Thanks for reading

It’s the end of the year and as much as I’d like to find something interesting or profound to say I can’t.  As I type this I’m sitting in the doorway to Belle’s room while she is going down for a nap.  Since we’re on Christmas break we decided to get her out of our bed and into her own; things are going well.  Right now she is singing to herself rather than screaming “DADDY I NEED YOU!” for an hour.  Pretty soon I expect I won’t have to sit in her doorway and she’ll just go to sleep.

I just wanted to put up a post here to thank all of you who read for reading.  I know a few of you read this blog and comment and I know there are some of you who don’t comment.  I generally just do this blog to get out some creative energy (such as mine is) and offer my thoughts on a few things.  I appreciate any time any of you spend reading this and I especially appreciate any time you contribute by commenting or e-mailing me.

If you read this blog I’d love to hear from you via e-mail or a comment or something so I know better who is actually reading.  And if you have any particular thing you’d like me to post about or something feel free to offer suggestions.  Lots of times I just don’t know what to write about.

So thanks for reading this year, I hope next year is better, and I hope you have a safe and happy New Years’ Eve.


Interpreting the Bible

image This is the post I have been wanting to write for a long time about interpreting the Bible.  I think it is useful reading both for those who believe the Bible is God’s Word and those who remain unconvinced.  I think sometimes Christians like myself forget what a big thing it is to say “God says” XYZ, and then quote Bible verses for it.  Everything we say about what the Bible says is an interpretation of what it says.  So how do we properly interpret what it is saying, so we can get at the message the Bible is communicating rather than the message we want to put into it?

In some previous posts and comment threads, questions have arisen as to how it is that we arrive at interpretations of particular verses – how do we decide what they say?  I plan on doing a short series of posts with some basic hermeneutical and exegetical guidelines to help shed some light on that process – but for now, check out what the internet monk has to say.  Here’s a little of it:

In all seriousness, evangelicals have a remarkable problem when it comes to treating the scriptures with respect. It’s astounding how many Christians tend to act as if any thought that comes into their head pertaining to the Bible is de facto true because they believe the Spirit is guiding them. If your use of the Bible were like handling a gun, you might have shot several people by now. Put that thing down and learn some basics on using the weapon.

Click here to read the rest.  I would recommend different books than the iMonk when it comes to learning about hermeneutics but I think he has a lot of good stuff to say about the importance of realizing just what we are doing when we go at interpreting scripture.  Understanding Biblical interpretation is important both for those who accept and those who do not accept the Bible as something special.  Those who criticize the message of the Bible while not understanding how to read it are as mistaken as those who use the Bible as a club claiming divine authority all the while using terrible hermeneutical and exegetical processes. 


People You Will Meet in a Prayer Circle

Some of you won’t be able to identify with this, but some of you will.  In Christian circles (no pun intended) we tend to pray a lot.  The manners and social aspect of prayer with others have always been interesting to me.  It took me a long time to be comfortable praying out loud in front of others, but I eventually got over that.  That was a good thing, because once I started working at a church I was the Official Prayer at every family gathering.  Every time a prayer was called for it was assumed I’d do the praying.  But that’s not the point of this post.

One of the more common ways Christians pray is in a prayer circle, where everyone stands around (handholding optional) and takes turns praying out loud.  Today I came across this hilarious list that anyone who has been involved in your standard evangelical Christian prayer circle will be able to relate to.  It’s a list of people you will meet in a prayer circle – and it is wonderfully accurate.  Here’s a taste:

2. The Almost-er
This is the person sitting near you that is constantly on the verge of praying. You can hear them doing that little breath thing, that small inhale that occurs a split second before someone speaks. And you can hear it because it's loud in the deafening silence of the prayer circle. Every time you are about to say a prayer you hear the Almost-er and you stop out of courtesy. And then they don't pray. So you start again and an inhale from the Almost-er stops you again. It's quite a little dance.


Click here to read the rest of that article.


A.W. Tozer on Pride

I want to share a passage I read a while ago that’s always stuck with me when I think about the issue of pride.  In Matthew 11.28-30, Jesus says this:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11.28-30 (NIV)

image What follows here is part of A.W. Tozer’s great work The Pursuit of God, where he discusses a bit of what he thinks Jesus means when referring to the burdens we carry around.  This is one of my go-to passages when I’m thinking about pride:

The burden borne by mankind is a heavy and a crushing thing.  The word Jesus used means "a load carried or toil borne to the point of exhaustion."  Rest is simply release from that burden.  It is not something we do; it is what comes to use when we cease to do.  His own meekness, that is the rest.

Let us examine our burden.  It is altogether an interior one.  It attacks the heart and the mind and reaches the body only from within.  First, there is the burden of pride.  The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed.  Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you.  As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who delight to offer affront to your idol.  How then can you hope to have inward peace?  The heart's fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest.  Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable.  Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringin under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them. 

Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear.  Jesus calls us to His rest, and meekness is His method.  The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort.  He develops toward himself a kindly sense of humor and learns to say, "Oh, so you have been overlooked?  They have placed someone else before you?  They ahve whispered that you are pretty small stuff after all?  And now you feel hurt because the world is saying about you the very things you have been saying about yourself?  Only yesterday you were telling God that you were nothing, a mere worm of the dust.  Where is your consistency?  Come on, humble yourself and cease to care what men think."

The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.  Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself.  He has accepted God's estimate of his own life.  He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels.  In himself, nothing; in God, everything.  That is his motto.  He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring.  He rests perfectly content to allow God to place His own values.  He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own.  Then the righteousness shall shine forth in the kingdom of their Father.  He is willing to wait for that day.

In the meantime, he will have attained a place of soul rest.  As he walks on in meekness he will be happy to let God defend him.  The old struggle to defend himself is over.  He has found the peace which meekness brings."

- A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God


The Lens of Faith, Part Three (The End)

This is the third of three posts – read post one and post two for context.

image While faith must be grounded in reason and is not just wishful thinking, there is also a certain amount of choice involved.  People must reach conclusions of their own regarding what is or is not too big of a leap of faith.  I want to believe what is true, not just what makes me feel good.  If I simply wanted to believe something to make me feel good I would not subscribe to Christianity.  I follow Jesus because I believe He is the real deal.  Some beliefs I hold more strongly than others.  For example, it is central to my belief in Jesus that He is not simply a good teacher but is God incarnate, a member of the Trinity.  It is also central to my belief in Him that He lived a perfect, sinless life and died on the cross as payment for the sins of all humanity.  I believe those things strongly because I believe they are clearly laid-out in Scripture and a coherent picture of Jesus drawn from Scripture must, I believe, include those things.  Other beliefs about God and what He does on Earth are less well-defined and more up for debate and interpretation.

For example – the Bible says:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1.17 (NIV)

That seems straightforward-ish, but how do I identify what a gift is and what a coincidence is?  Is every good thing that happens a gift?  What about things that may be good but I interpret them as bad?  These are the kinds of decisions we have to make – how are we going to view the world?  Because I tend to view the world as a critical thinker I am very slow to attribute something to the work of God unless I feel like I have a really good reason to do so.  But is there any harm in attributing something to God when He didn’t do it?

For example – the person who thanks God for the good parking space – what harm is there in that?  What does it matter if someone wants to believe God orchestrated events so they could walk twenty less feet to go into the mall and buy crap they don’t need?  I think it can be harmful or counterproductive in a couple ways. 

First, I would argue the harm is not in that particular instance – and perhaps that little incident would “grow” their faith or make them think more about God – but I think that sort of stuff breeds a dangerous kind of credulity that makes the person vulnerable.  If someone simply claims God is responsible for various things but doesn’t put much thought into which things, how likely are they to simply believe someone who comes along and says “God told me you need to give me this” or “This is a movement of the Spirit and you should be involved?”  If you have no filter or method or criteria for determining what you think God does and does not do when it comes to things in your own life (like parking spaces) then how much more likely are you to simply accept what someone else says?  If no amount of thinking or evidence or reason can be applied, and everything is simply “faith,” then I think you are entering dangerous territory.

image A second way I think thanking God for the parking space could be harmful is the fact that it may encourage a kind of solipsistic faith.  What I mean by that is a faith that thinks mostly about the self and how God makes your life better.  It is the kind of faith that misses the point of the gospel and turns Jesus dying on the cross for our sins to inaugurate the coming of God’s Kingdom to earth into Jesus dying on the cross so we can have nice things and go to heaven when we die.  This kind of viewpoint on faith can give rise to the kind of person who prays for God to “deliver” them from the struggle of having to rent instead of buy, while they rack up credit card bills buying crap they don’t need and say they can’t afford to give money to charity or the church.  It can lead to the kind of vapid faith that so many outside Christendom find hollow and so many (not enough) within find revolting at best

So what am I to do when I look at the circumstance I find myself in?  I’m pursuing a career path that fell into my lap, that’s not what I originally wanted to pursue.  If I had been left to my own devices and this teaching thing not come along, my family would almost certainly be in a worse place. 

I’ve decided this is an example of God providing for me and giving me a gift.  Why this and not a parking space?  I can’t exactly list the reasons.  But this feels more important to me than a parking space.  And I think I will be better for the gospel and my family will be better for it with this new path.  Am I 100% positive God brought me this new career and directed me away from the corporate world?  No, but I think He did.  And I don’t think by praising God for it I am falling into the trap I’ve described.  Yes, it’s possible this was just coincidence and not a result of God’s providence; but if I can’t thank God for this, I can’t thank Him for anything. 

So I suppose to one extent this is part of what “faith” means for me: being willing to thank God for something even if I have to exercise some faith in believing He brought it to me rather than me being brilliant or lucky.  It’s a pretty meager definition of faith by the standards of some, but it’s where I am at the moment.  In truth, everything I have

I think I need to perhaps be a bit less judgmental of people who have a less skeptical mindset than I do.  Some people rail against athletes who thank God for their success, or people who thank Jesus for winning an award.  Critics think it’s stupid of the person to think the God of the Universe would care who wins the Superbowl or who wins the MVP award.  To them it smacks of the egotistical, “me-focused” faith I described earlier.  I can see that, but I think understood the way I am talking about here it doesn’t have to be ridiculous.  If you believe God provided you with the talent you used to win the game, why would it be inappropriate to thank Him when image you win?  It’s not the same as saying He made you win the Superbowl – but it’s recognizing you have been blessed with opportunities and gifts and whatever else that others don’t have.  Two people making the same statement – “thank God” – can be communicating very different sentiments and thought processes.  I think one person making the statement could be making an admirable, humble statement and someone else making it could be saying something incredibly stupid and self-centered.

I still think it’s dangerous to place your faith on shaky ground or to look at the world from an “I believe everything I hear even if there’s no evidence presented” point of view – but for me to look down on others with that mindset is prideful and I don’t think very Christ-like. 

While it is less likely I will be fooled by errant theology or charlatans, it is also less likely I will notice the ways God lavishes His love upon me.  It is likely I will not notice and be thankful for the true blessings in my life.  I still can’t bring myself to thank God for giving me a green light or a good parking space – but I feel safe thanking Him for growing up where I did, for my natural abilities, my career, my home, my friends, and my family.  I suppose it could have all been dumb luck, but I don’t think it was.


The Lens of Faith, Part Two

In my previous post I set the stage for this post, so if you haven’t read it (and you want to understand what’s going on here), you should read it.

My faith has come a long way over the years and it is still evolving.  The relationship between “faith” and what I call my skepticism or critical thinking isn’t always clear-cut.  (As an aside – I would encourage you to read this article on the nature of faith by Greg Koukl – it helps you understand what I mean when I use the word.)  Sometimes I don’t know how to interpret the things that come my way.

image I don’t believe faith is just wishful thinking – it should have some foundation in fact.  If I have no good reason to place my faith in something or someone, I don’t do it.  I find no nobility in believing something in spite of evidence or in the face of no evidence.  When someone tells me something that they believe, I want to hear why they believe it.  But when I think through the various events of my life, or different things that happen, I’m not always sure what to believe. 

The whole thing that prompted these two posts is my current job situation.  At the beginning of 2008 I decided to no longer pursue ministry as my full-time career.  At first my goal was to find a job in some kind of HR position.  I thought I didn’t want to be a teacher.  I applied to dozens of jobs – probably around a hundred – in the HR field.  For months, beginning in late 2007, I applied to all manner of companies, from Google to Safeway to places I’d never heard of.  At first I only applied to jobs I liked the description of but later I became less discriminating.  I had one interview for a job with a NASA contractor in Mountain View but was the “runner-up” for the position.  I received a phone call during the last week of January asking if I wanted to take a long-term sub position at Washington High School beginning the next week.  Having previously decided I did not want to enter teaching as a career, I figured this would at least be consistent work while I looked for an HR position.

This “sub” job changed the course of my job search.  Upon my arrival a few days after the call, I was informed that I would in fact be the teacher.  On my first day I told them I wasn’t really planning on becoming a teacher so I’d let them know if I wanted to commit to the whole semester.  After three days with the students, I knew teaching was the right career for me.  I enrolled in a teacher credential program, threw myself into the job, and had a great (and exhausting) semester.  I’d found the right career.  Or perhaps more accurately, the right career found me.

Last week I was listening to the zillionth news report on our economic woes, on the tens of thousands of layoffs, and realized something.  If I’d gotten into the HR field I would likely have already received a pink slip.  As a newbie in that field I would probably be among the first to go when the cuts came – and they are coming.  Right now our financial situation isn’t spectacular – Janelle is student teaching (making no money) and I’m subbing and tutoring to make money.  We’ve taken out gobs of student loans (thankfully that is our only debt) to pay for our credential programs, and we will be trying to find teaching jobs in a district that is facing millions of dollars of cuts next year – but we are in a far better place than we would have been if I were an HR mook somewhere.  How did I get this job and get put on this path I didn’t even know I wanted to be on?

While I was searching for an HR job I ran into one of the women from the office at Washington and let her know I was available to sub.  A week later I received that phone call about the opening.  There are two ways I could view this situation.

First, I could consider it a fortuitous coincidence.  Yes, it is possible that things just worked out this way.  Another possibility exists, though, if I am willing to have an open enough mind to entertain it.

This is the kind of situation that might cause a person to say “I wanted an HR job, but God had other plans for me.”  I could look at this situation as dumb luck, or I could take it as God providing for me and my family.  Viewing the world through my lens of skepticism this is coincidence, but through the spectacles of faith this is an example of God’s love and provision for my family and me.

If I choose to believe this is God providing for me, does this mean I’m the same as the person who thanks God for their awesome parking space?  Maybe, maybe not.

I’ll explain what I think the difference is in my third and final post.


The Lens of Faith, Part One

image I often refer to a class I had as a senior in high school as a pivotal point in my spiritual journey.  I’d been raised to believe in God and put my faith in Jesus at a young age.  My parents split up when I was in elementary school and after that we stopped going to church.  I started going again in high school (to a new church called Crossroads) and it started to impact my schedule and my life.  During high school I started to assert myself more as a “Christian” and it impacted some of what I did and when I was available to hang out with my friends, none of whom were Christian.  My friends were all pretty good guys so we never really got into any sort of trouble; they weren’t upset because I wouldn’t go get drunk with them because they didn’t do that sort of thing.  Still, my increasing religiosity did not go unnoticed.  It raised the curiosity of some of my friends and the ire of others.

During one art class, which consisted of about six of my friends and I sitting around painting models and talking, we had “discussions” about all kinds of things.  Once we had an argument about whether or not all the ants in the world, if they organized under the leadership of a single hive-mind, could kill humanity.  More often, however, the discussion would center around my faith or the Bible or what I said I believed.  More often than not it became more of an argument than a discussion.  There are a few reasons for that (among them being the fact that we were all high school students) but high on the list was the fact that I was being challenged in ways I’d never been challenged before.  I grew up believing in God and while I had doubts from time to time they were never serious or particularly complex.  My friends were smart, however, and they asked a number of questions I had no real good answer for.  Rather than admit I didn’t know (that would mean I was wrong!) I’d argue and get defensive and it was generally unfruitful.

These discussions helped to further the natural teenage process of figuring out who you are (a process that continues to this day, though for a while I thought I’d figured it all out).  I had my parent’s faith, not my own – and it was time for me to start sorting out what I believed and why for myself.  For the first time I genuinely considered the possibility that there was no such thing as God.  I genuinely thought I might be wrong, that my faith in God and trust in Jesus was unfounded.  This prompted me to go on a search for the truth and attempt to develop my own convictions. 

I read books by Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Pluralists – anything I could get my hands on.  I read arguments for the reliability of the Bible and those against.  I read books telling me why the Earth is 6,000 years old and that evolution is a Satanic lie, and books telling me only crazy people contest the validity of Darwin’s theory.  I emerged from this period of time with a stronger commitment to follow Jesus and more conviction that the Christian worldview did the best job of explaining the world.

I think most people who know me now would describe me as a critical thinker.  This was the time period where I think I developed that mindset.  I’d like to think I’ve always been that way but I think I’ve just always been prideful.  But starting in high school and for a period of a few years I really didn’t know what I believed.  I wasn’t sure if I was just unwilling to admit that God was a lie and I’d been believing a fairy tale my whole life.  As I did my research and thinking, I developed a more skeptical (at the very least, a less credulous) mindset.  I’m sure my friends who consider belief in God unwarranted might take issue with my description of myself as a skeptic, but that’s still how I try to think.  Just about the only thing that bugs me more than someone making unfounded assertions or using faulty logic is someone who does those things and tries to argue that they’re right.  Listening to someone argue who wouldn’t know logic if it hit them in the face (all the while claiming to be logical) infuriates me.  It probably has something to do with my pride problem.  I generally think skepticism is a better path to tread than being too credulous.  We shouldn’t believe something just because we hear it, or because someone we trust told it to us.  Everyone should be a critical thinker.  Anyway, my point is this: I think I became so skeptical that it became impossible for me to see God doing anything in my life or the lives of others.

When people would say “thank God I didn’t get into that accident” I would think (but not say to them) “that’s stupid.”  When people would thank God for getting a job or a raise or whatever else, I chalked it up to sloppy thinking and superstition.  Just about everything has an alternate explanation; I viewed attributing something to God or supernatural means as just unnecessary and believed it bred a kind of simple-minded superstition so it should be avoided.  I think I reached the point where I was practically a Deist.  To this day I am more skeptical than your average person, and I probably don’t see God acting in the world as much as He does, but my viewpoint has continued to evolve over the years, which is what this post (and the next) are about.  Still, for a long time I viewed the world only through the lens of skepticism.  I had faith, but I didn’t look at the world through it.  It was something I had and something I did, but I did my best to explain things without and and in the end discarded any “spectacles of faith” that I might have used to look at the world.

My next post will about about looking at the world through the lens of faith while still being a critical thinker.


Read This

If you consider yourself a Christian, I really think you need to read this.  I enjoyed it and think I could stand to take the message to heart.


Some Thomas Merton

I’m reading through a book right now with selections and excerpts from various Christian writers throughout history.  It’s meant to help me focus my mind on God and be a better follower of Jesus.  One thing I always enjoy when I read the writings of others is that many of the struggles I face have been faced by people for centuries.  When I read St. Augustine writing about his struggle with the fact that part of him wants to fully devote himself to God but the other part wants to hang on – it’s comforting (for lack of a better term).  It’s also good to see that even many of these people who would be considered giants of the faith (or who have been declared Saints by the Roman Catholic Church) experience the kind of struggles that I have yet still have amazing insights into what it means to follow God.

image I don’t have anything particularly stirring to say but I did want to share a couple of quotes from Thomas Merton.  He’s a writer I’ve only marginally delved into but I have greatly enjoyed what I’ve read. From what I understand some of his writing and exploration had to do with what Christians could learn from some of the Eastern traditions.  He got some flak for that from some, of course, but from what I can tell he wasn’t trying to copy their theology but rather wanted to engage those from others traditions and learn more about them and learn from them.  Here are some of his thoughts with regard to meditation, the soul, and the search so many of us are on to find ways to get our spirituality and our life to match up.  Each quote is a distinct one, they aren’t all next to each other like this in the book, I just picked a few that stuck out to me:

“There is a “movement” to meditation, expressing the basic “paschal” rhythm of the Christian life, the passage from death to life in Christ.  Sometimes prayer, meditation, and contemplation are “death” – a kind of descent into our own nothingness, a recognition of helplessness, frustration, infidelity, confusion, ignorance.  Note how common this theme is in the Psalms (see Pss. 39, 56)…”

“We do not want to be beginners.  But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners.”

Very often the inertia and repugnance which characterize the so-called ‘spiritual life’ of many Christians could perhaps be cured by a simple respect for the concrete realities of everyday life, for nature, for the body, for one’s work, one’s friends, one’s surroundings…”

A false supernaturalism which imagines that ‘the supernatural’ is a kind of realm of abstract essences (as Plato imagined) that is totally apart from and opposed to the concrete world of nature offers no real support to a genuine life of meditation and prayer.  Meditation has no point unless it is firmly rooted in life.”

- Thomas Merton, excerpts from Contemplative Prayer


The Cost of Non-Discipleship

image "The disciple of Jesus is not the deluxe or heavy-duty model of the Christian - especially padded, textured, streamlined, and empowered for the fast lane on the straight and narrow way.  He stands on the pages of the New Testament as the first level of basic transportation in the Kingdom of God.

"Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil.  In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10).  The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to the soul....  The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane."

   - Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines


Voting Recap

image Go vote tomorrow!  If you disagree with my votes, go cancel me out!  I didn’t really go into depth on anything other than the Props on here.  That was enough controversy.  I think Obama will be our next President; I certainly know he’ll win California. 

Click here to read a post that captures a lot of my feelings on the Presidential election this year.  I didn’t get there quite the same way as the author but our feelings regarding this year’s Presidential election are pretty much the same:

I’m not looking forward to Tuesday.  I’ll make a choice, but I’ll be walking home praying for God to have mercy on the United States.

As a reminder, here are my votes on the Propositions.  I include them not to tell you to vote my way, but to remind you that there’s a lot more to vote on this year other than President and it will have as big or bigger of an impact on your life.  Below is a list of the Propositions and my votes for them.  Click the Prop number for a link to my post about it.  From there you can follow another link to research it more for yourself.

Prop 1A: No

Prop 2: Yes

Prop 3: No

Prop 4: Yes

Prop 5: No

Prop 6: No

Prop 7: No

Prop 8: No

Prop 9: No (I didn’t do a post on this with all the hullabaloo about 8, but I did research it myself and came to this decision.  Yes.  Hullabaloo.)

Prop 10: No

Prop 11: Yes

Prop 12: Yes

Now go vote!


Pray at the Golden Bull for Money

image Some of you may be aware of stories in the Bible that center around God’s people turning away from Him and worshipping idols instead.  One of the more famous idols is that of a Golden Calf (read here for the story).

I know I’ve been hard on “Christians” (I use the quotes because that’s sort of how I’ve been phrasing it) here lately and I don’t want to pile on.  I am going to be more positive soon, I swear.  But I came across this and almost couldn’t believe it.

Apparently last week a bunch of Christians got together to pray at the big gold bull on Wall Street to ask God to save our economy.  There are so many things jacked up about this I won’t bother to delineate them.  I’d think this was some kind of big joke mocking Christians but sadly it seems true.

They even brought a freaking shofar, man.  Argh.

Go check out the pics, a video, and the perspective of someone who is not a Christian here.   Be warned, there is some profanity there, if that offends you.  But if you’re looking to be offended I think there are some better candidates in that link.


Stop whining and climb down from your cross

"Make no mistake: if you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you.  And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier.

“In the end, you will either give up trying to be good, or else become one of those people who, as they say, "live for others" but always in a discontented, grumbling way - always wondering why others do not notice more and always making a martyr of yourself.  And once you have become that you will be a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish.

"In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do.  If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger.  The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.

“It is like that here.  The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self - all your wishes and precautions - to Christ.  But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead.  For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call "ourselves," to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be "good."  We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way - centered on money or pleasure or ambition - and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.

And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do."

                                             - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The first portion of this passage, referring to being a “pest,” unfortunately reminds me of myself.  In high school and the beginning of college I was the leader of the Setup Team at Crossroads.  I’d get up early on Sunday mornings and work with a few other guys (for a while only Jesse) to get everything set up for the church services.  This often meant I could not stay up or out on Saturday nights as much as I wanted to.  And boy did I let my friends hear about it.

image I never realized how much I whined about it until my friend Michael brought it to my attention.  I don’t remember exactly what he said but I remember being a bit shamed when he would come to help and I as the “leader” of the team would be whining about how other people weren’t helping.  Later, when Michael led the Setup team for a different ministry venture I was the overall leader for, one of his rules was: “Do not whine about other people not helping.  Help cheerfully, or don’t help at all.”  I know he did not intend it as any sort of message to me, but I also knew he made that rule after learning from the misery of working with a whiner such as myself.

I was whining because I was serving for the wrong reasons.  I was trying to do what I was supposed to do, to do a good thing, and still hope I had some time and energy leftover to do what I really wanted.  In reality what I needed was to let God change my heart and let the Gospel inspire my service.  Instead I was serving because it was “the right thing to do” and I appreciated the pats on the back it got me.

Good thing I’m not like that anymore, ever, with anything.


Study shows media portrays McCain negatively

image Check this out.  This study shows that the media has portrayed McCain “in a substantially negative [light]…coverage of McCain has been heavily unfavorable – and has become more so over time.”  In case you want to dismiss the study and say it’s biased, there’s a link to the study itself where you can read it for yourself.  This isn’t a big surprise to anybody who’s been paying attention.  I’m not adding my voice to the chorus of “THE LIE-BERAL MEDIA BIAS” but it’s sure seemed to me that Obama has been getting great treatment in comparison to McCain.


image The other day I saw a piece on CNN that was “checking the truth” of claims made by the candidates.  First they looked at McCain saying that Obama wanted to “spread the wealth around” a la his conversation with Joe the Plumber.  They deemed McCain’s statement that Obama wanted to spread the wealth “misleading,” and went on to say that was just one thing Obama said in a five minute conversation with Joe the Plumber.  They then looked at something Obama said about McCain and deemed it “True, but incomplete.”  Their reasoning?  Exactly the same as they used with what McCain said – Obama left some stuff out of what McCain had said.

Somehow that same action when McCain does it is “misleading” but with Obama it’s “true but incomplete.”

I’m not really a McCain or Obama supporter but the state of journalism in our country pretty much sucks.


Christians and Halloween

image Growing up, my brother Dave and I were not allowed to dress up in costumes for Halloween.  My parents (or at least my Mom, I don’t know how my Dad felt about it) thought Halloween had some occult influence that we would be subject to if we were to dress up.  Every year our elementary school would have a Halloween Parade, where everybody could dress up and march around the campus to show off their costumes.  Each year Dave and I would tell people we forgot our costumes because we didn’t want to explain it all to them. 

At some point my parents relented – I believe it was around the time they split up and we stopped going to church at all.  I had a few years of trick-or-treating while I was in high school, at that borderline age where you probably shouldn’t go trick or treating anymore.  I didn’t really care about that because I’d never gone as a kid so I was going to get mine.

You may or may not know this but the point of view my parents had regarding Halloween is still somewhat prevalent among some groups of Christians.  It’s why lots of churches host “Harvest Festivals” in the suburbs where we have no idea what a harvest is.  Some churches try to get into the spirit of Halloween by putting together “haunted houses” that are actually a tour of the eternal torments of Hell (as imagined by them).

I know there are many well-meaning Christians who think this way, and I know my Mom was just trying to do what she thought was right.  But man if Evangelicals can’t find a way to suck the fun out of everything.  There is such a reluctance to break from the established (church) social norm and engage the brain to consider what Scripture really does say about something.  Oftentimes instead of listening to Scripture, we listen to the “tradition” that’s been established by other Evangelicals and what they say the Bible says.  All the while we claim “we’re just doing what the Bible says” but in reality we’re just doing what someone has told us the Bible says.  That’s another post, which I think I’ll be doing in the near future.

I recently read a great post about this perspective some Christians have on Halloween, over at the Internet Monk.  Here’s a little bit of what he has to say about it:

It bothers me that any lie, exaggeration or fiction will find thousands of eager believers to pass it along.

It bothers me that the Biblical message about Satan would be co-opted by the fear-mongering and manipulation of the hucksters. (Read The Screwtape Letters for some real Satanism.)

It bothers me that such a wonderful part of my childhood and of American life has been turned into an example of evangelical paranoia and gullibility. We ruined something good, and everyone knows it but us.

I know all about the sophisticated responses thoughtful Christians have about Reformation day and All Saints Day. That’s fine, but it’s not the same. I just want my grandkids to be able to dress up in cute outfits and trick or treat without the local church designating them for exorcism.

Shame on those of us–evangelicals–who allowed Halloween to be taken away from families and many communities, all because we prefer to believe that life is a Frank Paretti novel.

Click here to read his entire post.

Prop 12: Veteran Home Loans

image Proposition 12 would allow the state to sell $900 million in general obligation bonds to provide money for the Cal-Vet Home Loan Program, which provides low-interest loans for California veterans to buy homes and farms.  This would allow the state to pull money away from the state General Fund to pay off the bonds if loan payments from participating veterans are not enough to pay off the debt. 

California's independent  Legislative Analyst says it would cost California $1.8 billion to pay off the principle and interest of the 30-year bonds ($59 million per year), with an estimation that costs would be paid by participating veterans.

My vote: Yes.

Why: I'm cool with this.  Several measures like this have passed in the past decades and they haven't resulted in any significant cost to California.  It’s an extension of an already extant program.  Not a single state senator voted against it and there are actually no pro/con websites to speak of.  This seems like a good, reasonable thing to do that doesn't carry much risk.

Read more about Prop 12 for yourself here.


Proposition 11: Redistricting

They say not to talk about religion or politics with your friends because it can lead to arguments.  Those last couple of posts threw that crappy advice to the wind and combined the two for a wonderful controversy smoothie.  This post should engender a bit less controversy (and therefore be a bit less interesting).


Prop 11 would change the way California State Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization districts are drawn in California, which is currently done by the state Legislature and the Governor through legislation.  These districts would instead be drawn up by a 14-member citizen commission made up of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four people who don't belong to either party.

image My vote: YES.

Why:  This state is gerrymandered big time.  Those in power in the state legislature don't have to fear losing power because of the way the districts are drawn up.  California's state government is terrible, our politicians are by and large terrible, and it's due in large part to this gerrymandering.  Redistricting won't necessarily fix everything, and this isn't the perfect redistricting bill, but this is better than nothing.  The whole point of a democracy is that the people have power, and representatives can be held accountable to the voters for their (mis)deeds.  As it stands our state representatives aren't accountable to us, they can do what they want - or perhaps more accurately, they can do what their lobbyists want.  I don't think it would necessarily make the state legislature less partisan - but it could help do something about the gerrymandering and oligarchy we've got going on here. 

Of course, you probably can't even name your state representative or state senator.  If you're in Fremont (part of District 20), they're Alberto Torrico (he's even the majority leader...ugh) and Ellen Corbett, respectively.


Do some reading on Prop 11 for yourself.


My (unexpected) take on Prop 8 – Part Two

Here’s the conclusion of my take on Prop 8.  Read the first post for context, or else this post won’t make much sense to you.

image Despite all I’ve written so far, I'm voting No on Prop 8.  I'm not happy with where the situation is as a whole, and I would prefer "marriage" be a term reserved for what it has historically/traditionally been - a relationship between a man and a woman.  I don't think it should be changed.  A gay couple is not the same as a heterosexual couple.  They are of the same value, they are no less human, they are equal.  It is not discrimination to recognize that the relationships are of a different type.  But as long as the government is in the "marriage" business and that word is an important part of guaranteeing the equal rights gays deserve, then I think gay marriage should be legalized.  This is a problem Christians created for themselves by trying to make America into a "Christian nation" and trying to use the system to legitimize their way of living.  Christians made this bed and now they need to sleep in it.  By making marriage an issue of the state in a state governed by the Constitution, which guarantees equal rights for all, Christians have made marriage subject to the Constitution.  There are lots of things bound up legally with “marriage” and it doesn’t appear that simply having “civil unions” will guarantee the exact same rights for gays, and that’s not right.

image I think Constantine's declaration of Christianity as legitimate/official was one of the biggest blows to the message and movement of Jesus.  Instead of continuing Jesus' radical anti-establishment movement of love, Christians fell in love with becoming the dominant power and abused that power.  Today Christians are largely more concerned, I think, with maintaining power and making Christian culture the same as American culture - and that's a problem.  Instead of being seen as people radically in favor of love and acceptance and the gospel, Christians are seen as agents of the old, agents of hatred and discrimination.  It should not be this way.  If years ago Christians had tried to find another way to secure equal rights for gays rather than criticize and hate on them, things might be different.   But that's a fantasy land.  I think Christians have sort of made their own beds on this one and it's time to sleep in it.  By making marriage an issue of the state in a state governed by the Constitution I don't think we have any choice at this point but to allow gay marriage.

I hope I've explained and nuanced my view enough.  This started as a post explaining why I was voting Yes on Prop 8 but as I thought about it and worked through my view I changed my mind.  My guess is this will upset many of you on both sides - those of you who are strongly "Yes" will consider me a prodigal, and those who are strongly "No" will consider me only slightly better than a segregationist.  But still, it's where I am.


My (unexpected) take on Prop 8 – Part One

This post started out as something else and evolved as I thought through it.  I’m still a little surprised at my conclusion but I think it’s the right one.  This is long so I’ve split it into two posts.  The second post will have my conclusion and what I’m planning on voting. 

image As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about and figuring out how to communicate, I think words are important.  Words are symbols that communicate commonly shared meaning and ideas.  Words mean what they mean because we agree they do, and they carry certain connotations/things with them. This is why some words are considered inappropriate to say, like the n-word.  Words are powerful.  When it comes to marriage, I think the word should be reserved for what marriage has historically been - a relationship between a man and a woman.

This isn't based in religion or bigotry.  In fact I believe the insistence on using the term "marriage" for gay marriage is an example of cultural intolerance and insensitivity, which are generally considered cardinal sins by those who call themselves progressive.  Let me see if I can explain it this way with a hypothetical scenario.  Given the time and energy I have this is the best I could do, as inadequate as it is.

Let's say there's a group of people who do this particular dance.  The dance requires three people, and it involves certain steps.  This dance is a big part of their culture and it tells the story of their people.  Children are taught about the dance from a young age, and most children take it up when they grow older.  Sometimes the people mess up the steps, sometimes they screw up the dance and quit in the middle of it - but it always has three people.  That's what the dance is.   A new group of people come in and they hear about the dance.  They like the dance and think it's cool, but instead of 3 people they want to do the dance with two.  This means some of the steps change, and the story that's communicated by the dance changes - but the new group likes to do the dance and thinks it's fun.  They're not really doing the same dance - but they're doing a dance that sort of looks like the other dance, but it's different and communicates something different.

The original group of people have always called their dance "Jaje."  To them, "Jaje" carries with it meaning and it's something that has been a cornerstone of their culture for a long time.  They would admit they haven't always done it right and sometimes they mess up, but they still value it and the story it tells.  The new group wants to call their dance by the same name.  They like the fact that Jaje is a respected and honored tradition - and while they don't want to dance the Jaje, they want to do a dance and they want everyone else to call it Jaje.  This new dance is different from the historic, traditional Jaje but the new group still thinks they should have the right to be considered equal even if their dance is different.  The original group suggests the new group call their dance something else, but the new group says that's hate and discrimination.  The old group says they are trying to hold on to their traditions and culture, and "Jaje" is part of that.  The new group says that times have changed, and Jaje doesn't mean that anymore; besides, if the original group cared about Jaje so much they'd never mess the steps up or quit dancing in the middle of it.

I think any anthropologist looking at this scenario would see the new group as overtaking the culture of the old group.  The old group would necessarily feel threatened, and while they can still do their Jaje dance, it seems like a bit of a jerk move by the new group to insist their new, different, inspired-by-the-original-Jaje dance be called the same thing even though it isn't the same thing.  I'm sure if Americans went over to some other country and started co-opting their cultural traditions we'd be considered "ugly Americans."  I obviously use this as an analogue to the gay marriage movement of today.

image I think gays should enjoy all the same rights as heterosexual couples.  The government should not discriminate based on sexual orientation when it comes to the benefits of domestic partnerships.  Truth be told, I would be happiest with the government getting out of the "marriage" business in the first place.  I wish the government could just have "domestic partnerships" that bestow the legal benefits of marriage, and both hetero and gay couples would apply for them.  The government should not be in the marriage business at all.  This is where the complexity comes in.  More on this with my next post, which will complete my thoughts on Prop 8 and tell you my vote.


Ethnocentrism is Good

image There - did I get you to click on and read through my post? Haha.

I did this post as part of a discussion board assignment for my teaching credential program and figured I’d put it up here as well for your perusal.

Teacher Performance Expectation F: Developing as a Professional Educator - is important. Two of its subpoints are:
12.2 "Candidates are aware of their own personal values and biases and recognize ways in which these values and biases affect the teaching and learning of students.
12.3 "Candidates resist racism and acts of intolerance."
(Taken from http://pact.gse.uci.edu/tpe/)

These are important elements of becoming a great teacher, and they're related to a lot of what is mentioned in Johnson, et. al (2008) on page 96 under the heading "Ethnocentrism."

Johnson condemns ethnocentrism as the belief that your way of life is superior to others (2008, p. 96). He then condemns the beliefs and cultural values of some religious groups before misrepresenting them. Those religious people that believe the homosexual lifestyle is wrong are said to "not tolerate alternate beliefs" and "believe that their cultural values and lifestyle are the only correct ones" (Johnson, 2008, p. 96). Unfortunately for Johnson his declaration that ethnocentrism is wrong and that these religious people are incorrect is itself an ethnocentric notion. In Johnson's world he has no more right to criticize that (misrepresented) religious point of view than he says they have the right to consider the homosexual lifestyle incorrect.

To say they "do not tolerate alternate beliefs" is a misrepresentation, unless he is talking about those groups who perpetrate violence on others. Simply believing someone else is wrong is not an example of intolerance or ethnocentrism - it's an example of disagreement. Using Johnson's own definition of tolerance and ethnocentrism, he is an intolerant ethnocentrist.
I am not saying this because I don't believe ethnocentrism is a problem. I believe it is. Too many people (including teachers) consider their own point of view superior to others, and think any who disagree with them are fools. This point of view is not limited to religious people or Democrats or Republicans or Americans or Europeans; it is part of the human experience. Being aware of our own ethnocentric tendencies and taking care not to unfairly discriminate against or judge others is essential. It's important for a History teacher to be careful how they discuss/teach/treat the groups in their curriculum. It is also important, I think, to teach students that extreme cultural relativism (the point of view Johnson seems to be promoting) and extreme ethnocentrism are both problematic.


Teachers must all be aware of the perspectives they have and how it influences them and what they are teaching. I agree with Johnson when he says that all teachers "must confront their own ethnocentrism" (2008, p. 96). We must teach the differences between groups and empower students to make decisions with regard to what they want to accept, condemn, or praise. I don't want to produce students that are so enlightened and forward-thinking that they cannot find fault in anything in any culture.
A culture that thinks it is okay to put people into slavery is worthy of being condemned on that point. A culture that tries to exterminate an ethnic group is, I can confidently say, worthy of criticism and I am fine with referring to others cultures as superior in that regard. A culture that mutilates girls and women is worthy of being considered faulty on that point.

At the same time we must not paint every person in such a culture as an inferior person - they are a person in a culture with some messed up ideas. Why do they believe the way they do? They were likely socialized to believe it? How can we work toward a society where people are not socialized into bigotry or hatred? These questions cannot be asked from a point of view totally free from ethnocentrism. I know the ideas from these cultures are "messed up" from my point of view - but if it makes me ethnocentrist to condemn slavery, genocide, and the mutilation and forced servitude of women - I'm cool with that.


It's important for teachers to help students have the ability to make these kind of distinctions. In order for a teacher to do that they must be aware of their own prejudices and ethnocentric tendencies, and be very aware of how they're communicating with their students. And even if a culture is worthy of some kind of criticism - simply criticizing it and leaving it at that is not sufficient. The teacher should engage in the questions I mentioned above and more - help students think for themselves through the issues and reach their own conclusions. I think this is a worthy goal for any teacher.


Props 7 and 10: Renewable Energy

image I decided to combine these two into one post because they pretty much deal with the same issue – renewable energy and how to get it.  With the increase of gas prices (which now seems like a small problem compared to the larger economic crisis) these two issues got on the ballot and are an attempt to move California in the direction of renewable energy.  Here they are:


Proposition 7: Renewable Energy Generation image

Would require publicly and privately owned utility companies to generate 20% of their power from renewable energy by 2010, 40% by 2020 and 50% by 2025 and would impose penalties (subject to waivers in some circumstances) for failure to meet these requirements.

My vote: No.

Why: I don't like the idea of the government forcing utility companies to do this.  The trend is going in that direction anyway and energy companies are going to move toward renewable energy in order to stay in business.  All I see this doing (besides making some people feel like they're socially and environmentally responsible) is increasing utility bills for us as the companies try to meet certain benchmarks by certain dates.

Find out more about Prop 7 here.

Proposition 10: Alternate Energy Bonds

image Prop 10 would allow the state to sell $5 billion in bonds, of which $3.425 billion would be used to help consumers and others purchase high fuel economy or fuel efficient vehicles and $1.25 billion would be used for research and development of  renewable energy technology (primarily solar).  The remainder would be used to give grants to cities for renewable energy projects.  California's independent legal analyst estimates the cost to California to be $10 billion in principal and interest, with additional state costs of $10/million for administration.

My vote: Hell no.

Why: Should be obvious by now.  Lots more spending, creating more government administration/bureaucracy - surely we can find better things to do with our money.

Find out more about Prop 10 here.


Prop 6: Safe Neighborhoods Act

image Would require that a minimum of $695 million be allocated from the state budget each year (with the amount increasing to keep up with inflation) to pay for police, sheriffs, district attorneys, probation, and jails.  It also makes changes to state criminal laws to identify new types of crimes and increase penalties for certain crimes (especially gang-related crime).  California's independent  Legislative Analyst says Prop 6 would eventually lead to increased state costs of $500-$965 million annually due to greater spending on public safety programs and new costs for prisons and parole operations.  It would also create a one-time cost of $500m to build more prisons.

Fun fact: This is called “The Safe Neighborhoods Act” by some (generally supporters) and “The Runner Initiative” by others (usually detractors).  Initiative almost sounds like “scheme,” and we know how scary those are.

My vote: No.

Why: While I really like the idea of this law I have to be consistent.  It's increasing spending and California's financial obligations and that's not what we need.  And it really bugs me to be on the same side as the Berkeley City Council.  Ugh.  It’s pretty funny that lots of these groups suddenly become interested in “government waste” when it has to do with crime and/or diverting money from their pet projects.


Find out more information for yourself.


Prop 5: Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act

Prop 5 would allocate $460 million per year from the state budget to expand treatment programs for criminals convicted of drug and other offenses.

My vote: No.

Why: Many reasons.  High on the list include the allocation of yet more state funds (bad), the creation of yet more state agencies (worse), etc.  Part of the reason California is in this financial mess is because we vote in all these Props that sound good and obligate us to spend money on things, whether we have the money or not.  This is a prime example of that kind of stuff.

Find out more information for yourself.


Prop 4: Waiting and Notification for Abortion

image This is a proposed constitutional amendment that would require a doctor to notify a parent or guardian before performing an abortion on an under-18-year-old girl, and would require a waiting period of 48 hours after notification is given before the abortion could be performed.  Parents must be notified but they do not have to consent.  There are also some exceptions:

  • Doctors can notify adult relatives other than a parent if the doctor reports the parent to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.
  • Notification is not necessary in a medical emergency or if a parental waiver has already been obtained.
  • A judge can waive the notification requirement if it's in the minor's best interest.

My vote: Yes.

Why:  Parents are (or should be) responsible for their children and big things like this should not happen without the knowledge of the parents.  While I recognize that some girls may not want to tell for fear of violence or whatever else, there are provisions for them in this law.  Children should not be able to do something like this without their parents knowing about it.  Yeah, some will get in trouble - but an abortion is a huge decision and minors should not be making them on their own.  It’s an imperfect law but I think it’s better than no parental notification.

Find out more information for yourself.


Prop 3: Children’s Hospital Bond Acts

Prop 3 would authorize the state to sell $980 million in general obligation bonds for the construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of eligible children's hospitals.

My Vote: No.

Why: Sounds good but again it's obligating more state money (which we don't have) to build something.  We passed a Prop like this in 2004 as well.  We don't need to further increase California's financial obligation right now.


Find out more information for yourself.


Prop 2: Standards for Confining Farm Animals

image Prop 2 requires that cages or pens be used for calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs to allow them to lay down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and freely turn around.


My Vote: Yes.

Why:  Arguments against this prop seem to focus on an increase in the risk of food poisoning and bird flu as well as a potential increase in the cost of food.  After doing some more reading it seems to me the health risks are unlikely, especially the increase of bird flu.  I'm generally against "let's do this because it makes us feel good but it's a stupid idea" things and at first blush this seemed like one of those to me.  Further reading convinced me otherwise so I'll be voting yes on this Prop.  I’m okay with paying a bit more for my eggs if it means the animals are treated more humanely.

Get more information for yourself.


Proposition 1A: High Speed Rail Bonds

image I’m going to work through each of the California Propositions here on the blog to give you my point of view on them.  I won’t necessarily go into depth with my thinking, but I’ll provide some basic information on the Prop, what it does, and my point of view on it.  You should do some research for yourself.  These Propositions are important – and while the Presidential Election gets all the attention these things are a big deal.

This measure would authorize the state to sell $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds to build a high speed rail system linking Southern California, the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

My vote: No.

Why: While I like the idea of this railway, I can't see how California can afford it.  Our budget is already jacked up, our State is already spending too much money, and obligating us to build this railway is not going to help the situation.  Here’s a pretty compelling report on why this is a terrible idea.  Unfortunately the Prop is polling pretty well because as usual people think “oooh pretty train” and not “oooh billions of dollars to be spent.” 

Get more information yourself.


California Election Information

Go here to get more information on the Propositions coming up for us Californians to vote on this November.  The Presidential election gets a lot of attention but these Props will probably impact our lives more than (or at the very least as much as) the new occupant of the White House.

You can go to this site and read up on the various Props.  I will be posting my opinion on the Props later, but here’s a way for you to check them out for yourself:


He’s even disruptive when he’s sleeping

The first set of kids I have this week for ELD 1 is pretty good.  The class size is smaller, around 20, and there are only a couple kids that cause trouble.  The other class is the one that gives me real headaches.  Anyway this kid can not sit still or do what he’s supposed to do for any period of time.  I’m having to hound him constantly to stop touching people, throwing things, getting up, talking, etc.  We’re watching a video right now and he fell asleep.  At first I was happy because it meant I could let my guard down.  Then he started snoring, loudly.  I woke him up and the class giggled.  He fell back asleep within a couple of minutes and was snoring again.  I wish I could let him sleep so he could stop being annoying, but I have to keep waking him up.  Gah.


English Language Development Futility

This week I’m subbing in an English Language Development (ELD) classroom.  These are the students who don’t know English, and they’re put into this class to learn it.  One of the classes, which I have for two class periods, has 20 students.  I’d say about 6-7 of them really want to learn and the rest are pretty unengaged.  Many of them don’t even understand the questions they’re supposed to be answering about the portion of The Jungle Book we read together yesterday.  In this one class there are several different languages represented.  Four or five speak Farsi, three or four Spanish, a couple Chinese (not sure if they’re the same dialect), and two different kinds of South Asian Indian languages.  There’s an aide who speaks Chinese and some English.  The usual teacher speaks only English.

I’m trying to get the kids to not copy one another’s work, to do what they’re asked, and it almost seems futile.  The ELD 2 class isn’t any better.  There are more students and no aide.  I really don’t see what chance these kids have to succeed.  The ones who want to succeed seem to have some kind of chance – but most of them aren’t really interested in learning English.  I’d like to see some studies or something on the success rates of programs like this because it can’t be high. 

I have each set of students for two periods.  For one period with each class we are watching a movie, which theoretically gives you a break.  But the teacher has chosen The Diary of Anne Frank and The Secret Garden (1940ish) as the movies.  They are both black-and-white and do not engage the students in the least.  I’ve already pre-filled some referral forms, because some heads are going to have to roll today.  I played “whack-a-mole” yesterday trying to get them to quiet down and it was too draining. 


Belle Brings Cute to a New Level

image Belle turns two on Saturday.  We've been telling her about her upcoming "Princess Party" (we gave it a name to make it sound special) and all the stuff associated with it.  The last few nights she's fallen asleep talking to us about who's coming to the party and what she wants at the party.  Last night when she was in a bad mood she said nobody was going to come to her birthday party.  Tonight was different.

My Dad, being the awesome cook he is, will be providing the meat.  About fifteen minutes ago as we were laying down with Belle to get her to go to sleep we started talking more about her party.  Our conversation began something like this:

"Belle, is Dave coming to your party?"


"Is Jesse coming to your party?"

"Uh huh."

"Are you going to have a pink castle cake at your party?"

"Yes.  I have Apple Juice too!"

"Is Papa coming to your party?"

"Yes.  Papa bringing my meat for me."

Then she began essentially repeating the same few sentences, rearranging the words periodically but making sure we know about it.  In the dark, Belle's little hands grabbed for my cheeks and turned my head toward her to make sure I understood the gravity of what she was telling me:

"Daddy, Papa have be careful my meat.  Papa, don't drop it.  Papa, don't drop meat.  Papa have be careful."  After this was established she moved on to other things my Dad needs to look out for.

"Papa have cut my meat for me.  Papa have be careful.  It sharp, Papa.  Papa have cut my meat.  Be careful, Papa, it sharp.  Papa imagehave be careful."

She is freaking adorable.  More than that, she apparently loves  eating meat.  Belle has also taken a liking to the A's and Niners.  She puts on my 49ers hat and says "Go Niners!"  Her Auntie Shannon got her a foam finger at the A's game a couple weeks ago, and every now and then she puts that on and marches around the house saying "Go A's!"

I am truly a blessed man.  As a side note, if my Dad drops the meat and/or cuts himself this weekend at the party I will start documenting Belle's "ramblings" and possibly ask her to pick some lotto numbers for me.

Obama Song

Obama is going to save us all.


Resources on the Economic “Situation”

Click this link for a great post you can use to educate yourself on the economic crisis.  It’s from a quality blog and has a lot of good links and information.  If you’re having trouble understanding what’s going on, or if you should do anything, or whatever else, check the link out.

The general message is “calm down, keep your money in the market, invest now if you can.”

Here’s a good quote:

9. Don’t Let Your Friends Be Morons
Don’t let your friends be idiots. If you read this site, chances are you understand that having 20, 30, or 40 years before you need your money gives you plenty of flexibility to invest for the long term, even with major or minor dips in the market. Yet with these terrifying headlines every day, it’s like people have become It’s not just focusing on the wrong things, it’s making poor financial decisions and then throwing up your hands and wondering why you don’t have enough money. If you own only one stock — especially if it’s your employer’s stock — then you are a fool. If you are going to buy a $1 million house with no research because you think it’s a good investment, you are a fool. If you don’t realize that your expensive, worthless mutual fund is costing you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime, you are a fool. Worry about the things you can control, not the headlines.


Read The Road

image Last week I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  It’s a novel about a father and son trying to survive in some kind of post-apocalyptic world.  It’s not clear what the apocalypse was but it’s made the world miserable.  The writing style is pretty unusual, which from what I hear is the way McCarthy writes all his books.  I don’t want to spoil anything from the book for you but rather just share I thought it was an awesome book and I’m looking forward to the upcoming movie adaptation (Viggo Mortensen plays the main dude).  Even those of you who aren’t so big on reading (Dave) should check the book out because it’s a pretty gripping and touching narrative.  It’s pretty bleak though, so not for the faint of heart.  Somehow it ended up on Oprah’s Book List.  Don’t let that dissuade you, even if her reading club is often full of utter garbage and harmfully ignorant tripe.


The Library is useful…who knew?

image Did you know you can search through the library’s catalog and request certain books, then the library will hold the book for you?  And if the book has been checked out, or is at some other library, they’ll e-mail you when it arrives and you can come pick it up?  I’ve been hearing about this book called Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) through some interviews with the author.  I added it to my Amazon wish list and figured I’d have to wait a while to buy it.  Then I discovered how awesome the library is and requested it a few days ago.  I just got an e-mail letting me know the book is waiting for me and I’m going to go pick it up on my lunch break.

This bit of news is only useful if you like reading, of course.