Prairie View

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Sunday Wrap Up 4/9/2017

Today in church Marvin N. reminded us to notice the beauty of the season.  He mentioned two beautiful things that he observed at home:  the Flowering Crabapple tree in full bloom, and the pair of bluebirds having returned to their nesting box.  That was appropriate, given the somber tone of the morning.

We learned yesterday of the accidental death of 10-year-old Jeremy Yoder, the youngest child of Sanford and Jolene.  His father found him deceased, with a wheel from a small tractor resting on his back.  The scenario Sanford pieced together follows.  As Jeremy was dismounting the tractor to hitch a mower deck to the tractor, the wind may have caused his shirt to catch on a lever that put the tractor in motion.  (The tractor was not in park.)  The tractor lurched and knocked him down.  The tractor moved forward only until it came to a stop when it ran into a building.

The family lives now in Miami, OK (in the extreme NE corner) of the state, close to Labette County, Kansas.  Jeremy was born here, where his parents lived ever since their marriage, until their move to Oklahoma 4 or 5? years ago.  They attended church at Center.  I remember Jeremy as the child who sat on his mother's lap in our Sunday School class before he was old enough to attend Sunday School class with other children.

Shane rented office space from Sanford until he purchased a property of his own.  Jolene's father (Ed Yoder) was one of our ministers until his death.  Shawn, the oldest son in the family was one of my high school students.  Everyone at church could claim many connections to this family, so the death strikes home.

Arlyn N. reminded us that others among us have faced similar grief as a result of untimely death.  His own friend Marvin died when they were both seven or eight.  Even today, his parents talk to Arlyn sometimes about how seeing him reminds them of Marvin.  The death happened more than 30 years ago.  Sarah M. told me during the short prayer time in small groups that we had for Sanford's family that her own 4 1/2-year-old bother died in a farm accident when she was about 12.  I'm sure many of us remembered Andrew's death at the age of 10?, also on a beautiful spring Saturday afternoon 20 years ago.  Dwight M.  spoke briefly about his baby brother's death when Dwight was about 3 or 4 years old.  Dwight's siblings were my students at the time.

For these reasons and because of other things not right in my smaller world, I left church feeling blue.

On the way home, however, Hiromi told me that there were ducks in the standing water in the long skinny rail-side field across the road from us.  He stopped so I could see them when we got there.  They were blue-winged teals.  I had seen shorebirds flying up from a puddle we passed earlier.

This evening when we drove by these places again the ducks were gone, but shorebirds had taken their place in the puddle closest to our drive.  I retrieved the binoculars in the house and walked out to see them again.  I'm no shorebird expert and they're famously difficult to identify, but I enjoyed them even though I couldn't name them.

Other things that make my heart glad:

1.  Our own Sergeant Flowering Crabapple trees, in full bloom right now, and alive with bees.

2.  Monarch butterflies among the  flowers.

3.  Grandsons here yesterday, and seeing their delight with the grape hyacinths in the grass, the butterflies overhead, and the little shovel that I use in my flowerbeds.  They tried it out and wished they had one.

4.  The dwarf or miniature irises that are in bloom.

5.  The tiny little wild pansies that I saw at Linda's house yesterday.

6.  The sandhill plums and wild black currants in bloom, along with the ancient pear trees on our place.

7.  The little blue flowers on the daintiest of vinca ground covers.  I have three or four other kinds--some of them almost obnoxiously overpowering--but not this one.

8.  The school children's pleasure at seeing signs of spring on our Expotitions.

9.  Andrew's spying the first Western Kingbird of the season on the power lines visible from our Language Arts classroom window.

9.  The exit of the woodstove from the corner of our living room.  I liked that stove as long as it was in use.  We've had it since 1982, but ever since Hiromi decided that he wasn't going to use it any more, I have wished to reclaim that corner of the living room for other uses.  Almost three years after we moved back here, the woodstove move finally happened.

10.  A new dishwasher.  We have done without ever since we moved here.  Yesterday we bought a new one, and Hiromi is within one fitting of having it ready to use.  We decided to use a portion of our bigger-than-expected tax refund for this purpose.

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On a radically different note, I've been following the saga of finding a replacement for Samuel Alito on the US Supreme Court.  I was not pleased with the rank partisanship evident in Congress both when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland and when President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch.  Both men seemed well-qualified to me.  Under President Obama, the Republicans were the obstructionists.  Under President Trump, the Democrats were.

To try to remedy the impasse, a new policy was employed.  It's complicated, but essentially, the new standard prevents the use of the filibuster to block confirmation of a supreme court justice, and only a simple majority (50 +) is needed to trigger a vote--instead of the super-majority (60) required previously.  In effect, it neutralizes the opposition of the minority.

I've seen proposals for changing the methods by which Supreme Court justices are appointed, some of which I find appealing.  Here's a link to an article which lays out one such proposal.  This proposal calls for 18-year term limits instead of what is now effectively a lifetime appointment.  Appointments would rotate every two years, which would allow each president to appoint two justices.

I see two main benefits of the above proposal.  One, judges would not be tempted to hang on to their job after their mental faculties have declined in old age.  Two, no single president would be able to pack the court according to his own ideology, in the event that multiple vacancies develop during his presidency.

Making this change would probably require a constitutional amendment--something on which finding agreement would be difficult with the present congressional makeup.

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In two weeks, we plan to ordain a deacon at church.  My brother Ronald will be the speaker for the pre-ordination meetings.

Today we got a handout in church detailing the voting procedure before the use of the lot, assuming that a lot will be needed.  It's a little different than the tradition in the Old Order Amish church, the method in use earlier.  It is basically the same, however, in that it provides for a congregational decision to determine who the candidates for ordination are.  The size of our congregation makes some adaptations seem wise.  In the Old Order church only two votes were required for a person to be included as a candidate.  I remember a time when we used seven as the minimum.  This time percentages are being employed instead of straight minimum numbers.

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Hiromi has a new and growing interest in healthful eating.  I welcome the switch in most ways.  It sure beats what has usually been the case before, although he gets high marks in general for being a vegetables kind of guy, with no big appetite for sweet junk foods.  He's the grocery shopper and if he brings home healthful foods, I'm happy to prepare and help eat them.

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The Kansas MCC sale yesterday and Friday netted over $500,000.  Our church helps with an on-site cookie-baking project.  About 2800 whoopie pies sold yesterday, plus many other kinds of cookies.

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William Hershberger was hospitalized last week with partial kidney failure.  He seems to be doing better now and might come home tomorrow.

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Gideon and Esther Yutzy's third daughter was born last night.  Her name is Honor Naomi.  The middle name is the name of Gideon's mother.



Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Kingdom Story

You know how sometimes something goes round and round inside your head for a very long time, and you wonder if the matter will ever come to rest in any good place?  While you're thinking, you can't excuse yourself from business as usual, and figurative bruises and thumps on the head and raps on the knuckles and punches to the stomach seem more plentiful than affirmations and progress.  I feel that the past year or so has been like that for me in one particular perplexity--trying to identify what constitutes Kingdom business.  Other kingdoms seethe and bubble so energetically that the oil of the Heavenly Kingdom often seems shot through with contamination from below.

The lead-in to the 2016 presidential election was a toxin-contaminated brew.  Unfortunately the pot could not be pulled off the fire, and as surely as labor pains intensify before they subside, this pot boiled all the more furiously as 2016 lurched along to November.

I absconded on November 1 and stayed out of the country till November 13, sequestering myself in a country 50 hours of flights and airports from home.    I saw first-hand the betrayal the Bangladeshis felt when a country they admired elected a leader who had publicly castigated their kind of people.  They didn't seem angry, just sorrowful and perhaps a bit fearful.

I felt betrayal too--not so much by the outcome of the election, but by the behavior and accusations of some of my fellow Anabaptists.  What were they thinking?  The more I heard what they were thinking, the more dismayed I felt.  If they ever understood the historic position of their religious tradition, they weren't affirming it now.  The new position seemed to have been formed without reference to the priorities of the Kingdom of God.  The needle on the moral compass seemed loose and wobbly at its pivot point.

Unfortunately I found it far easier to see what was wrong than to discover what was right regarding these matters.  My father's death made me feel more disoriented than usual. I could have counted on his caring and wisdom if I had been able to talk to him.  Feeling snowed under with work at school, with little time to think didn't help either.

The understandings that have brought some sense of resolution seem so simple to me now that I wonder why I didn't think of them a long time ago.  I'll start here by sharing something along the same lines as what I passed along to my language arts class (going from memory).  At the center top of a paper I wrote "Kingdom of God."  Under it I wrote a term that is often used interchangeably, "Kingdom of Heaven."  Further descriptors followed:  "More powerful than all other kingdoms, Everlasting, Operates by love."

Along the left margin below this I wrote "Kingdom of Satan," followed by synonyms "Kingdom of Darkness, Kingdom of this World (singular)."  Then these descriptors:  "Less powerful than the "Kingdom of God, More powerful than kingdoms of this world (plural), Steals, kills, and destroys, Will be destroyed by God.

Along the right margin at the bottom was another category:  "Kingdoms of this world (plural)."  "Earthly governments" is synonymous.  These kingdoms operate by force.  Here not everything is completely clear to me, but I do know that God is sovereign over these kingdoms.  I know also that earthly kingdoms (or nations) may operate in a stealing, killing, and destroying mode at times.  At other times the principle of love (or goodwill at least) is in evidence.  A nation  never operates entirely according to the realm of God's kingdom or Satan's kingdom, as long as individuals within those nations are not entirely loyal to God's kingdom or Satan's. Earthly kingdoms are mixed kingdoms.

Now, back to the right margin near the top of the page:  "Schleitheim Confession" is the subject of a paragraph there.  Schleitheim is a city in Germany.  The first formative document written by a group of Anabaptists was written there in 1527.  Michael Sattler was the main writer.  In this document, Anabaptists reject involvement in any activity that relies on the use of force.   Quote:  "He [Christ] Himself forbids the (employment of) the force of the sword . . . Christ has suffered (not ruled) and left us an example, that ye should follow His steps."   The contrast could hardly be more stark.  Earthly kingdoms seek to bring about change through the use of force.  In the Kingdom of God, change is accomplished through suffering love.  In the Schleitheim reading, for Christians to seek power in an earthly government is a serious compromise.  It is to walk in darkness.   Quote:  "They wished to make Christ king, but He fled and did not view it as the arrangement of His Father. Thus shall we do as He did, and follow Him, and so shall we not walk in darkness." 

On my "Kingdoms" paper, the first line connected the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of Satan.  Along this line I wrote that Christians must maintain a complete separation from the Kingdom of Satan.  I stated further that all Christians agree on this, in principle at least. Another line connects the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of this world and runs right through the Schleitheim Confession paragraph.  My conclusion is that if I wish to follow in the way of the the Schleitheim Anabaptists and prioritize the Kingdom of God as they did, I will also choose the way of suffering love and never seek to align myself with the forceful methods of the kingdoms of this world. This carves out an honorable place of rest for me.

That's Part One of my "Kingdom" story.

Schleitheim Confession

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Conversation

Last week I gave my Language Arts students an assignment:  Record a conversation that you've participated in or overheard personally.

If someone had given me this assignment, I would be especially glad for the conversation that happened here yesterday when our four oldest grandsons were here:

Tristan (age 5):  Carson, do you want to be the audient while Wyatt and I throw the ball to each other?  (Carson goes over and sits on the recliner to watch.)

Me:  What is an audient?

Tristan:  It's when a person watches a game.

Me:  Oh, An audience!

Tristan:  No.  "Audients" is a bunch of people.  An audient is one person.

Me:  Oh.  I see.  Well actually, it doesn't make much sense, but you can say "audients" even if it's just one person. And an audience can be listening to a sermon or listening to people sing--doing lots of things besides watching a game.

Later . . .

Tristan:  Wyatt, do you want to take a turn to be the audient?  (Wyatt goes to the recliner, but unlike Carson, he does not sit demurely on the seat.  He reaches down for the lever, flings himself against the back and raises the footrest with aplomb.  His feet do not reach the footrest, but rest happily on the recliner seat while he does what any self-respecting 3-year-old audient would do--watch the game.)

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Learning about exceptions to rules about singular and plural nouns will wait for another day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Spring Break Post

Today Tristan read to me and his younger brother a book from the library that was over 50 pages long.  Each page had only four or so lines of text, and lots of fun pictures on the pages, but still . . . 50+ pages!  This coming school year he would not be old enough to be allowed to start school at Pilgrim unless an exception were made.  I don't think his parents will challenge the status quo, but probably just keep on putting things in front of him to learn at home.  He's a fortunate child, in my completely unbiased opinion.

This "grandchildren pleasure" during spring break is mixed with a bit of wistfulness about the absent grandchildren.  I'm told that the oldest BD granddaughter is reading books too, but I can't sit down with her to listen to her read.

I make it sound as though reading is the most notable thing a grandchild could do.  Not really.  Each one is delightful in exactly the stage they're in right now.  Today I marveled at the new words the 18?-month-old is saying, and marveled even more at his pleasant interactions with me, and his great muscle coordination and balance as he ran back and forth across the hard floor in his socks.

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Grant is in Texas today, and will be working there for several weeks.  I'm listening with interest to weather reports from there.  Tornadoes are being reported.  Three storm chasers died--not in a tornado, but in a 2-vehicle accident.

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The rains we're getting are pure pleasure.  The weather violence is happening elsewhere, and we've had at least .8 inch of rain today, with a lot more apparently on the way tonight and tomorrow.   I can't guarantee that there will be no runoff, but the ground is thirsty enough that I think it will absorb a lot of moisture before it can't hold any more.

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The most recent issue of Mennonite World Review carried an article reporting on the recent Anabaptist Identity Conference.  Much of the article referenced speeches by David Martin on Mennonites and the Industrial Revolution.  I referred in an earlier post to a piece by Martin on the same topic.  I noted in the MWR article that Martin elaborated on some of the content in the original article.  I think Martin is saying things we really need to hear and learn from.  Here's the MWR article.




Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Wrap Up--3/29/2017

I suppose I should get the big local news out of the way first:  Hutchinson Community College--also known as Hutch JUCO--is the National Junior College Basketball Tournament champion.  The last such win was in 1994, and the only other win was in 1988.  Last year they lost the final game and took second place.  It's not that big a deal to me, but the story took up the whole front page of today's newspaper.

Oh, and KU lost the game that would have given them entrance into the Final Four set of teams vying for the National College basketball championship.

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What is bigger news in my world is that it's raining!!!!!!  On Friday we felt a little cheated when we had just a bit of a dust dampener, but Hutchinson got an inch or two.  More rain is possible over the next few days.  Destructive grassland fires over the past few weeks have accentuated the dry conditions and our need for moisture.

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Spring Break is happening this week.  I'm looking forward to time with grandchildren and time for doing gardening and yard work.

At the teachers' lunch table on Friday, when Tim S. asked Gideon Y. about his plans for spring break, he had an answer none of us could top:  "Having a baby--we hope!"  Two years ago during spring break it was Charlotte who joined the family of Gideon, Esther, and Olivia.

They plan to move to Ireland this summer.  When they arrived here about four years ago, they had an infant just a little older than their expected baby will be when they leave with three young children.  Right now Esther's parents, Dan and Barbara, are here.

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I have had several unexpected gifts this spring in the form of winning prizes at meetings for gardeners.  The first was a ten dollar gift certificate to Arnold's greenhouse in Leroy, Kansas.  Rita Arnold from that business was in town to give a presentation on new plants for 2017, and I went to hear her.  Only once have I gone to Arnolds--with Grant, on a spring day before I started teaching again.  The place is amazing for their variety of offerings.  At the recent meeting I met Sheila Wedel who I first learned to know when we were both at a flower-grower's meeting in Wichita, also before I started teaching again.  She has a greenhouse in the country at a location with a Galva address.  Sheila is Holderman Mennonite.  Last year I took my father along for the ride when I went to her greenhouse for the first time.  Sheila's Garden Market is closer than Arnolds, and her selection includes many flowers that are useful as cutflowers.  Her selection is all-around wonderful.

My second stroke of good fortune happened on the Saturday of the Gathering for Gardeners, an annual spring event sponsored by the Hutchinson Horticulture Club.  I won a $20 gift certificate to Stutzman Greenhouse there.  I learned when Ben Miller spoke that he and Marlene moved to Wichita more than a year ago.  How did I not know that?

Yesterday was the Spring celebration at Pleasantview.  We didn't go.  One year I won the $150.00 grand prize in the drawing at the event.  I suppose it says something for how much I love being at home that I was not tempted by the wonderful snacks and the  many small gifts that are usually part of Spring Celebration.

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Vince and Mari Caudillo's house in Partridge has been purchased by Choice Books and will soon become the home of John and Mandy Coblentz from Hicksville, OH who are working right now as volunteers for CB.  I think this is the first time that a retirement-age couple has served in this way--unless you count Perry and Judith who were local and not quite retirement age.  I hope it's the beginning of a trend, although certainly the young people who arrive from far-flung places to work for CB have been a blessing too.  Some of them have married here and stayed.  Others have snatched away one of ours and have taken them along home as a spouse.

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The redbuds are in full bloom.  I suppose I shouldn't be spoiling the pleasure of the moment by remembering that this is the phenological signal that conditions are right for the germination of crabgrass seeds.  Henbit and dandelion are in full glory right now as well.

The wheat is tall enough to roll in waves when stirred by the spring winds that regularly roil this verdant sea.

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Last week the current federal administration's effort to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA--also known as Obamacare) failed.  When it became obvious that it wouldn't pass if brought to a vote, the legislation was withdrawn just before a scheduled vote took place.  I have no great fondness for the current version of the ACA, but I believe that the proposal being offered in its place was deeply flawed as well.  On Facebook, when a friend stated that he believes that a better version will be offered later, I made this comment:  I have very low expectations for a new and improved health care plan at a later date. My sense of optimism might get a boost if I knew that reform was happening in the current medical paradigm (treatment of illness rather than promotion of health), in the insurance industry (with its potential for obscene profits for the companies), in the courts (where lawyers profit from malpractice lawsuits), and in the regulatory agencies (where lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry wield out-sized influence). If the current flaws are not addressed, any future legislation is likely to be as flawed as what we have now. If the flaws are addressed in proposed legislation, it's not likely to pass, given the loyalties of a majority of those in the lawmaking body.

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Today's newspaper carried an article about cancer drugs being developed in Sterling, KS by Gene Zaid.  He is Palestinian by birth, and has lived in the Sterling area during most of his adulthood.  His chemical research and the products from his facility have mostly been useful in the petroleum industry.

The work he is doing now focuses on isolating substances in plants that have been used in folk medicine for years in his native land to shrink tumors. Dr. Rodgers, who is leaving his medical practice in Hutchinson to work on the project calls Zaid a brilliant chemist.  

I learned to know a younger member of the Zaid family during college.  His name was Nassar. He had attended Central Christian High School earlier, and I believe Gene graduated from Sterling.  Grant has done landscaping work on Gene Zaid's property.

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The cottage on the Hands of Christ property is being used now for the regular Sunday afternoon Bible study.  My Home Environment class from school had a small part in the remodeling and redecorating of the building, and I'm eager to see it in its finished form.

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The deacon ordination planned for Center church is scheduled for late April.  Several of the Cedar Crest ministers have preached at Center in recent weeks with preparation for this event as the subject of their sermon.  They were asked to do so.

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I am always sorry when the final song is skipped at the end of a worship service.  As I see it, people will benefit far more from leaving the gathering with the words of an inspirational song ringing in their ears than they will from having been dismissed a few minutes earlier.  I "recycle" every song in my private devotions during the next week, so I regret having a skimpy collection to draw from in the second half of the week--if Wed. eve. singing has been cut short.

For other reasons I think skipping the final song may be a mistake.  Congregational singing is the one worship activity where everyone present is participating audibly.  Joining together to sing a well-chosen song after the sermon is a beautiful way to respond corporately to what everyone has heard and witnessed corporately.  Some of what we have heard recently about worship suggests that some of the beauty of God's truth is best conveyed through music.  If we see it in that light, lopping off the last song begins to  look like a loss of truth and beauty--a much bigger loss than four minutes more of visiting or time at home afterward would be.

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Mae Yoder (Mrs. Crist) seems to have suffered a light stroke.  She was hospitalized briefly.  Her daughter Betty is a teacher, and spring break is well-timed for her being able to spend more time at home now.

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The Beachy minister's meeting is in Illinois this week.

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Timo Miller's release last week is cause for great rejoicing.  He must serve a one-year probation sentence, but he's back with his family.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Another Piece of the Big Job

This post begins with a suggestion that you do a little homework before reading further.  I suggest that you go here to read some background on what follows.  It's a blog post that I wrote in May 2016, and it contains links to two other blog posts by Kelly that I recommend as well.  Kelly is a blogger who taught school in Finland for a time.  In an unrelated blog post I learned that she is a Christian.  No wonder her writing seemed full of truths I could relate to. If you're still up for more information, a Google search can provide a plethora of further material.

This post will continue in the vein I drilled down to in a previous post on how Christian schools in our time might consider reshaping themselves in a truly Christian model instead of throwing off some of the conventions that we inherited from those in use in the public school system, and adding new conventions.

I've been rereading For the Children's Sake, the book that probably has more profoundly shaped my ideals for Christian education than any other book.  The truth that I will focus on here is one I was reminded of in the rereading of the above book by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  Charlotte Mason believed it to be a foundational truth of successful teaching as God intended, and Macaulay embraced it, as do I.  "Children are born persons" is one way this foundational truth might be expressed.  Further explanation follows here via words from Macaulay:

"Charlotte Mason rejects the utilitarian view of education and the conventional educational standards of her day.  She challenges us instead to identify the child's actual needs and capacities; to serve him as he is, on the basis of what is right and good for him as a person. . . . And so Charlotte Mason rejected the idea that what this young person needed was molding.  'Their notion is that by means of a pull here, a push there, a compression elsewhere a person is at last turned out according to the pattern the educator has in his mind.'" (p. 14)

Kelly came home from teaching in Finland ready to try to implement some of the educational insights she had gleaned while she was gone.  In a very short time, however, she realized that because of a fundamental characteristic of education in America, the Finland model would not work here until a philosophical change occurred.  That underlying characteristic is competition.  In my opinion, that characteristic is alive and well in Christian schools also, often couched in very spiritual-sounding terms.  I believe furthermore that sometimes competitiveness directly sabotages what we are called by God to do as teachers--which begins with recognizing that "children are born persons."

Jesus modeled this.  Picture him seated on a Galileean hillside with a crowd before him.  Perhaps some of the parents in the crowd did as my father used to do when he introduced us to "famous" people he had learned to know.  When the children appeared before him, he took them in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them, and prayed for them.  Can you imagine a more "personhood-affirming" action?  On other occasions, Jesus specifically instructed others to receive children as He received them. (Mark 9:36, 37; Luke 9:47,48)  Those who did so were receiving Jesus Himself.  How's that for a compelling directive?

I believe that the Christian teachers I know also desire to bring students to Jesus, and desire to receive Him themselves.  Certainly some of this can happen regardless of the framework to which the process is confined.  I believe, however, that the framework we function in is geared primarily toward productivity.  In this model, we try to do these things:

1.  Quantify productivity.
2.  Document and track accomplishments.
3.  Strive to increase productivity.
4.  Compare accomplishments between students.
5.  Use productivity as a measure of success.
6.  Label children based on their productivity.

Each of these could be clarified by expansion.  Try it.  All of them tell part of the story of how we can lose sight of the personhood of each child in our current system.  All of them are tied to measures of what a child can do rather than who a child is.

I can already hear the protests--because many of them have been uttered inside my own head.  Aren't we responsible to shape students in a way that equips them for Christian service?  Don't we do students a disservice when we fail to develop their fullest potential?  How can we possibly know whether we're succeeding if we're not setting goals and constantly evaluating our progress?

I believe the single most important change that would address the above production-focused tendencies would be to more closely model the only child training model that Scripture spells out--that of the family.  This too could be expanded far beyond what will happen here.  I will mention only a few factors.  All of them would help to maximize the personhood aspects of instruction and shrink the productivity emphasis to an appropriately subordinate role.

1.  Preserve family-sized learning groups.  My arbitrary definition pegs this at 12 students--partly because that's the size of my parental family, and partly because I know how much better I like teaching this class size than a larger one.

2.  Preserve age diversity in every classroom.  I can already hear the howls of protest about the inefficiency of this approach, but I believe it's important both for how it helps students stay interested and involved and for how it helps avoid teacher burnout.

3.  Keep one teacher with the same students for a long time rather than passing them along to other teachers after a year or two.

4.  Do fewer "big" subjects in a day.

5.  Minimize homework.

6.  Inter-mingle physical labor and play with paper work and listening and speaking.

This is all I have time for now.





Thursday, March 09, 2017

Funerals, Fires, and Family Events

Today was the funeral of my aunt Susie.  She was married to my father's brother, Willis Miller.  Susie died at the age of 93, following four years of having needed total care after a stroke.  Her only daughter, Clara, provided that care, with the help of Willis.  Willis and Susie had been married for 72 years.

The funeral also brought a flood of memories of my father's funeral.  The first two songs sung today were also sung at Dad's funeral.  His siblings had gathered, just as they have done on a number of occasions in recent years when one has left the circle, and Dad's absence was very conspicuous.  His and my mother's grave marker are close to the spot where Susie was buried today, and Dad's grave is still mounded with dirt.

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Some of the readers here have followed on social  media news of the wildfires in our area  beginning this past Saturday.  We had a number of days of very low humidity and high winds.  Apparently from a carelessly-disposed-of cigarette, about 6,000 acres of the NE corner of Reno County went up in smoke.  The fire started near Hutchinson, on the northwest side, in The Highlands.  Since the strong winds at first were out of the south, the fires spread to the north, away from town.

Here, SW of Hutchinson, we were getting a shower of ashes and a haze of smoke from fires in the county SW of us, near Pratt.  Fires in that direction burned over 200,000 acres.  Much of it was in sparsely populated areas.

In our county things got very serious very quickly on Monday evening when the wind shifted and blew just as strongly from the northwest, and the fires raced back toward Hutchinson.  Some residents saw the fires bearing down on their homes and escaped in their vehicles, with no time to take anything along, and only a minute to spare.  Everyone living in the area (north of 30th street in Hutchinson) was ordered to evacuate immediately.  This included 10,000 residents.

Brian and Cynthia, from our church, welcomed their first child into the world on Monday morning.  By evening they were home from the birth center, but then they got the evacuation order, and they had to move elsewhere

Fire crews from over 100 non-local agencies responded to the need for help here.  The military (National Guard) supplied several helicopters which dumped pond water on the fires steadily for several days.  Regional experts from a federal fire-disaster network came to the area to provide expertise.  Red Cross opened several shelters for those who were displaced.

Today, for the first time since the fires began, all evacuated areas were reopened.  Sadly, at least 10 families lost their homes.  and about the same number of houses suffered fire damage, but remained habitable.

We had a beautiful day today--sunny and 70 with light winds.  I really thought we were all "home free."  Since I've been typing this post, however, I've heard the wind pick up again, and I really hope that not a single hot spot reignites.

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This weekend, four of my siblings will be together in the Holmes County, Ohio area, and none of them lives there.  Dorcas and Clara planned to be there together for a women's conference, at which Clara's sister-in-law is speaking.  My brother Ronald is preaching in a series of meetings at Messiah Fellowship.  My brother Myron is attending a board meeting (for New Horizons?).

I also heard via Rachel, who heard it from Steven Brubaker, that my brother Caleb spoke at Faith Builders on gay marriage, etc.  He was headed soon also to Eastern Mennonite University, and to Bluffton College to do the same.  I presume he had already presented this at the school where he teaches, Messiah College. He was examining especially whether gay marriage makes sense according to typical standards of philosophical inquiry.  He found that it doesn't.  Caleb has a Ph.D. in philosophy.