The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: June, 2015

Ends and beginnings in fire.

Six years ago, I found myself unemployed for the first time.  I had been teaching in an alternative school, but the parent company ran out of money and the facility closed.  I received a week’s notice that I would be out of a job, and on my last day there, I spent it at a trash barrel in the back of the property burning confidential student files and other miscellaneous items.  For some reason, as I was standing in the shower this morning listening to “Car Radio”, my mind flashed back to that memory and I have been replaying it.

In a way, the event is representative of something bigger.  

Standing in a circle around a fire with a group of people who had been my work family for a year seemed like a fitting end.  Fire consumes, destroys, clears.  But is the consumption, destruction, and clearing to demonstrate that something has come to its consummation and has now ended?  Or is it about something bigger?


Forests require burning from time to time so that new life can occur.  Farmers will control burn a field so that the ash can be tilled in to the soil for nutrition.  That moment around that trash barrel was the dying off of a job, but it also sparked the beginning of looking for another job that brought me to where I am now.  In short, the fire could be seen as an end/beginning.  And maybe that’s how we need to look these endings.

In the Bible, the writer John in the book of Revelation tells about how there will be a new heaven and earth because the old ones passed away in fire.  New life will not occur until fire has happened.

In English there is an expression, “going through the fire.”  We typically use it to refer to some trial or test that will make us better on the other end.  And that is the point.  When these types of endings come, we should latch on to them and the weight that they carry because after the flames have wiped out what was there previously, something new and better is coming.

The Printer and the Preacher.

This is a review of The Printer and the Preacher by Randy Petersen.

Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield are two fascinating individuals of historical note for America.  By simply reading the dust jacket for a biography on either of them, one can easily understand how both of these men reached celebrity status in the America of the early eighteenth century.  To learn that the lives of these two men intersected at many points, and that they may have had profound influences on each other as well as their society would certainly be an engaging subject for a biography that anyone with even a slight interest for history would swoon over.  And while that might be the expectation, for me the end product in The Printer and the Preacher by Randy Petersen falls flat of that hope.

In reading The Printer and the Preacher it is is clear that Petersen has done his research.  The book provides concise biographies of both individuals that do not focus unevenly on one person over the other.  Petersen brings to the reader many examples of references from letters, pamphlets, etc. that document from a historical perspective that Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield certainly had many interactions with each other.  It is clear that the basis of most of their interactions with each other are business related.  Throughout the book, Petersen does a good job of demonstrating to the reader how Whitefield would not have been as successful in America without the printing work of Franklin, and Franklin probably would not have been as successful in the printing business without Whitefield as a business partner to print his material.  Their correspondences reflect personal notes in them.  But it is in those personal moments that Petersen’s narrative comes up week.

One thing that frustrates me about The Printer and the Preacher is the copious amounts of times that Petersen uses ambiguity as a justification to string pieces together.  Throughout the book, one finds phrases like “It might have been…”, “It is probably that…”, “We can likely conclude that…”, etc.  While I can empathize with the author that the questions over effects of Franklin and Whitefield’s relationship “would be easy to answer if their letters told us” (p. 218).  But they don’t.  The blatant conjecture leveraged throughout this book to draw certain conclusions is bothersome to me, regardless of how much academic scholarship is present.  Evidence of events does not equate to evidence of context.  This aspect was problematic to me and I could not get past it throughout the entire book.  While Petersen does attempt to explain some of these notions in the last chapter, it did not do much to ease the frustration I had as I read this book.

Read The Printer and the Preacher for an interesting and concise biographical sketch of two historical greats, Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield.  Read the book for perspective on culture and society in the Colonies of the early 1700s.  Do not, however, read this book believe you will get exactly what the cover and dust jacket advertise, because in that you will fined yourself disappointed.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for publishing a review on it.  I was not obligated to post a positive review (clearly); the opinions expressed are my own.

Billy Graham’s reason for hope.

This is a review of The Reason for My Hope by Billy Graham.

Whether raised in church or not, many people will tend to agree that one of the most influential and inspiring people of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is Billy Graham.  Focused, passionate, devout, it is practically impossible to overlook the single effect that Mr. Graham has had on American culture and politics.  When he passes away, the world will lose one of the few remaining greats of a timeless era.  This is why I am thankful for a book like The Reason for My Hope.

I have had the opportunity to hear Mr. Graham speak in person.  Anyone who has knows that he has a way of presenting a central message, and everything from the anecdotes to illustrations to even jokes cycle right back to the main point.  And the way that he does it is with such an air of humble authority that captivates the audience.  In an almost seemingly impossible feat, The Reason for My Hope captures this quality about Graham as a speaker, right down to the central message of the Gospel which he never deviates from, and translates it to the written page.  In reading the book, I could imagine the voice of Graham speaking every word from the page.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book is the quiet sense of urgency, a characteristic of Mr. Graham throughout his ministry, that pervades every single page of the book.  One would have to be blind, illiterate, or both to overlook this aspect.  Graham’s discussion on salvation and why it is needed seems timeless and relevant for today; whether one believes in the idea of sin, one cannot deny that as a society we have created quite a mess of things that it will take a supernatural event to save us from.

In the end, The Reason for My Hope gets the thumbs-up.  It would be useful as a tool for new Christians or small group discussions.

I received my copy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers program for free in exchange for posting a review on the book.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

#DoOver??? Challenge accepted.

This is a review of Do Over by Jon Acuff.

As a teacher, reflecting on the last school year(s), I have started to feel that my classroom was becoming like a stale potato chip.  My teaching was losing its flavor, its savoriness, and its crunch.  Cue Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff.  In Do Over, Acuff breaks down the four different types of workplace ‘Do Overs’ -Career Bumps, Career Ceilings, Career Jumps, and Career Opportunities- and what critical tool -Relationships, Skills, Character, and Hustle- are the necessary ones to use for each situation.  With this information in hand, I have asked myself, “How can I #DoOver my first year of teaching without leaving the school where I teach?”

Throughout the book, Acuff takes a revealing stance, not hesitating to share how his own journey in the life of a career-driven person caused him to encounter each of the four types of career do-overs.  His honesty challenged me to think reflectively about my own situation.  My stuck-ness was the result of a ceiling, but the end of the school year posed me two different career opportunities.  This book came at the opportune moment and throughout it I found many different pieces of advice and recommendations which as I continue to plan for next school year I will be deciding how and where to put them into practice.

One question that Jon poses a person should use when trying to develop the character of a servant is to ask: “How can I make you look like a rock star?”  In looking to the next school year, that is one question I will be posing to both my principal and my colleagues.  It’s a simple question, but the simple ideas are usually the ones that stick.

Jon, thank you for providing the resources at hand in one place to help catalyze a #DoOver.

A summer of firsts.

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about preparing for th next school year; the first post on the topic will be coming soon.  I have, however, been making the most of every opportunity to mak this a summer of firsts. Here’s my short list of accomplishments so far:

  1. Played with the Lakeland High School band at graduation.
  2. Learned how to shingle a roof.
  3. Tuned up a lawn mower.
  4. Rode a horse without someone else guiding the reins.
  5. (As of tomorrow) Seeing U2 live.

Still to come:

-Becoming a compound bow archery ace, demolishing a brick trash burner to replace it by constructing my own fire pit, and TBD.

What does your summer of awesome look like?

Read this book, even if you already know “How to Tie a Tie”.

This is a book review of How to Tie a Tie by Ryan Tristan Jin.

When I was a senior in high school, I had a physics teacher who as an actual activity for points required that all students, male and female, learned how to tie a Windsor knot.  I mastered it and since then it has been my go-to knot.  The opportunity to read How to Tie a Tie: A Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Dressed came up but I at first didn’t think that a book like this would be worth my time.  I was wrong.

How to Tie a Tie is more than a comprehensive guide to the art of knot tying (although the fourteen different knots with step-by-step directions AND pictures are a great way to master some pretty versatile knots).  There is also a section on color coordination -helpful to the color challenged- and what shirt collars go best with which type of tie.  There is also a portion of the book dedicated to shoes, watches, jackets, and other man-cessories.

The book is thoughtfully laid out and sequenced logically.  If I had a complaint about the book, it would be that I wish it included an index of the specific tie knots in either the front or rear of the book to make it easier to find them.  Right now, the easiest way to find a tie knot is to remember what design was used on the tie and then flip through the pictures to find that tie pattern.

I recommend this book; if I had not received this book for free I would buy it.  For the young, professional man who is trying to appropriately assemble his work attire, this book is an invaluable resource.

I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for reviewing it.  I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions contained are mine.

The beginning of summer vacation.

Today was the last official acqdemic day of the school year for the corporation where I teach. Compared to other years, I count this as a year completed, but not necessarily a win. 

There were bright spots.

I completed my master’s degree. All my Seniors are graduating.

But there were less than bright spots.

I suffered from anxiety. I let my physically fit lifestyle slide. I let some personal relationships slip. I got angrier.

Time for a “Do Over”.

While I am referencing Jon Acuff’s new book (which is awesome by the way), i am talking about more like do over the start of the calendar year and preparing to walk in to the first day of the new school year as if it is my first year of teaching.

So the question is: How can I go about restarting my year and career with a year almost half over and a job I’m not quitting?

Stay tuned this summer to find out.