newthingsold

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

Month: November, 2015

And everything changes. Or doesn’t.

I am currently working through two books: The Dude’s Guide to Marriage by Darrin and Amie Patrick, and The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.

While both of these are good reading material, I do not have this feeling like I am going to walk away with the feeling that my life is going to be different after reading.

That is one of the things I really enjoy about reading, that feeling that my perspective may have changed. Even if only a little.

What book, song, or movie did that for you?

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Thanks giving.

Yeah. It’s coming this week. And by “it,” I mean Thanksgiving. This year, I am thankful that I am much less stressed out and anxious than I was a year ago.

I am thankful for my family: wife, dogs, free-loading cats, and baby on the way (she’d get higher status if she were born already).

I’m grateful that I work with a really awesome staff; I would go as far as to say the best version of the Lakeland High School staff I have ever worked with (those of you no longer with us who might be reading this, I still like you guys).

I’m thankful that despite the copious amounts of screw-ups I make, I am surrounded by family and friends who cut me slack and let me call do-over.

What are you thankful for?

Dr. R.A. Mohler, Jr.’s “We Cannot Be Silent”

This is a review of We Cannot Be Silent by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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I appreciate thoughtful discourse. Furthermore, I appreciate thoughtful discourse with a sense of passion about it. Unfortunately, if one looks at the media, especially when it comes to the idea of the place of LGBT in America, the discourse seems to be predominantly passionate but thoughtless. It is a matter of one side yelling, “We’re right!” while the other side is trying to yell even louder, “No, we’re right! You’re not!” Especially in the conversation on LGBT issues, supporters to the left seem to default to “Christians are trying to regulate morality. They are ignorant and hold to an archaic set of principles from an old storybook.” Right-wingers declare, “Gays are confused! We should not bend to a group of sinners and abominates whose heads are not on straight.”

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am not a Baptist, nor am I a seminarian. Nor do I agree with all the contents of his most recent book, We Cannot Be Silent, but I appreciate that at this current juncture in the national conversation on LGBT issues, a book has been published which thoughtfully and passionately lays out the case from the Evangelical perspective, rooting itself equal parts in academic and judicial research, Biblical scholarship, and social commentary to provide a discourse that takes a stance to the negative in the debate on LGBT issues while avoiding the feeling of an empty yelling match. We Cannot Be Silent presents the Evangelical Church’s case in a way that LGBT supporters, while they may not agree with him, will at least walk away without a bad taste in their mouth as Mohler’s thoughtful treatment shows that he is concerned more with sharing his personal convictions rather than trying to simply prove himself right.

Throughout this book, Mohler sticks to his guns in the tradition of well planned persuasive writing. Each individual chapter reads as its own long essay, but the each chapter complements the one before it and leads to the one after, meaning that they are to be read together. Mohler’s format for each chapter begins with a broad overview to the chapter’s key issue, thesis, followed by historical background, supporting evidence via research, tracing of how culture has been impacted by the issue so far and how he foresees culture continuing to progress if it does not change its course.

What I appreciate most about this book are two chapters. Chapter 9, “The Compassion of Truth: The Church and the Challenge of the Sexual Revolution,” lays out ways in which the Church has failed the LGBT community in ways such as failing to provide considerate guidance at the sake of surface-level Bible verse regurgitation to not actually taking a proactive stance to being willing to have hard conversations and instead deciding to remain in-grown and isolationist. While many of Mohler’s arguments and insights seem sound, some of his solutions seem a little too simplistic as fixes to what he depicts as issues.

I also enjoyed Chapter 10, “Hard Questions.” “Hard Questions” addresses 30 typical questions that arise on the subject, including the issue of “picking and choosing” Old Testament laws, and the difference between sex vs. gender. This chapter is the most thoughtful response from the Evangelical community on the issue, and I wish that mainstream Christianity would take a note from Mohler’s approach in that he sticks to his convictions in a way that shows he has actually considered the issues and knows why he believes what he does about the issues.

Individuals on both sides of the debate on LGBT issues would do well to read We Cannot Be Silent. Mohler avoids name calling and derogatory remarks about the side he is debating with. He lays his cards out on the table from the beginning, and his writing shows that he has done his research and that his beliefs go beyond just words on a page. I did not agree with everything in the book, but I resonated with the idea of a man sticking to his convictions and being able to present them in a way that one does not walk away at the end feeling dirty or yelled at.

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

A goal for the holiday season.

I was told by different mentors that if I want to achieve a goal that I should write it down. So, here it is:

My goal is to reach 400 subscriber/followers to my blog before the end of the year.

What I know this means is:

  1. I need to put more meaningful content in my blog posts.
  2. I need to self-endorse and plug my blog more.
  3. I need to appeal to anyone reading this to share this post because no man is an island I won’t be able to do this alone.

So…help?

I didn’t see THAT coming: Howard Jacobson’s “J”

This is a review of the novel by Howard Jacobson.

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I don’t read much fiction these days. Perhaps it’s because of my current mood and interests. Maybe it’s simply because of a lack of time. Or maybe it’s just because there isn’t really anything out right now that captures me. But in any case, I don’t read much fiction these days. J, the newest work from Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson, was my most recent return to the world of fiction writing. In the end, I am not sure that it is a strong enough work to keep me in the world of literary fiction, but at the very least it is a respectable effort.

The plot revolves around two characters, Kevern and Ailinn. The two characters would appear to be lovers in a (mildly) disjointed relationship in a dystopian society after WHAT HAPPENEDED, IF IT HAPPENED (may not have) occurred. The narrative seems to spend approximately 65 percent of the time around Kevern, so one would assume that he is the central character to the plot and the chief protagonist to the novel. Without spoiling the ending, all I am going to say is that this could arguably not be the case. Read the book to understand this cryptic comment.

Jacobson weaves together in a literary tapestry plot lines from different characters across different time periods that intersect and paint the back story and context of where Kevern and Ailinn find themselves. And the context in which they find themselves is that they are two people of a Jewish descent after a second Holocaust of sorts.

The novel contains some profound, insightful one-liners such as “The over-examined life is not worth living.” For me, more than the plot, these types of moments were the ones that kept me reading throughout the book. Some readers might be drawn to the plot, but others like me will find value in one-offs that make the reader think. In any event, a reader who picks up J might be frustrated by the ending, but will not be let down by finishing this book.

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

I may have broken a law today.

I am going to out myself publicly today; I, a state-licensed educator, spoke about my faith today. Now to clarify, I did not proselytize. I did not evangelize. The words salvation, eternal life, and Jesus never crossed my lips. I was discussing the Syrian refugee settlement issue and our Governor’s decision to suspend settling Syrians in Indiana. Students, after discussing the pros and cons of the decision, asked my opinion.

Here was my response:

“My faith teaches my to love those who hate me and bless those who persecute me. Welcoming the stranger, clothing him or her, and providing a cup of cold water, is the way to bring a piece of divinity into the middle of broken humanity. My faith even tells a story of a many beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. The political and religious leaders who are supposed to be the examples of morality look the other way and leave the dying man to do exactly that on the side of the road- die. The person who comes to the aid of the dying man is an individual who has every right to ignore him, and in actuality conflicts with him culturally in every way. But the man ignores everything he is entitled to do and does what is good and right, looking after the poor and downtrodden. How do think they should handle the situation and why?”

Admittedly, I never said concretely what decision I felt the government officials should make. I shared of my culture and upbringing. And isn’t that what education is really all about? Learning about ourselves and each other.

The Berenstain Bears thoughtfully retell a potentially challenging Christmas tale.

This is a review of The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Christmas by Jan and Mike Berenstain.

My wife is pregnant with our first child. My wife and I were both raised in the Church, and intend on doing the same with our child. In the Christian faith- and much of U.S. culture- Christmas is an important holiday. And for even many not raised in Church, the Nativity story still holds a special place in Christmas tradition. But how does one share the Nativity story in a way that will not confuse a young child or inadvertently create an opportunity for the birds-and-the-bees talk much sooner than expected? For decades, the Berenstains have been using their bear characters to try and teach children some rather intricate moral and ethical issues, so one would like to believe that if anyone could give the Nativity story a proper telling that little children could follow, it would be Jan and Mike Berenstain. And they stand up well to the challenge.

The book begins with Papa Bear offering to read Brother and Sister Bear a story; they choose the story of the very first Christmas. Papa Bear is used to tell the story of the first Christmas, and they story is told in a way to be accurate while cleverly avoiding moments which would require a parent to explain to an inquisitive child what a virgin is, and why an angry king named Herod would want to kill all little boys. So as to not spoil the story, I will not tell how the writers accomplish this. I will state that instead, the end of the book has some open-ended questions to engage children in the story after reading it.

One tiny flaw I found in the book is that the story does not tie back to the Bear family after Papa finishes reading. It would have been a fitting way to tie everything up in a neat bow; but, overall the book is effective at its task of retelling the story of the first Christmas. This book would definitely be a good choice for a young child’s first Christmas book.

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

#DoOver My First Year of Teaching Part 7; or, Turning Students Into Zombies Is NOT a Bad Thing

You’ve seen it.

Dawn of the Dead. Zombieland. The Walking Dead.

Or some other horror media involving the zombie- a creature created by being bitten by another zombie (or dying because you are already infected, TWD). And in education, students often are described as zombies, BECAUSE OF EDUCATION. As if teachers are nothing more than burned out, jaded, cynical virus carriers intent on bringing down as many others with them as they can.

I am here to propose another application of the term “zombie” to students.

In George Romero’s Land of the Dead, we are faced with a fascinating twist on the typical zombie film in that the zombies have the capacity to learn and problem solve. As the zombie hordes work together, though their movements are rocky and sporadic, they slowly but surely figure out how to learn and work together as they try to find their own place in the world.

Just like students.

Sure, students cluster together. Yes, they oftentimes are not working at the level we would hope they would work at. But by pushing them, allowing them to feed on a (teacher) brain from time to time as needed, they start to figure things out and solve their own problems.

Looking back on my first year of teaching, I cringed at the idea of terms like “zombie” being applied to my students because I couldn’t look past the surface level of the metaphor. I know differently now.