history, knighthood? And in this program,you had to go to the public library on the sly to check them out.

What a travesty of teaching the enjoyment of reading, of teaching students reader's choice! Not counting the fact that students are learning that competition is everything, even in reading. And to be the best with the most points gets you the most acclaim.

To make the love of reading a lifetime skill, children need to find books that they can't put down--books that they take to bed with a flashlight because they can't bear to stop reading what may be the best book they ever read. Accelerated
Reader turns off all the flashlights with its requirements and its dumbing down tests.

Maybe Nashville never heard of Accelerated Reader...