Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 32 – Capitalism is the rotting fruit of hope in ourselves

I wonder how often we dismiss the still small voice of God because we believe the message He brings and the resulting action required are financial unfeasible. We’re trapped in a culture propelled with the hope that contentment comes from financial stability. The peace we seek eludes us because slowly, like a great ship, our hearts are turned toward the love of money more than God.

The deceit in believing that money can bail us out of the mess we’re in is found in our self-talk. If I had a better job, if I just work harder or more hours, and if I only had a break become the mantra we live by. Our notion that “we can do it” leads to false hope in ourselves. A hope that is built on our own abilities and aspirations spoils over time and the fruit of our lives along with it. Hope that lasts is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 31 – Focus

. . . Magellan demonstrated the fortitude of a life in focus . . . Jesus provides the priorities and perspectives that are essential for a focused life in an overloaded age. – Oz Guinness

Magellan was single-minded. His deep purpose, to find a channel from the Atlantic to the Pacific, permeated his thoughts, his emotions, and his desires. He gave his life to this task, and the sea took it but not until he discovered the straight through the tip of South America that bears his name.

Jesus was even more focused. Before he died, Jesus prayed, “I have glorified you [the father] on earth by completing the work you have given me to do.” His clear call to glorify the father and do his will flowed throughout his human nature. To do so, Christ had to renounce other possibilities, for instance an earthly kingship, and whole-heartedly focus on establishing God’s Kingdom on earth. He gave his life to this task and the religious establishment took it but only for a short time.

How then should we live but to “lay aside every encumbrance and run the race with perseverance?” A clear-minded focus in an age of abundance demands that we eliminate many distractions. The hard part is determining what not to do. The current culture drags our attention to a smorgasbord of possibilities, and due to the distractions, we might never decide to run but will gorge ourselves until we’re too fat to move.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Day 26 – July 4, 2009 - Still Fighting

Today is Independence Day. Two hundred thirty-three years ago the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The secession from England would not be easy. It is estimated that 25,000 Americans lost their lives in the war and another number nearly equal to the first were wounded or disabled. That’s 2% of the estimated 2.5 million people who lived in the original thirteen colonies in 1776. In WWI 137,00 (.14%) US lives were lost and the number for WWII just shy of half a million (.37%). However, the total count for WWII was over 59 million. The Soviet Union alone lost 25.5 million people. Many believe this was the bloodiest war of all time.

The U.S. has been in eleven major “wars” since the Revolutionary war. That’s a war about every 20 years. I wonder if that much fighting was necessary. Since the Civil War ending in 1865, wars have been fought outside the continental U.S. although the Japanese did attack the U.S. on it’s own soil in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 1941, and then there was 9/11/2001. I wonder why war is so much easier to wage than it is to make peace.

For the next week I will be out of WiFi range. I'll keep writing every day but will need to make one big post probably Friday night. Then the same thing happens next Saturday as I'll be riding STP so I'll plan to post Sunday night.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Day 25 – Strengths Based Schools

Keeping to one topic is sometimes very hard. I feel like I could ramble on about a number of things but that would thwart the purpose of the discipline of writing that I am intent to develop. Yesterday I started to read Strengths Based Leadership. The authors report that an awareness of our own strengths will increase our self-confidence. Higher confidence at a young age (14-22 years old) increases career satisfaction, produces a higher salary, and decreases the likelihood of health problems. People with high self-confidence have a “cumulative advantage” that grows over a lifetime. Conversely, if you focus on people’s weakness they lose confidence.

It seems to me that this has strong implications for schooling. Much in school does not boost student confidence. Teachers mark student’s mistakes on papers and grade accordingly. There is not a focus on what is done correctly but what is done poorly. If a student’s strength is not math, reading or writing then over seventy-five percent of his or her day is spent doing work that he or she is not good at doing. What if we re-focused schools and curriculum around student’s strengths? What if at least half of the school day students could work from those strengths and gain more confidence? Would that change the dropout rate? I think it might. I know more students would be engaged in learning if they could operate out of strengths.

Taking a cue from the research on leadership, if part of school was to help students find out what they were good at and then develop curriculum, goals, and learning targets from their strengths, the results might be more than we ever hoped. I think it’s worth a try.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 24 – gratis pro deo, Free and For God

I sometimes dream of having enough money to be free to work as I wish. Then I wonder what I might do. It seems I am more inclined to recognize that which I would not do. I would not rush from one thing to the next; I would not drive my car as much; and I would not have one day the same as the last one. Many jobs seem to be a lot like the last one.

So what would I do? Lately, I’m drawn to cooking and gardening, simple tasks yet practical and earthy. I like to bicycle, walk and daydream. I wonder about school and how it might be changed so more young people would want to attend and would find success there. I read some and write some, mostly for my own edification. I think I’d go back to Africa and stay longer. I recently read on a t-shirt, “I need Africa more than Africa needs me.” There’s deep truth in that statement, enough to daydream about for months or years.

Do these activities leave me gratis pro deo? I not sure, but I’m certain that fulfillment is not about money but about smiles, fitness, digging in the dirt, and prayer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 23 – Headphones

Today while cycling up to Bothel and back, I noticed that almost half the people I encountered were “plugged in”. Most were wearing headphones but one worker who held a watering hose toward some newly planted trees on the Burke-Gilman trail was texting on her phone with the other hand. I wondered what everyone was tuned in to that was more important than listening to the birds or the wind blowing through the trees. The notion that being connected is expected and nearly automatic made me focus on what sounds I was hearing. I noticed that the sound of the wind across my ears was calming and decreased the impact of the sound of the highway. I heard birds and more importantly could give others who were head-phone-less warning that I was about to pass, “on your left”. Several head phoned people never heard me.

So what is everyone listening to through those ear buds? I checked the top songs and found Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas has been near the top of the list for almost four months. The YouTube video has had 11,565,502 views as of this writing. After listening to it several times I think people must like it because it focuses on a strong beat. Even the lyrics are mostly about rhythm. But don’t think that’s the only message. Here is the third verse: “I’m a beast when you turn me on; Into the future cybertron; Harder, faster, better, stronger; Sexy ladies extra longer.” Other songs on the list seem to have a similar message: I Gotta Feeling; Best I Ever Had; Knock You Down; I Know You Want Me; Love Game; Fire Burning; Birthday Sex. So if this is what everyone is listening to, no wonder people enjoy being plugged in.

Love in This Club takes things a step further: "On the couch, on the table; On the bar or on the floor; You can meet me in the bathroom; Yeah, you know I’m tryin’ go; Might as well give me a kiss; If we keep touchin’ like this; I know you scared baby; They don’t know what we doin’; Let’s both get undressed right here; Keep it up girl then I swear; I’mma give it to you non stop; And I don’t care who’s watchin'."

I wasn’t planning to make this a statement about song lyrics and the current pop culture. But if this is what people are listening to, especially young people, then I’m not surprised that their attitudes about sex are changing. So ear buds . . . not while cycling for sure. And for me, based on the pop culture, I probably won’t be extending my earphone use anytime soon.