Prairie View

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Most Embarrassing Moments

No.  Did you really think I would afflict you and torture myself with personal revelations that fit this description?

I'm all for swiftly and permanently eliminating the requirement for sharing such information upon demand, as is sometimes requested during a party--for entertainment.  When done voluntarily, telling about an embarrassing experience can be cathartic for the teller and amusing for the listener.  But upon demand?  Not much chance, in my estimation, unless others' brains and psyche bear no resemblance to mine.

My first problem at such times in the past has been that I couldn't think of a thing to say.  Even if I could, here's why I wouldn't want to:

1.  The most deeply embarrassing will often not be the slightest bit funny to others.

2.  The most deeply embarrassing will usually be painful to recall.

3.  The demand feels disrespectful of my personal space.

4.  Those who hear the story will gain little from it.

5.  I hate being the center of attention in a party crowd.

I'm glad I found a time to say this when it's unlikely than anyone will feel like I have a bone to pick with them personally.  I've not encountered the problem of being asked to tell a "Most Embarrassing Moment" story for a long time.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Nearly Perfect

"I could have listened to him all day," Nathan said, of Dr. Watney, who introduced us to C. S. Lewis in a lecture at Sterling College as the C. S. Lewis Day activities began.

Eleven Pilgrim students and I attended.  Homeschooled students associated with Pilgrim attended also, in family-sized groups.  Everyone came from Central Christian High, and schools came from as far away as Wichita.  I'm sure there were several hundred people present, in spite of the original plan having been to invite 50-100 people.

Being the theater illiterate that I am, I was unfamiliar with the term "black box" as a setting for a play.  As I understand it, essentially it refers to a performers/audience arrangement that is very different from the traditional stage-at-the-front one.  So at Culbertson Hall this morning, for the performance of The Great Divorce, the audience sat on the bleachers at the front of the stage, and in the "amen" corners.  The lack of cushioned seating was a little hard on skinny backsides--lasting, as it did, for about 90 minutes, with no intermission or change of position. In the comfort department, those who had to go to the balcony for lack of space had at least the advantage of cushioned seating.

The performers were literally only a yard away from the front row of the audience, at times, and never more  than 10 feet? away.  Every motion and expression was visible.  The performance format was apparently the choice of the college student who directed the play.

I'm embarrassed to say that I've never actually read The Great Divorce (TGD).  Now I really want to read it.

Dr. Watney's introduction to Lewis' view of purgatory was a great help in understanding the play.  Lewis' view on this was news to me.  Although Lewis said TGD was a fantasy--not intended as a theological expression, his personal belief and the story he wrote seem to coincide closely on the matter of purgatory.  Whatever the case, having a place between heaven and hell on which to focus the action of the play was a very convenient tool for illuminating a host of spiritual truths.

The story line begins with a group of people from hell paying a visit to a place (purgatory?) where they can see heaven.  One by one, they are invited to go to there.  When it becomes clear that doing so would necessitate departure from old habits and ways of thinking, all but one of them choose to continue with what is familiar, even though they know that hell awaits them.  It is during the conversation and interaction between heavenly messenger and sinner that many penetrating truths become clear.

Making the effort to go to this event was soooooo worth it.  Everything was nearly perfect-- nice weather, cooperative  and comfortable vehicle, people who welcomed us (Dennis Dutton and Dr. Watney both greeted me upon our arrival), good actors, schedule that worked out well, good student conduct, enthusiastic reviews in the van on the way home,  and good things to think about.  Thank you, God.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Contents of a "Happy Tank"

Several things that are helping fill up my "happy tank" this evening:

1.  Someone moved cattle into the field east of our house.  I love watching them from my kitchen and dining room windows.  

2.  We had a little shower this evening just as I was coming home from school.  Afterward the wind went down and the sun came out, and the world is smiling with green.

3.  The Nanking Cherry bushes are in bloom.

4.  More of the seeds in the seedhouse have sprouted, including some things I've never grown before--like purselane and claytonia.  

5.  My Jiffy-7s were delivered today, and I got home in time to rescue them from the front porch before the rain soaked them.  If you've ever worked with Jiffy 7s, you know what a disaster soaking would have precipitated.  Oh joy--a pun! (These are cookie-shaped compressed peat pellets that expand exponentially when hydrated.)

6.   I had a lovely email note from a dear sister-in-law.

7.  A half-grown bunny hopped along near where I was standing.  (His days are surely numbered.  Hiromi has been on the rabbit warpath for a full week now, and we have six fewer than we had eight days ago.)

8.  The asparagus spears are visible in the garden.

9.  I heard a bird singing that I didn't recognize.  Maybe it's a new one, and maybe it means I'm just as ignorant as I'm afraid I am about bird calls.  

10.  Our small group wants to come here for a work night the week after next.  

11.  I reread Kathy Hanks' column about Pilgrim again, and am very grateful that our school is a blessing to the Hutchinson News staffers who are working with us.

12.  Our ad sales crew has lined up some sales for the newspaper pages we're preparing.  We still need more.  

13.  I made a pan of strawberry yum yum for the minister's meetings with no major disaster.  I had never made it before.  Now for the three pies . . . 

14.  I found a use for one of those three cream of celery soup cans Hiromi bought last week by mistake.

15.  Kristi gave an effective speech this morning on choosing well now.  It was her turn to present the senior challenge.  

16.  I had somehow failed to clip the Pilgrim article by Kathy Hanks, and I found it in the pile of old newspapers.  I also found the Pretty Prairie High School pages, which are the last ones to be printed ahead of ours.

17.  Some of the tulips Crystal gave me last fall are showing color.

18.  The dainty vinca patch is showing some green, now that the load of Sweet Autumn Clematis debris was cleared off the top of it.  It has leaves about a third of the size of vinca minor.  I planted it when we lived here more than 15 years ago.  Also, Hiromi mowed over and bagged the winter-killed leaves from the two big patches of vinca major, and the green sprouts are visible and perky.

19.  My sister Linda called to make sure I saw the golden-edged clouds in the west.

20.  Dad gave me some stuff he wants me to try on the garden.  It's a foliar spray that facilitates growth.

21.  The seedhouse Hiromi made is always comfortable and full of promise.  Being there reaches deep into the recesses of my psyche and drains away tension. 

22.  Lois and Natasha are doing a really nice job on the "Anja book" display that is being set up for the minister's meetings.

23.  The "Messiah" presentation in Hutchinson yesterday by the Reno Choral Society included a tribute to Anja, who used to sing in the annual "Messiah."

24.  Dan Yoder from Ireland preached a good sermon yesterday.  How could "The Slippery Slope of Sin" be a good sermon?  Just take my word for it.  His daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live here.  Little Olivia would be worth the trip all by herself.  

25.  Carson is happy again after having pushed up three teeth in two weeks, and after having gained mobility by learning to crawl.  

26. Clarissa is better after having suffered from bursitis (or something similar) in both shoulder joints.  No fun when you've got a chubby baby to care for.

Sunday, April 06, 2014


A month or two ago I was given an evaluation form to fill out about the principal under whom I work.  I put off filling it out as long as possible, and finally gritted my teeth and did it.  I hated it.  He was doing fine, and why did I have to make a decision about whether he was stellar or just above average or average, or (gasp) slightly below average, or (groan) needs improvement?  I usually want to add caveats and qualifications to whatever I say, and those numbers from one to five don't allow for that.

Recently someone suggested, probably only half seriously, that maybe starting at the age of 70, every aging person should agree to have his or her family evaluate him or her on a yearly basis--on matters like driving and spending money and undertaking new ventures or continuing in old roles.  When I told Hiromi what I had heard, his prompt response was this:  "That would mean I'd have only one year and one month to do anything I wanted to do.  I'd better get busy doing what I want to do."

In the context of some of the recent revelations about Bill Gothard, Dwight Gingerich had made some comments on Facebook about the benefit of leaders being subject to periodic evaluations.  I quoted part of what he said in an earlier post.  At that time Dwight also sent me a copy of the evaluation form below and gave me permission to quote from it.  It was in use in the church he was part of at one time.  

From the church Constitution:

"A review of his [the lead pastor's] ministry shall be made each year by the elders and deacons, and every five years by the entire congregation."

"The pastor may be removed from office at a special business meeting of the congregation called by the elders and deacons in consultation with the overseer where reasons for his removal would be presented, The pastor should be notified of the charges to be brought against him before notice of the meeting is given to the congregation. At the meeting he shall be allowed to answer the accusations. A vote shall be taken, with a two-thirds majority required for removal. In case of embezzlement, immorality, teaching of false doctrine, termination shall be immediate."

A regional overseer (whose role is not alluded to here) has a 5-year term.  I assume that perhaps this is the person who would see the completed evaluation forms.

In the form copied below, I have removed the pastor's name and replaced it with a blank line.

Evaluation of Lead Pastor

You may indicate your answer to sections I to IV by circling a number from 1 to 5 (1--definitely needs improvement; 5--excellent):


A. Communicates the Bible clearly 1 2 3 4 5

B. Faithfully interprets the Scripture 1 2 3 4 5

C. Avoids petty subjects but endeavors to preach the full Gospel 1 2 3 4 5

D. Addresses pertinent issues 1 2 3 4 5


A. Sensitive to individual spiritual needs 1 2 3 4 5

B. Faithful in visitation 1 2 3 4 5

C. Available and helpful in crisis 1 2 3 4 5

D. Promotes spiritual growth; challenges individuals 1 2 3 4 5

E. Involves lay people in church activities 1 2 3 4 5


A. Attends well to business matters of the church 1 2 3 4 5

B. Keeps congregation informed of events, meetings, special events 1 2 3 4 5

C. Open to complaints; approachable 1 2 3 4 5

D. Participates in and encourages projects of compassion 1 2 3 4 5

E. Stimulates growth through vision and motivating others 1 2 3 4 5

F. Includes fellow ministers in decision making and public ministry 1 2 3 4 5


A. Handles conflicts and tensions well 1 2 3 4 5

B. Is flexible 1 2 3 4 5

C. Is approachable and friendly 1 2 3 4 5

D. Listens and is caring 1 2 3 4 5

E. Relates appropriately with the opposite sex 1 2 3 4 5

F. Manages his family well 1 2 3 4 5

A.    His travels take too much time away from his church ministry  ( YES;  NO )
B.    I feel like I (choose one:  KNOW;  DO NOT KNOW ) which other ministries _______ is involved in outside the church.
C. I would like to leave a short comment related to _____'s work outside the church:

A. What one thing do you wish _____ would do that he is not doing now?

B. What one thing do you wish _____ would stop doing that he does now?

C. What one thing does ______ do or not do that you feel he could improve?

VII.   How do you rate ________ as a pastor?

VII.  Are you a regular attendee and supporter of this church?  Yes_____;  No_____.

How long have you been attending this church? _____________

May we have your name (optional)?_______________________________________

Are you a member of the church?  Yes_____;  No_____.

In which age category are you?  (under 20)    (20-40)     (40 on up)

Additional Comments:


I remember my dad saying, decades ago, that he likes our system of church leadership for the most part, but he regrets that we don't have a very good way of dealing with situations where an ordained person's ministry is problematic for one reason or another.  I see regular evaluations as one possible method of filling the need when problems are present.  Also, I believe evaluations could serve as affirmations.

Despite my personal distaste for them, I believe evaluations are generally a good thing, and maybe more of us should be open to adopting them in our church organizations, or in our journey toward old age.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

In Other Words

An earlier post has generated quite a lot of discussion, and I'm wading into the choppy waters again, this time in plain English.  I don't know everything there is to know about these matters, but those who know me best know that "headcoverings" is not an issue I typically deal with lightheartedly.  On the other hand, I do try hard not to take myself too seriously.  I laugh at myself quite a bit, and even poke fun at myself at times in the hearing of others.  Also, those who know me best know that I am famously clueless about most details of appearance.  I just don't notice them much, on myself or on others.  Perhaps those two facts will be disappointing to some and reassuring to others.  I hope they provide context that was missing from the original post.

Also, I made a conscious choice several weeks ago, to make more direct responses to comments on blog posts.  I saw this response format used effectively elsewhere and liked it.  Earlier, I usually published what came in and let the comments stand without any additions from me.  My new style was not contrived because of this post.

I'm plucking randomly from the amalgam of thoughts that have coursed through my brain in recent days:

1.  Modesty and ostentation can both be conveyed in hair and headcoverings.  I like modesty better.

2.  Between modesty and ostentation lies a continuum.  Everyone's practice falls somewhere on the continuum.  Movement on the continuum is possible.  I believe changes here should happen mindfully, not haphazardly.

3.  What is visible outwardly is related to invisible heart matters.  We're always guessing when we assign inner motives for outward behaviors.  God doesn't have to guess.  He knows.  I don't presume to know exactly what all is behind every behavior I see.  I can't imagine, however, what would be gained by refusing to consider what might be behind behaviors I see.  I have no trouble believing, for example, that the same outward expression could indicate pain, rebellion, vanity, or immaturity.  Even a proud modesty that one commenter referred to could be present.  I mentioned vanity early in the original post mainly because it was easy to incorporate a play on words with "variety."  At the end, I incorporated the image of the Pharisee, and tried to choose Pharisaical language in the prayer words. In reality, I think what I have seen most often would likely come under the "immaturity" category.  Please understand that "irony" is a writing genre with inherent limitations, especially for someone who uses it as rarely as I do--and perhaps for people who read it as rarely as my readers do.

4.  It's OK to say how things look to us.  That's one of the privileges of being human.  One of the obligations of being part of a spiritual family is to speak truthfully, with love, about what God lays on our hearts.

5.  Any new information we take in is filtered through our previous experience.  If we have felt misunderstood in other areas, we have radar for those whose outward behaviors are misunderstood.  If we have felt pain about excessive reference to outward behaviors, we may feel pain at all such references.  If we can remember our own immaturity, we're likely to recognize it in others.  Previous experience is a good teacher, but it provides only a limited perspective.  Belaboring our own interpretation of outward behaviors runs the risk of seeking solutions where no problems exist.  On the other hand, excessive caution in thinking about underlying "causes" risks paralysis.  Sometimes a good dose of common sense really is sufficient for proceeding with confidence.

6.  The filter that matters most, either in expression or response, is the filter of the mind of Christ, as revealed in Scripture and by the direction of the Holy Spirit.

7.  I believe beauty and meaning is present in the teaching in 1 Corinthians 11, no matter what applications are derived from it.  Group agreement on an application does not automatically negate this beauty and meaning.  Certainly the application can be preserved after the connection to beauty and meaning has been lost, and it's always better when the application occurs in connection with a strong sense of its meaning and beauty.

8.  Finally, another mantra I've often repeated to my composition students:  When you write anything at all, in a sense, you lose control over those words as soon as they reach an audience.   The varied responses to the original post substantiate the mantra.  I can explain what I meant, but I can never be sure what it will actually mean to readers.  If anything here sounded like the mind of Christ then you ought to listen.  If it didn't, you still ought to care about learning the mind of Christ.  I hope nothing here steers you away from that pursuit.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Don't Ask

When was the last time you tried to explain to someone why they shouldn't presume that it's always OK to ask for things?  I've heard the habit defended in this way:  "What does it hurt if you're willing to take 'no' for an answer?"

My attempts to explain this have not always been a resounding success.  For some reason, Pennsylvania Dutch/German words always spring to mind on this topic--maybe because that's the language in which I was instructed in such matters: "Don't grongle (beg)."  "Don't be gnaaksich (whiney)."  I don't say those words though when I'm trying to explain.

I sometimes have resorted to pitiful means:  "Don't embarrass me like that."

"Don't intrude on other people's mind space/work time/possessions with your self-centered requests"  is probably a slightly more thoughtful response, but is still  not an overwhelmingly convincing one.  Still, one dear student had the grace to respond with a sincere apology in the face of such logic.

Did I mention how I hate having to explain this to anyone?  Someone has to do it though, given how toxic a sense of entitlement is to relationships and productive interactions.  

Two days ago, I saw a link on Facebook where someone addressed this matter.  Check out this link for more on the subject.  Where was this guy when I  needed him?

Our School in the News

Here's a link to an article that talks about our school in The Hutchinson News.

During the past few weeks we have had a number of visits from News staff people.  The latest group consisted of four people:  two writers, one photographer, and the copy editor.  Kathy Hanks, who wrote the article above, is the only one who's been present each time.  We thought they were there to help us with our writing project.  We didn't know we were also part of their writing project.  It's all good though.  It was a nice article.

Friday, March 28, 2014


I have only one more big bone to pick in the ongoing Bill Gothard (BG) saga.  This is the "taking up offenses" bone.

In a publication separate from the big red book, BG laid out this philosophy on very flimsy evidence--really non-existent evidence, as far as Bible teaching is concerned.  His teaching went something like this:  God gives grace when people commit offenses against you.  But when people commit offenses against others, and you are also offended by the wrongdoing--well, that's when you're wrong for being offended, and you can be sure that God will not give you grace to deal with it.  It's very important not to take up offenses committed against others.

The record which is now being publicly established reveals that publication of this "insight" coincided with a time when BG was being called to account for some of his wrong actions toward others--particularly young girls who worked with and for him.  Following the teaching effectively shut down many voices that might otherwise have been raised in defense of those who were being violated.

Earlier I did not have the motivation or confidence--or forum perhaps--to say out loud what I was thinking about this.  I thought maybe it was courage, righteousness, and love that prompted people to take up the cause of someone who was being mistreated.  I could not see it as being virtuous to stand by silently while others suffered.

I don't have a well-developed defense for my thoughts--only that I feel comfortable in going back to what made sense to me all along--that part of pleasing God means agreeing with Him about what is grievous and what is inconsequential.  Especially when grievous wrong is being done to another, I'd far rather take the slight risk of overdoing the defense of the wronged person than committing the offense of ignoring the offense.  BG got this wrong, and I do not wish to perpetuate the wrong.