Prairie View

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Their Thoughts and Yours on Building Programs

Yesterday my oldest son posted a link on Facebook to an article about the ethics of spending money for construction of church buildings.  My nephew commented, saying he thought I should post the link on my blog "in regards to the school/community gym."  He specifically identified with the "Judas" section of the article.  While I have heard others express themselves on this matter, I have not specifically done so.  I note also that these articles were written directly only about church buildings.

My son posted three additional links today on the same or similar subjects, and I read through them all without having a clear sense for what to make of the matter.  Normally I don't elaborate on such matters until I've done enough processing to have reached some conclusions.  This time I'd like to try something different.  I'd love to hear what others have to say before I weigh in--or maybe I'll let others have the last word.  I'll number the links and perhaps say just a little bit about the content of the article.  When you comment, please tell us, by number, which articles you have read in their entirety (that is, which articles at the numbered links), so that we can understand more of what you may have invested in learning about the topic.

If you have a comment on the topic in general, without having read the articles linked here, those are welcome too, of course.

Before you read the articles, I will point out that none of them, to my knowledge comes from a writer from the Anabaptist tradition.  I think our own tradition does speak to these matters helpfully in ways that not all of these writers do.  Maybe you can help identify those ways.

1.  Here's the original link.  At the very beginning of the article is a link to a previous email conversation between the author and a missionary in Kenya.  The content seems a bit scattered to me, so I'll simply quote the takeaways my son gleaned:

* It's potentially good to (wisely) spend money in "gospel goals": expansion of the Kingdom and service to others. 
* Extravagant offerings to God's glory can be good [the next link references this premise].
* The quotes "But the question does need to be asked, 'are we building a monument to ourselves at the detriment of loving the outcast and the poor?'" and "Again, when we start building monuments to ourselves in the name of Jesus, we have a problem."
* "Building *with inappropriate goals* [such as excessive preoccupation with personal comfort] is one among many ways to use money inappropriately."

2.  This link leads to information about a Presbyterian church in Nashville with Gothic-cathedral style architecture.  I'll quote from the article to give you a sense of the thrust of this piece:

"I think some churches- and CPC Nashville seems to be one of them- should build beautiful gothic cathedrals if they can.
You see, God gifts us creatively and artistically. He gives some people the means and the gifts to express art to the glory of God in ways few others can.
In music. In stained glass. In architecture. In construction. In design and in the resulting worship and liturgy.
Some churches need to release those gifts into the culture, so that a city can see a gothic cathedral and experience worship sacramentally (aha!) in the glory of a physical worship center and all that can happen there. Some churches. Not all."

I'll point out that the writer is actually making the above statement as a caveat to his basic belief--that most churches should not use their money this way.  The sentiment expressed in the quote is not a historical Anabaptist sentiment.

3.  This article is the most extensive of all, and contains some very good advice.  The title is "Before You Build"  and was written by a man who has "more than 20 years of involvement in the design and construction of church buildings."  I'll list the subtitles here to give you an idea of what is addressed:  The People, The Program, The Process and Project, Do's and Don'ts of Church Facility Planning, and Do the Math.  Here's a good section from the introduction:

"Here are a few sample questions a church should ask to determine if it is ready to move forward into a building program. Test yourself: If you answer yes to any of these, it is a possible reason not to build or at least a reason to delay building for a while.
1. Do you expect a new facility to grow the membership of your church?
2. Do you expect a new building to cause your congregation to give more generously?
3. Do you expect a new building to cause your congregation to be involved more in ministry?
4. Do you expect a new building to make a "statement" in your community?
5. Do you need a building to allow your whole church to meet at one time?
6. Do you have a large debt on your current facility?
7. Do you need to increase membership to pay for the increased debt of a new facility?"
 4.  Here is the final link.  Here also I will rely on a short quote to give the sense of the author's concern.  "It seems to me that leaders can go in two different wrong directions with their church building in a society like ours—they can think too trendy or they can think too permanent."  My son identified the "thinking permanent" section as being highly relevant to our situation because of how it limits future flexibility.

Some Anabaptist values I see with possible applications to building efforts are these (although they are not exhaustive and are not limited to Anabaptists):

1.  A strong sense of the need for good stewardship of financial resources.

2.  Compassion for the poor.

3.  Avoidance of ostentation.

4.  Utilitarian values (rather than overtly artistic, for example).

5.  Awareness that life on earth is temporary, and our real home is in heaven.  "The Pilgrim Concept" is shorthand for this value.

6.  A burden for the lost.

Note that I am not necessarily making claims in relation to the validity of all of these values--only identifying them here.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Wrapup--7/20/2014

Hiromi is in the kitchen cooking up a batch of senbei, a slightly sweet peanuty dough fried like firm  mini-pancakes.  He says they're a snack, and he's been coveting them for several weeks.  He found a recipe online.  This is why he came home from shopping with items like salted peanuts, a nut chopper and biscuit mix over the past week or so.  He also added butter, eggs, milk, and brown sugar, but no additional leavening.   Senbei is actually a generic name for dry snacks of many kinds. They're good--not too sweet and not too salty.

Ovens are not standard equipment in a traditional Japanese kitchen, so the stove top is often used to cook foods similar to what we might prepare in an oven.


Watermelon is one of the very best ways to enjoy popcorn, or is it the other way around?  I had them together this evening.


I was late to church on Wednesday evening and missed the opening show, but someone told me about it afterward.  Shane led the singing, and had left Tristan waiting on the church bench till his duties were done.  Either Tristan didn't quite get the message about what he was to do, or he was overwhelmed with the desire to be with his dad, so he quietly got up from his place near the back and walked up the center aisle to his dad.  Shane tried to have him sit with one of the girls at the front--Christy maybe, since she helps at the house regularly--but it didn't work.  So Tristan just stood quietly beside his dad while he finished his song leading.


Four of our minister's wives were Beachys who grew up in other states.  That is, their maiden name (surname) was Beachy.  Bertha grew up in Pennsylvania, Rosanna in Ohio, Susanna in Indiana, and Mom in Iowa.    I'm sure they're all related (which means I'm related to them all), but I haven't figured it all out.   They're not dangerously closely related, which is a good thing, since my son and Susanna's daughter got married to each other.


On Friday of this week, Hiromi and I will have been married for 33 years.  We plan to spend a little extra time making the trip to Labette County for my nephew Christopher Miller and Rachel Yoder's wedding on Saturday, incorporating our own celebration into the events.   It's the only trip on our agenda for this summer.

Before then I will need most of three days for meetings in connection with curriculum committee work or  training for using the writing curriculum at the center of the new language arts part of the grade school curriculum.

Helping Dorcas can and freeze peaches, canning another batch of sweet pickles for me, making sauerkraut and putting pesto sauce in the freezer are also on my agenda for this week.


We got the auditorium ballot report today.  It contained this information:

"53% marked that they were in favor of building a new auditorium
47% marked that they were in favor of no additional building now"

Along with about a page's worth of other good commentary, this sentence also appeared:  "This vote gives us no clear mandate, but a challenge to continue our consensus building efforts."


We toured Nathan's garden and their family's orchard this past Monday.  One tree on which hung beautiful almost-ripe peaches showed the good result of their herculean efforts last spring to save the blossoms from getting frozen during a cold snap.  They strung "plugged-in" Christmas lights among the branches and then covered the tree with something--sheets or plastic?--and the blossoms were saved.

Nathan served us corn on the cob and Asian eggplant, pared and thinly sliced, then dipped into beaten egg and a mixture of flour and cornmeal, and fried.   They were crisp and chip-like, and very good.  We also had peach tea, made with the usual kind of iced tea, and pureed peaches from their trees.  The requirement that all snacks be garden snacks has had wonderful, creative results so far.  

The others went deer spotting afterward.  I came home to see Hiromi before the day was over.

The only time I ever went deer spotting was with my co-teachers when we visited Esther King's home community in Belleville, PA when I was in my lower twenties.  Jess Spicher took us.    I didn't know you could do this in Kansas.  They planned to ride on the back of a truck, unlike us, who all crammed into the cab of a truck--in double layers, as I recall.

I made the obligatory noises the other night about the need for safety, which Rhoda (Nathan's mom), reinforced privately by talking about their family's experience when her brother Titus dived into water in a farm pond and suffered a spinal cord injury that paralyzed him for  life.  We both recognized that what strikes close home sticks in a person's mind forever.  Otherwise, safety concerns are pretty easy for young people to dismiss.  Rhoda assured me that the deer spotting was unlikely to get too wild since Sara, the game big sister, was going along.

I thought about the conversation today in church when we heard about the death of Perry Judy's great-nephew in Arkansas--a 14-year-old boy who died when he bounced out of a pickup bed because of the driver swerving to avoid hitting a large dog in the road.  He was on his way home from swimming.  No one in that community will ever look at riding on the back of a truck the same way, unless I  miss my guess.


I haven't heard yet about the results of the efforts to gather information on my grandparents at the Beachy reunion in Iowa yesterday.  Carolyn, who married into the family, was preparing to facilitate the recording of some memories from the people who attended.


One of the largely undocumented customs that are so very common in distinctive communities is the seating patterns during church services.  In our church, children who have reached the age of twelve are considered sufficiently mature to sit away from their parents with others of their age and gender on the first row at the front.

When I was growing up, the age when this happened was quite a lot more fluid, as I recall.  I think I sat up front when I was younger than 12.

Lately, I've noticed that some of the girls older than twelve are choosing occasionally to sit with their mother rather than up front.  One mother told me today that she allows it when there's enough room, but says that it won't happen when it's too full in the back.  That seems reasonable to me.


The Kansas Youth Chorus is embarking on their tour on Saturday of this week.  They will cross the border into Mexico.  Paul and Martha and Isaac and Susie Peters plan to accompany them.


Kansas has a very conservative governor, Sam Brownback.  His fiscal policies are "tea party" all the way, including eliminating income taxes, with the hope that this will stimulate economic growth to the point that revenue from other taxes will fund all necessary government programs.  So far, it doesn't seem to be working, and state revenue is disappearing.  In what may be an unprecedented move, a large block of Republican legislators are supporting his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, in the upcoming election.

Brownback deserves kudos for his leadership in addressing the problem of the depleted Ogallala Aquifer that underlies much of Kansas and parts of five other states in this area.  Extensive pumping for field irrigation has caused the water level in the underground freshwater sea to drop precipitously in some areas.  The problem is exacerbated by a lingering drought in areas southwest of here.  While he was a US congressman, Brownback convened a group of people to study the problem and make recommendations.  No meaningful followup occurred until now.  Brownback is organizing many listening events and is soliciting the input of farmers and many others whose well-being and fortunes depend on an adequate water supply.

The miles of corn in Western Kansas fields could not grow without irrigation.  Growing of that crop has an economic trickle-down in many forms.  Having the water disappear would be devastating to an economy built on corn--a crop unsuited for growing here under natural conditions.

The Hutchinson News is publishing a series of articles on the Ogalalla Aquifer.  What I've seen so far is very good work.


The death of nearly 300 travelers who had the bad fortune to be in a plane flying over Ukraine when the plane was shot out of the sky by a war-head rocket is another news item that promises to stick around for a while in international news.  As Shane observed early on, "Things are about to get very awkward for Putin."  Evidence strongly points to Russian involvement in the attack.


Going to the dentist is one of my least favorite things to do.  I'm always vastly relieved when I have no cavities and I need not return for another six months.  This week I also had the good news that some of my deeper gum pockets had improved this time.  It's hard to believe that simply paying more attention to careful flossing could have made that difference, but I'll take it . . .


I don't want to get  my eyes checked, but I might have to.  I literally couldn't read the words of the song book today when I was sharing it with my neighbor.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Wrapup--7/13/2014

I think  a Polar Vortex in July is a wonderful thing to look forward to.  Three days of highs in the 70's are predicted for this week.  I hope to take advantage of this cooler weather to plant some fall crops in the garden.


There's a new baby at Cedar Crest:  Dominic Roman Miller, born to Marvin and Jackie. He is their first child.  The baby's middle name is the same as that of his grandfather.


Who knew that the conflict in Israel and Gaza could affect what Hiromi and I did today?  Hiromi had arranged ahead of time to do a Skype call today with the teacher of an internet class he just finished on the Jewish roots of the New Testament.  The teacher lives in Israel, near Tel Aviv.

When Hiromi made contact today, his teacher told him he can't talk after all today because he hears bombing noises all around.   That sounds like a good enough reason to cancel a non-urgent phone conversation.

Instead we went to the prayer meeting at church for the building project we're contemplating.

Many lethal warheads have been launched between Israel and Gaza over the past days.  Thanks to American military technology, most of those headed toward Israel have been intercepted and rendered harmless.  Not so for the ones flying in the opposite direction.  Gaza has had many casualties and much destruction of property.  I'm not sure what triggered this recent escalation of conflicts between them.


Most of the Marvin Mast family has returned from their wanderings over the Middle East and Asia.  I missed Hans, but saw the rest in church today.


Next weekend is the Beachy reunion in Iowa for the descendants of  my grandparents.  I don't expect that I will be there, but I've been doing some agitating in hopes that someone will make the effort to gather and compile information about Ananias and Ella Mae, our common ancestors.  Cousin Don gets the credit for poking me several times to see if something like this could happen.

My sister Linda has uncovered a stash of letters from my grandma.  We're amazed at how well she wrote and how insightful she was.  I never "knew" this side of her.  I knew her as calm and sweet and knowledgeable about many things in the natural world, about health, gardening, and living simply all around, but not as being particularly articulate.  But she was--about the benefits of raising children on the farm, about not wishing to grow old in a nursing home, etc.

My grandfather was scholarly and methodical, but surprisingly adventuresome in many ways.  Contour plowing, raising turkeys commercially (outdoors, with range shelters for protection), and traveling overseas were some of the things he did that others eventually copied.   My grandparents were born 1890-ish and lived all their married life in the Kalona, Iowa area.


Jana N. and her sister Melody are traveling in Ireland right now, expecting to meet up with their brother Wendell and his wife eventually.  Wendell is directing and touring there with the Oasis Chorale.  It sounds like a wonderful way for the doctor from El Salvador to relax before returning to the rigors of her job/ministry.


We're all set for the beginning of September in the "election of church offices" department.  The names of those elected were read off today.


My dad showed me several paragraphs today from an article in an Anabaptist publication that I was unfamiliar with--Anabaptist Journal?  It contained the script of a letter of appreciation written to the newly elected Adolph Hitler, whose election the German Mennonites had enthusiastically supported.  He was the conservative candidate.  Hitler responded by thanking them for their support.

From this perspective those Mennonites' actions seem preposterous.  What could they have been thinking?  The sobering question, of course, is whether politically active American Mennonites today will one day look like this.


The aunt of two of my in-laws, Judy and Marvin, died today.  Gatherings on the Miller side of Judy and Marvin's families have seen a steep spike in the mirth department when tales of Aunt Ruth's escapades were recounted.  She looked staid enough, but such hilarious drama--all in the course of a day's work . . . I'm sure there is much sadness at this parting, but I can't quite imagine that her funeral will be devoid of humor--if it only surfaces inside people's heads, where the memories reside.

One of stories I recall left me with this image:  She kindly took a drink or something to the person who was speaking at the front of the church.  On her way up the steps to the platform, she tripped and fell forward, with most of her prostrate self mercifully hidden behind the low wall at the front--except for her feet--clad in high heels, and sticking out behind her in view of the audience.  (Feel free to correct or enlarge on this story if you remember it better than I do.)  It's a testimony to her ability to laugh at herself that she enjoyed the telling of the story as much as anyone.

Some of her descendants live in Cambodia.  Marvin and Lois' family visited them a few weeks ago.


I learned tonight by a very circuitous route from my first cousin in Bangladesh, who posted on Facebook, that Germany won the World Cup (soccer).  As you can tell, I have not been holding my breath in anticipation of the big announcement.


Gary and Rosanna are en route to visit their family and ours in BD.  They plan to be gone for several weeks.


K61 is getting a new topcoat.  I'm sure there's a more accurate term than that, but you get the idea . . .


Crystal K. planted some very colorful flowers around the NW corner of the church building at Center, and they look lovely.  Two shrubs on the north side of the building had bird nests.  I looked into one and saw babies.  The other was too high in the Vibrunum bush to look into.  One was a Brown Thrasher nest, and I didn't see the adults at the other nest.  The pink Rose of Sharon is in full bloom at the southwest corner.


The unexplained dizziness that Hiromi has been experiencing may finally have an explanation.  Apparently crystals occasionally form in the fluid of the inner ear, and when they  knock about inside there, a dizzy sensation results.  He's to do a succession of exercises that look pretty funny--flinging his head this way and that way, holding still in between, tilting his head to one side, etc.  The whole idea is to get those crystals moved out.  What the "moving out" mechanism involves is a mystery to both of us, but I hope it works.


This is Firefly season, and Supermoon season--both of which light up the summer nights most charmingly.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Early Education and Second-Guessing

Here is an article on the benefits of delayed entry into formal school settings.  It's written to a British audience and recommends that formal schooling for children begin at about age seven instead of age four as is the current practice in England.  What it says about the benefits of play-based learning before then caught my eye.  The author of the article is David Whitehead, a Cambridge researcher from the Faculty of Education.

The author was part of a group that compiled research from the fields of anthropology, psychology, neuroscience and education to reach the conclusion Whitehead wrote about.  Research in the field of neuroscience has revealed that play-based learning increases the growth of synapses in the frontal cortex of the brain, the area "responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions."  (Increased synapse growth means brain growth.)

Research of another kind showed that by age 11, no difference existed between the reading ability of children who learned to read sooner rather than later (age 5 or 7).  The difference that was documented was that the early readers enjoyed reading less than the late learners of reading.  The early readers also showed less comprehension of what they read.

As I read the article I hoped it was as clear as it needed to be that the problem with early reading is not reading, per se.  It is early formal education that limits play opportunities.  The first commenter articulated the same sentiments in this comment:
When you home educate you realise that formal learning and learning through play are irrelevant terms. Children learn continuously in a multitude of ways, sometimes as a result of games they play and sometimes with direct relavence to their everyday lives. Formal learning is done to control children in a classroom setting and has nothing to do with what is best for the child.

The findings in the above article fit nicely with one piece of Peter Gray's work that was the subject of several earlier posts.


On a very different topic, several times recently when I have tried to say something about problems I see with Bill Gothard's "Chain of Command" teaching, I have been dissatisfied with how it sounded.  Saying it right is easier in writing than saying it verbally, but in both cases, I've been second-guessing what I've conveyed.

I wish now I had been able to think to say something like this:  The chain of command idea has elements that I see also in Scripture in teachings about leading and following or submitting.  When uncoupled, however, from an emphasis on obedience to God and accountability in every link of the chain, the teaching has potential for serious abuse.

The most obvious potential for abuse is the one that occurred within Gothard's organization:  People with power took unfair advantage of those under them.  In Gothard's case the problems included sexual abuse or promiscuity.

Another potential for abuse is more subtle:  Underlings do not resist when they should.  To their great regret, some of those young people who were abused by Gothard now see that their "submission" was wholly inappropriate.  At the time, though, they thought that if they resisted Gothard, they would be stepping out from under the protective umbrella which the chain of command provided. Other young people who resisted him were, in fact, often disciplined or sent away in disgrace.  The cost of resisting was high.

I believe that Gothard's teaching on "Chain of Command" strayed in some ways from the clear teaching of Scripture, but in the way he applied it in his personal life, he strayed much farther from Scripture.  In scenarios that are now widely known,  he kept his thumb firmly on those under him, but refused to answer to those over him.  In the early 80's, when his board learned of his wrong behavior and relieved him of his position in the organization, he simply reorganized under a new board who reinstated him.  

I appreciate that Scripture gives us a framework and structure for healthy, God-honoring relationships, and I believe following the directives in Scripture is important.  I'm still learning what that means for me personally.  I'm pretty sure, however, of several of the omitted truths in Bill Gothard's Chain of Command teachings:  Leaders must be held accountable by someone, and followers must do what is right, regardless of what their leaders do.  "I was just following orders" didn't exonerate those at the Nuremberg trials, and it doesn't exonerate twenty-first-century Christians.


Monday, July 07, 2014

Blogging Limits

This post contains details about blogs and blogging in general and this one in particular.  To introduce the subject it might be helpful to understand what a blog is.  Blog is an abbreviated term for "web log."  Logs are simply records.  They may be used by truckers, gardeners, food preservers, sports enthusiasts, those who keep a diary, and by those who journal.  A web log can be any of the above types, if it's posted on the internet. To summarize:  A blog is an internet record.  On this blog, it's a record of my thoughts, and sometimes of events around me.

To make the following laborious information a little more comprehensible, I'm using side-headings.

Blog Audience--Legitimate or Illegitimate?

I heard recently from someone that he didn't respond to something that concerned him on a blog "because it wasn't written to me."  I wondered if that person understood the blogging communication platform.  I see it as being at least as correct to say, about anyone's public blog, that "it was written to me as much as to anyone else" as to say "it wasn't written to me."  They are, of course, both true in a sense, and a private decision to act or not act is the deciding factor--not whether or not one is a legitimate audience member.  There are no illegitimate audience members.

Blog Audience--Limited or Unlimited?

A blog audience can be both a very limited audience and a completely unlimited audience.  It is limited in two ways:  1)  Only those who learn about the blog's existence will ever access the content  2)  Only those who make a choice to read it will do so.

A blog audience is unlimited in the sense that no one can be blocked from reading it or responding to it unless the blogger makes a choice to block certain people from reading it or responding to it, or unless the blogger makes it inaccessible to search engines.  Targeting a particular audience through a blog is not really possible in any guaranteed-to-be-effective way because of the blogger's default inability or unwillingness to deny access or to guarantee it.

Blogs and Comments--Public or Private?

My blog is public, which means that no one is blocked from reading it.

No one is blocked from commenting,  so I'm roughly categorizing comments as public too, but currently only moderated comments can be posted.  This means simply that I see the comments before others see them, and I can decide whether or not I want them posted.  I recall only once (years ago?) ever failing to post a comment that was submitted for the blog--except for spam--which is the only reason I bother with the moderation of comments at all.  I'm not interested in promoting the business of someone in S. Car. who does custom work with a telehandler--just because I mentioned on my blog a job Shane once did with a telehandler, and someone from that business found the blog post.  The "comment" was obviously a business-grabbing ploy--and that was actually one of the least objectionable comments I've ever gotten along that line.  That's the kind of spam I don't publish.

Comment-Moderating Prerogative

I claim advice from Dorcas Smucker (who is a widely-read Mennonite blogger) in having deleted that one comment.  She told me six years ago when I first began blogging "You're the queen of your blog."  She said it in the context of not allowing a conversation to take place on your blog if the content is unacceptable to you.  I recount my personal record so that you know that I will almost always publish your comment even if I don't agree with you.  The comment I did not publish seemed to me to go on too long about a matter that had already been thoroughly discussed on the blog.  Multiple earlier comments from that person had been published on the same subject.

Identifying Blog Readers

I have only a limited knowledge of who reads the blog.  People who comment relevantly on a single post have obviously read that post, and if they sign their name, I might know who they are.  (I greatly prefer signed comments to unsigned ones, and am especially averse to publishing unsigned comments, although I have so far not discriminated between signed and unsigned ones.)  A few more than a handful of people "follow" this blog, which means that they are notified every time a new post is published.  I can see only what they have chosen to reveal of their identity.  In most cases, it's a first name.  I don't know most of the people who follow the blog, but I appreciate their interest.  I know that some of the followers are men, but I'm guessing that most of my regular "non-follower" readers are either young people or women.

Another way of vaguely identifying people who visit the blog is through Statcounter, a tracking program that tallies the number of visits to the blog, the internet service provider they have, and the city/state address of the provider.  The statistics can be broken down in various ways geographically--by state and country, most easily.

Statcounter has a "recently came from" feature, which lets me see where people are finding links to the blog, if so, or whether they already know my blog address and type it into the search engine whenever they visit.  The latter list is longer by far.

Statcounter also  has a "keyword search" feature.  From this feature, I learned, for example, that when people visit the blog from parts of the world where I don't know anyone (people from 94 different countries have been here), it's most often because they've followed a link on a website that describes how to make amazaki, a Japanese drink that I wrote about once when Hiromi made it.  The person who posted a link to  that specific post on my blog on their website had apparently found my post through a search engine.  Now, if I see that "amazaki" was typed into the search engine, I know that either they found my blog directly that way, or they found it via the website that linked to my blog.  This is not usually a long list.

More Statistics

Statcounter also tells me that I have posted well over 1,000 times on this website.  I have so far never assigned any posts to a certain category, as some bloggers do.  In this way they create a Table of Contents of sorts.  I have no Table of Contents, but the blog is searchable.  I use the search function sometimes to see if I already wrote about something--when I can't remember if I did so.

I note that when someone has read only a very few of those 1,000 + posts and then assumes that they know how I am or what I think, they are drawing those conclusions from a very limited sampling, especially if they don't interact with me personally elsewhere.  If they find "targets" in the content, they may be making unwarranted assumptions about the medium or my use of it--a tendency that would be reduced with a fairer sampling, as I see it.

Bloggers run the risk of having others draw conclusions or assign blame based on selective sampling.  It is this dynamic that I find the most difficult to deal with personally.  I realize, however, that it comes with the territory of allowing public access to my thoughts put into words--with no ability to control any of the results.  In this matter, blogging as a communication medium has definite limits.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sunday School Class

I love our Sunday School class and will be sorry to see us having to reshuffle in September.  Irene Y. and Rachel Y.  are dividing teaching duties this year, and they each do an outstanding job.  We have young people (Norma M., Rachel M., Sheila G.), one young mom (Arlene M.), two moms of children in elementary school and beyond, with none married (Violet N., Jolene Y.), a bunch of Grandmas (me, Mae Y., Cora N., Edith Y., Virginia C.), and one mother of unmarried children beyond high school (Judith N.).

This group includes one college student, one nurse's aide, several teachers, a professional counselor, and a number of homemakers.  Three of the homemakers are wives of farmers or farm workers, one is a pastor's wife, one is the wife of a man who owns a computer business, one is married to a man who works in a good-sized family-owned refuse disposal business, one is married to someone who works in the mini-barn business, and one is a retired widow--good folks--one and all.  Today we prayed about the two ballots that were due in church today, and we prayed for those left behind in Lott, Texas when a 53-year old minister and father died very unexpectedly during the night.   Often we pray for each other, and, first and foremost, we really help each other learn from Scripture.

Sunday School classes can be a wonderful microcosm of the body of Christ.  Learning from the Spirit of God in company with others, learning from each other, supporting each other, challenging each other, uniting in prayer for the work of God elsewhere and for people in need elsewhere are all things that should and do happen in the larger church body also.  In Sunday school, though, these things happen in an "up-close-and-personal" way, and it makes the experience extra-special.


I once heard a former Sunday School superintendent puzzle over what can be done to help people learn to teach well, even if their past experience did not include such preparation.  I've also heard a teacher who never went to high school comment on how much she thinks having a high school education helps younger people feel comfortable with teaching.  In general, I'm guessing that more experience with study and presentation equals more comfort with teaching, but I hasten to add that formal schooling is not the only way to gain experience in study and presentation.

Going back to high school isn't an option for most people beyond high school age.  Some people have learning barriers that make study really laborious.  I'm sure some of these people would just rather be skipped when teachers are assigned.  Yet, I'm not sure that this is best for everyone.  Those who are willing and able are subject to burnout if they have no relief.

I wonder how this would work:

1.  Before any teacher assignments are made, the superintendents make arrangements with some experienced teacher(s) to assist beginning or inexperienced teachers (or superintendents might decide to take on the job themselves).   Any who hesitate to take an assignment because of a lack of experience would immediately receive an offer of assistance, coupled with a presumption of acceptance from the teacher being recruited.

2.  Superintendents facilitate contact between the "trainer of teachers" and those who need help, perhaps by setting up a meeting initially to determine what the needs are and how best to meet the needs.  I can imagine that the needs could be divided into the following categories:

A.  Access to materials
B.  Knowledge of Bible study methods
C.  Mechanics of note taking
D.  Organizing material for presentation
C.  Conducting the class

3.    The superintendent sticks around and stays involved until some schedule or plan of interaction between trainer and teachers is in place.

4.  Trainers and teachers work together as long as it takes for teachers to feel prepared to continue on their own.  Superintendents stay in contact with everyone involved throughout the process.

Outside of an intentional program to train teachers, individuals who want to improve their skills probably can improve  a great deal through their own effort.  They can begin by noting carefully how their current teacher teaches, and identifying the teacher's methods that are worth copying.  Also, diligent study as a SS class student can generalize to preparation for teaching.  Almost always, a teacher has at least a little time between learning of an assignment and having to begin teaching.  If they study each time in the interval as though they had to teach the class, they will be well prepared to observe the current teacher carefully and can learn by the effort.

I think it could be helpful too to arrange with a student in the class to provide helpful feedback each Sunday, especially at the beginning.  Sometimes even a small change in seating arrangement or formatting of notes, for example, can make a difference in how smoothly things work during class.  Being able to keep track of time is a skill I'm still working on, but I've learned that sitting where I can see a clock is a good help here.

I feel a great deal of sympathy for SS superintendents who face a lot of unwilling recruits.  Yet, I have on a very few occasions turned down a teaching request, for what I still consider legitimate reasons, so I understand that people say no for a variety of reasons.  My interest here is to find a way to work through one of the barriers to SS superintendents finding good, well-equipped teachers promptly.  If we have more people who know how to teach, the jobs can be passed out more equitably.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Privacy Settings

If you're looking for help with placing limits on who sees your Facebook or blog posts, you'll have to keep looking because that's not what this post is about.  I know next to nothing about that and my input would be entirely unhelpful.

In the past few days I've been thinking again about something Shirley said to me several years ago about blogging.  She said that she doesn't think she could do that because she's too private a person.  I've never seen Shirley in a clinical setting, but she is a trained counselor and has probably given more thought to personal privacy variables than most people have.  I saw Shirley again recently and remembered what she had told me much earlier, although we did not discuss it further.  We did have pleasant interaction on a personal level.

Internal "privacy settings" is the subject of this post.

If privacy is thought of as a wall, with people having a preference for more privacy being thought of also as having higher walls around themselves, I'd have to admit that my walls are very low or nonexistent altogether--at least where ideas are concerned (i. e. where they are the currency of interchange).  I place a very high value on access to ideas--my access to others' ideas, others' access to mine.  I see high privacy walls as being a detriment to what I value a great deal.  My antennae shoot immediately into an erect position and then begin investigative maneuvers when I sense anything even hinting of an effort to obscure access to information or an unwillingness to consider information from "across the wall."  Obviously, a willingness or unwillingness to blog is not the sum of one's "privacy settings,"  but it is relevant, as Shirley indicated.

In matters like this, where we see clearly that our modus operandi is markedly different from another person's, most of us are prompted immediately to ask "What is normal?"--followed closely by the second question:  "How do I compare with 'normal?'"  We all have a compelling desire to be considered normal.  When we're forced to acknowledge that "abnormal" is a more accurate descriptor of us than is "normal," we have a second compulsion--to find a path to wholeness and hope, while still embracing the reality of our flawedness.  That is a monumental and often a lifelong challenge--a process I'm intimately acquainted with.

Several decades ago I was faced with the necessity of finding wholeness and hope in the process of dealing with an abnormality.  I went through the process of longing for a professional diagnosis, so I would at least know what I'm dealing with.  We had no money for seeking professional help, so I had to learn about my condition through reading and listening.  That process was useful, but, in the end, the most useful help of all was the realization that if I could learn to trust the Lord to show me how to think and act and I was willing to obey, I did not need a professional diagnosis.  From then on, in that matter, I was able to focus on trusting the Lord, listening for marching orders from Him, and trusting Him  to accomplish His purposes through me, despite (or perhaps because of ) my flaws.

A second reinforcement of that understanding occurred when I was soundly criticized for something I had written about homeschooling.  I was accused of usurping authority by what I had written.  I went round and round at first, trying to think of a way I could have done things differently to avoid that accusation.  I concluded that I would never be smart enough to make a good decision by means of painstaking analysis prior to any particular action.  My only  hope was to listen to God, obey God, and trust the results to God.  

I rely on the Lord similarly in the process of blogging.  Do I have normal personal privacy settings?  I don't know, but I do know that if I can focus on trusting the Lord, if I can take my marching orders from Him, and if I can trust Him to accomplish His purposes through me . . . If I can do all that, I don't have to have a diagnosis.  I don't have to be able to predict or control the outcome of what I do.  I don't have to know whether everyone approves.  I can see my offerings--not as the be all, end all of everything I address, but as the piece of the whole that I can offer with appropriate confidence and humility.

One specific commitment I have kept faithfully ever since I made it after a sermon Arlyn preached on the use of technology is that I will, every day, put Bible reading ahead of anything I do at the computer. (I don't use other computerized communication or media devices.) I usually wake up early, eager to begin the day, and I head straight for my devotions chair.  If I don't have a pressing schedule to meet, I'm free to stay there for several hours--till Hiromi gets up.  At that time, we sometimes each check the computer for the weather forecast or for any emails that need attention.  At other times, we go straight to preparing and eating breakfast.  Blogging happens either when nothing else is pressing, or when I can not continue with anything else until I follow the  prompting to get to the computer and write.

Blogging ideas often come to me in  my "devotions chair."  Often these ideas arrive in the form of questions.   This morning, for example, I was reading in 1 Timothy 1.  I have read the book through a number of times in the past few weeks--maybe 6-12 times, each time different in some way.  I've read it in several different translations, I've copied outlines for the book from three different sources, I've read a commentary alongside on one of the readings, and in other readings, I've consulted notes in a study Bible.  Right now I am in the final step of studying this book.  I have already read it through once, recording all the commands in the book, and I try to notice who the commands were directed to and notice whether they have a general application.  Next I read the book and recorded all the significant teaching that was not in the form of direct commands (teaching on the second coming of Christ in the Thessalonian letters is an example of this).  Then I sought out and recorded examples given.  (What did they do and how did it work out?)  Now I'm working through the initiatives section.  Here I write down what I feel that God is saying to me--things I will embrace and act on as needed.  It's a homemade system, but it works for me.

Over the past few days, from chapter one I wrote this down in the initiatives section:

Verse 12:  Thank God who has enabled me, counted me faithful, and put me into a ministry  (Paul said that about himself, at a time when he was suffering greatly from the constraints of that ministry.  Yet he was thankful for enablement, God's approval, and an opportunity for service.  I resolve to be thankful also for how God has blessed  me.)

Verse 16:  Allow Jesus Christ to show forth longsuffering in me

Verse 19:  Hold on to faith and a good conscience--to avoid making a shipwreck of faith

I'll spare you further details of where all my mind went in pondering these initiatives--and I'm sure I couldn't remember it all if I tried, but somehow, by the time I had finished praying and Hiromi got up, I had a burning desire to explore the matter of how differences in how we operate on the matter of personal privacy affects our experience in cultivating a thankful heart in the "slogging phase" of serving, where longsuffering enters in, where a good conscience and holding on to faith come in.  I could hardly wait to begin exploring the matter of personal privacy settings.

The first piece I read talked about how Asperger's Syndrome affects marriage relationships.  That was a good article, but the privacy aspect of the discussion related mostly to how important it is to lay down a stubborn clinging to privacy (secrecy) about problems, rather than an open acknowledgement of them.  Here, the desire for privacy was cast in a very negative light--as a detriment to resolution.  It wasn't what I was expecting to find, but reading it made me realize that I already have actually thought quite a lot about the matter in the process of living life and working through hard things in the past.  That's when I began writing.

Sooooo, now that you've seen the laborious details of how this usually works for me, is it presumptuous for me to say that I write as God directs me to write?  You decide.

Have I answered all the questions about how personal privacy settings relate to the initiatives of First Timothy one?  Definitely not.

Have I been faithful in following the promptings I've felt while communing with God?  I think so.

Can I predict or control the outcome of anything by what I've written here?  Of course not.

Can this blog offering on the subject be considered a valid part of the whole of truth on the matter?  I hope so.

Would more people benefit if more people engaged in thinking about and discussing the matter?  Probably.

Does it mean nothing good (or bad) has happened if no one responds here?  I hope not.