The End

This is the end of my blogging experience.  What have I learned?  Stan, Jennifer and Mark are great storytellers.  Laci and I write more abstractly.  I write like a scientist and an academic.  We are an eclectic group.  Did you notice that the three women are professors in male dominated fields?  Laci and I have visited about the barriers we have hit in our fields due to our sex.  I haven’t had a chance to visit with Jennifer about her take on being a female in a male dominated field.  My male colleagues here at ETBU haven’t been (much of) a hindrance.  Two have been great mentors and very encouraging.  Laci and I have found that we experience more prejudice from our male students than from our colleagues.  For the life of me I can’t figure out why my students can remember to call the men “Dr” but continue to call me “Miss.”  I correct them each time so they won’t look like East Texas idiots when they finally leave the piney woods, but why is it so difficult to accept the fact that women can be “Dr?”

Do you remember long ago when we discussed the elements of thought?  Probably not but that’s OK.  One element of thought is “point of view.”  East Texas is more Southern than Western in its point of view.  I am more cerebral than most people in my point of view.  I am very scientific in my point of view.  I am more academic in my point of view.  When I visit with my students I must remember my point of view at 55 is very different their point of view at 18-22.  I cannot expect an 18 year old to have the maturity to focus tightly on the academic necessitates of life.  It is my calling to help them find that focus.  Many of the young people who come through our University doors do not have the skills necessary to succeed in the collegiate world.  What can I do to help them learn those skills?  My primary focus during this blogging experience has been to talk about the skills necessary for critical thinking.  I have tried to tie critical thinking to Christ and His life.  Along the way I have given great thought to how I can help my students.  I have some ideas that I will pursue as time allows.  Several of the freshmen students have thanked me for showing them how to think critically.   They say that they have learned study skills.  I’m not convinced that they have learned to be master students, yet.  Then again, am I a master student?  I’ll keep working to be better and I’ll help students improve along with me.

Hasta la vista, y’all!  —jcc

Holiday musings

So Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is coming and I just can’t wait for all of this to be done.  Dad and I survived our first Thanksgiving without Mom.  We went to my Aunt Carolyn’s for Thanksgiving.  I helped prepare the food with her which helped me deal with all those messy emotions.  I only cried once, while making the dressing.  Dad sat in the recliner.  He was quiet and withdrawn.  He is very lonely.  It didn’t help that Brinkley chewed Dad’s left hearing aid Wednesday morning.  Brinkley was a brat the entire time Dad visited.  Brinkley LOVES Papa.  The hearing aid costs $2500.00.  That’s $2500.00 I don’t have.  Thank God that Dad has insurance on his hearing aids and it covers it becoming a chew toy.  Evidently, a dog chewing hearing aids is not that uncommon.

There were 15 of us at the gathering.  Two were small children and the rest were adults.  The 4 oldest members of the group were the only ones NOT engaged in electronic devices.  I thought about my students and the faculty discussions on the use of electronic devices in the class room.  Its Thanksgiving Day…family time…and these people can’t get off their toys long enough to engage with family.  We shared “apps” and which books we liked on Kindle but we didn’t discuss issues.  I remember the long discussions on theological issues or political issues.  These times were important in forming my abilities to understand the larger picture, to think critically and to defend my beliefs. My maternal grandfather delighted in playing devil’s advocate and frustrating me into either anger or tears.  During these times I learned hermeneutics, history, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, tenses of verbs and basic biblical interpretations.  The women were just as deep in theological discussions as the men.  I was 10 before I understood that theology and football were two very different things.  I am pretty sure that theology and food are basically two sides of the same coin.

My niece, nephew, and younger cousins are ignorant on so many levels.  My students are ignorant on those same levels.  One reason they don’t engage in the classroom is that they are too busy engaging on their devices and not with people. They are not engaged with their peers, elders, or other living things.  Electronics have their uses and I enjoy utilizing the devices HOWEVER, we need the human interaction to provide context for our lives and foundations for our society.  Yes, yes, I know this is odd coming from the introvert, yet even I understand that human interactions lead to a more productive society and, hopefully, a more peaceful society.

“[1] For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” Eccl. 3.

Engage the world face to face…it is an interesting place.

—jcc

I just don’t know.

Nov. 18, 2013

IDK…

I don’t know what to write about today because my mind is all aflutter. My father is coming to visit.  This is our first Thanksgiving without Mom.  I’m lecturing over evolution in freshman biology class, which is always dangerous.  God forbid they should actually use their brains and think critically about a difficult concept. “God said it; I believe it that settles it!”  Sigh.  I tried to explain how God would tell Moses about creation in a way Moses could understand.  I’m sure there will be some upset parent calling.  Benjamin Franklin said “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”  Think, people, think! 

I’m supposed to reflect on my reflections about reflective teaching.  As a scientist this is very confusing and touchy-feely.  So what do I think about reflective teaching?  Did you know that there is a peer-reviewed journal called Reflective Practice?  Yeah, professionals in the humanities have been reflecting on reflective teaching for many years.  As scientists we critique our experiments and observations continuously.  Most do not think too much on teaching because “the information is in the book, so just learn it!”  My professors stood in one spot and basically read their notes.  Some were very innovated and used Kodak slides or overheads.  Lab was where we did our experiments and those were demonstrations.  Times have changed!  Now I’m supposed to entertain the students and keep their attention.  We are to engage the students.  Learning is a two way street.  I profess the information and the student learns the information.  After all, I am the Professor and the student is the Learner.  My professors had much better prepared students than I have.  My students are smart enough; they simply don’t have the skills necessary to be successful on the collegiate level and thus, my interest in critical thinking.  As I profess biology I need to be incorporating critical thinking skills.  I need to teach my students HOW to think and study while trying to teach them the information. I have to teach them HOW to reason, HOW to think logically and HOW to incorporate those intellectual traits into their learning.

So, I utilized our common Christian foundation as a way to demonstrate that Jesus was a critical thinker and, thus, we should be critical thinkers.  Learning is a life-long endeavor.  Being Christ-like is a life-long endeavor.  The skills we use to become life-long learners are the same skills we need to be life-long imitators of Jesus our Lord. 

How’s this working?  I don’t know.  I need to collect more data.  I am a scientist, after all.

—jcc

Brinkley

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Brinkley, Nov. 11, 2013

The past 13 months have been very difficult for me.  For the first time in 32 years I am without a cat. Let me give it to you in a chronological list: Oct 2012 Jericho kitty died, Nov 2012 Dusty the horse died and Mom became very ill, Dec 2012 Mom died, Jan 2013 Val Siniak died, Feb 2013 Daisy dog died, Mar I cleaned out some of mom’s stuff, April Mom’s birthday, May 2013 Ecuador trip where I nearly died from a intestinal virus, June I cleaned out ALL of Mom’s things, July was quiet and I got a puppy, August school started, September cancer diagnosis and a BIG problem with a dear friend, Oct 2013 cancer surgery and Sam kitty died, Nov 2013…so far no one has died and I am cancer free.

I’m stressed.

Brinkley isn’t helping.

I adopted Brinkley from the Harrison County Human Society.  So far he has cost me about $600 in vet services plus the damage he has done to my home and yard.  Brinkley turned 7 months old Nov 9th.  He is a good old mutt who is a cutie pie.  He can play fetch and has FINALLY figured out how to go potty OUTSIDE.  He has been a big stressor in my life.  I have seriously considered getting him a new home.  He is a considerable handful!  We have been together 3 1/2 months and he has spent that time trying to learn to be a good dog.  It is very difficult to be a good dog when there are so many things to chew and eat.  He keeps barking at me telling me to “Look! LOOK!”  In fact he talks to me a lot.  I have lost my temper with him several times.  I have placed him in doggie timeout and forced him to sleep in the front bathroom.  Every morning I pick-up and throw away his puppy pad while he tries to “help” me carry it to the trash can.  Two weeks ago he started having dry pads.  After a week of dry pads I bought him a new bed and put it in my bedroom.  Every night I place him on his bed and turn out the lights.  Five minutes later he is in bed with me.  We’ve gone through the whole “this is your bed” training program.  I quit trying when one night he carefully crawled onto my bed, snuggled up to me and gently sighed.  Such contentment was expressed in that one sigh.  Everything was right in Brinkley’s world at that moment.

My whole being relaxed at that same moment.

Brinkley is still a handful.  He pulled up the vinyl flooring in the laundry room.  He chewed holes in the rubber garden hose.  He whines while I shower and complains about not getting all the treats at one time.  He loves to watch the toilet flush and the dryer go ‘round.  He has dug up every fall plant I put out in the back yard.  He talks while I’m trying to watch my shows and sits on me when I’m trying to read.  He is goofy.  He makes me smile.

He gives great hugs.

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jcc

Fair-minded

Nov. 4, 2013

Fair-minded

One of my colleagues overheard a student of mine complaining after an exam “It’s not FAIR!  I studied like FOREVER for that test and I knew a lot!  She didn’t test me over anything I knew!  She’s too hard and NOT FAIR!”

Ummm, ok and how am I to know what you did or did not study?  I gave you all the PowerPoint slides, homework, reading assignments, reading quizzes and went through each chapter pointing out which tables and pictures you needed to know AND gave you a practice test with the answers.  So, what was unfair?  My Profs told me “know the information in the chapters.”  We were tested over the information in the picture captions.  I thought that was a bit unfair but I learned the information.

Here is one of the great secrets of life: “LIFE IS NOT FAIR.” 

Did you get that?

 Understand?

Comprende?

Got it?

Now, get over it.  Get on with your life.

Jesus told us that the world would hate us.  The world hated Jesus.  How did Jesus treat the world? He was fair-minded, right?  No, He was merciful and full of grace.  Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you don’t deserve. 

The last intellectual standard is fair-mindedness which is defined as characterized by fair judgment; impartial; unprejudiced: a wise and fair-minded judge. It also carries the thoughts of being just or impartial. Some synonyms include righteousness, justice, honesty, equity, open-minded, equitable, balanced, unbiased, honest and equal.  Do these sound like descriptors of Jesus and the way He treats us?  These are all great descriptors in a worldly sense; however, Jesus truly does not treat us fairly.  He treats us with a prejudice for what is in our best interest.  The Foundation for Critical Thinking (www.criticalthinking.org) defines Intellectual Fairness as “having a consciousness of the need to treat all viewpoints alike, without reference to one’s own feelings or vested interest, or the feelings or vested interests of one’s friends, community or nation.”  Perhaps in dealing with other humans it is best practice to be fair-minded; however, I am glad and grateful that Jesus treats me in an unfair manner…that is, He treats me with a vested interest in my good, my salvation, and not according to the Law and it’s justice. 

I don’t know who started the rumor that life was supposed to be fair. 

They lied.

 

Confidence in reason

Confidence in reason

So, this past Friday I told my freshman biology students (both sections) that I would give them an oral quiz over mitosis on Monday morning.  I pointed out the figures in the text they would need and sent them on their way.  This morning the first section (0800) acted as they hadn’t heard of mitosis ever before in their WHOLE lives.  During their chemistry class at 9:00 they complained among themselves about the mean Dr. Cone and how unfair it was to expect anyone to study during the weekend.  The 1100 section was ready to answer my questions because they had been forewarned by the students in the 0800 section.  The later section did a bit better but not much.  You’d think by now these kids would get the fact that if I say I’m going to do something then I will do it.  Silly me, I have confidence in reason.  I have confidence in my students to think rationally, coherently and logically.  From previous experience with me the students should know by now that I try my best to do what I say I will do.  Either these students distrust the evidence of the past eight weeks of interactions with me or they completely lack critical reasoning skills.  Many Christians are like my students in that they distrust logic, reason, and evidence.  Why have we Christians become a stupid people? 

Jesus wasn’t stupid.

Jesus was a top-notch problem solver.  He stated whatever problem was at hand very clearly for his audience.  He discussed what kind of problem was at hand and concentrated His efforts on the problems He could solve at that time.  He actively sought information, carefully analyzed the facts and interpreted the information coming to reasonable, logical conclusions.  He then decided the best course of action given the limitations of the circumstance.  He made a plan and followed through on that plan.  Sometimes His plan was a wait-and-see and sometimes it was an outburst of pure righteous indignation.  Read Jesus’ teachings and actively look for His problem solving skills.

Jesus had confidence in reason.  Do you?

jcc

Missed Again

Once again there was TOO much to do on my Monday list: lecture, lab, chapel, appointments, getting the stitches removed and going to the bathroom.  Simply too much on my plate.   I have to schedule my bathroom breaks.  Too, too busy we are!  If all I had to do was take care of myself then I wouldn’t be so busy.  I am responsible for teaching a Sunday school class. There are committee meetings to attend.  I went to the Mission Marshall missions fair to look for opportunities for my students to volunteer.  I already volunteer.  Grocery store, Lowe’s, laundry, wash dishes, mop the floor, sweep the porch, plant flowers, dig up weeds, fold laundry, grade papers, grade papers, prep lectures, prep labs, gas the truck, check the air in the tires, visit with whom ever, play fetch with Brinkley, rub puppy tummy, rub kitty tummy, feed every one, water for everyone,

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…

Do you ever feel that way? OVERWHELMED?

We are such a busy, busy people.  We have forgotten how to rest, be still, and enjoy the peace and quiet of God’s creation.  We have forgotten the Sabbath.  Sunday is not the original Sabbath, Saturday is.  Sunday is the first day of the week.  Sunday is the day the early Christians chose to be their day of worship.  PEOPLE!  Even GOD needed to rest which is why He set aside the 7th day for rest.  So, why do we, as Christians, believe that we don’t need to rest?  My friend says he will rest when “he dies.”   He will also miss many of God’s blessings by not being still.

One of my favorite things to do on any morning but especially Saturday morning is to sit out on my back patio with a cup of coffee and listen.  The wind through the pines is a favorite sound.  The birds chittering and singing is relaxing to me.  The horses nicker.  A hawk calls out while it soars.  I enjoy the light patter of rain on the patio roof.  At night the frogs, toads, and crickets songs help me to shudder off my tensions and worries.  I am content to read while a gentle breeze cools me.  If I had a hammock, I would take a nap.  A previous dog chewed the hammock to bits.  Maybe I’ll buy another one next spring.

Every evening I should take an hour or so and be still.  The world of responsibilities pulls at me.  Brinkley wants to play fetch; Sam is always on the wrong side of a door.  The phone rings.  There are dirty dishes and dirty clothes.  Brinkley is a very, very messy puppy and the floors are a mess.

I need help, Lord, to get my priorities straight and be still.

Did I mention there are papers to grade?

Integrity and Perseverance

We were in a beautiful valley with lush tall grass, red flowers, butterflies and singing birds.  The sun was warm, not hot.  My great-grandfather was sitting on a large oak log with me.  “Sis, it’s all about Honor,” he said.  “Be true to yourself.  Always, always honor God. Be your best. Do your best.  Be honorable.”  He kissed me on my forehead and walked away.

I  shot upright in my bed in the dorm.  It was so real.  My chest ached. I cried, no I wept.  Grandpa was dead I just knew it. I breathed deeply and looked at the clock.  6:20.  The ringing phone jolted me out of my well of emotions.

“Sis.”  It was Dad.

“Grandpa is dead isn’t he, Dad?”

“Yes, he passed a few minutes ago.  I’ll call you tonight with more information.”

Grandpa stopped by to see me on his way home.

Twenty years later I discovered that Grandpa stopped by and visited with my cousin, Alan.  They talked about something different.  None of the others shared our experience.

Definitions from Dictionary.com

Honor: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions: a man of honor.

2. a source of credit or distinction: to be an honor to one’s family.

3. high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank: to be held in honor.

4. such respect manifested: a memorial in honor of the dead.

5. high public esteem; fame; glory: He has earned his position of honor.

Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.

Perseverance: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

2. Theology: continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.

OK, Grandpa, why did you come tell me about honor?  Honor is for men and their egos.  Sword fights, pistols at 10 paces, and broken promises.  I’m a woman and women don’t understand what honor means to a man.

Humans don’t understand what HONOR means to God.  Look at the definition: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions.   Notice that honor and integrity have HONESTY at the core of the definition.  One cannot understand honor or integrity without understanding honesty. Honesty is the quality or fact of being honest; uprightness and fairness, truthfulness, sincerity, frankness, freedom from deceit or fraud, and chastity (in an obsolete way…seriously? Obsolete?).

At our core human beings are NOT honest and therefore, we cannot understand honor or integrity.

It takes perseverance to become a people of honor.

I like the idea of integrity as a state of being whole, entire and undiminished.  Did you read the second definition of perseverance?  “Theology: continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.”  So if I “stay the course” of being whole with honesty, then, through Jesus Christ I continue in a state of grace to the end.

HUM.

I just gave myself a headache.

God wants me to be a woman of honor, integrity and perseverance. I need to be true to God and thus myself. I need to give God the highest respect and to respect myself.  I need to stick to God’s moral and ethical principles and make them my own.  I need to stay the course no matter what obstacles, brick walls or ignorant people stand in my way.  I NEED to be like JESUS who embodies all these principles, think like Jesus, and love like Jesus thus being in a state of grace unto the end.

OH GOD, make me a woman of HONOR!

Choices

Well, I didn’t plan my Monday very well and had too much on my plate thus my blog is a day late.  I found out last week that this growth on my arm is a malignant melanoma and Monday I met with the surgeon to set a date for the removal of the rest of the melanoma and perhaps a lymph node.  This Thursday I will have surgery.  I pray that the lymph node is clear and no further metastasis has taken place.  Sheesh, what a way to spend Fall Break!  I had some great plans to get fall flowers planted and prune some trees…nope.  I’ve hit some potholes on life’s road the last couple of months.  Every time I wonder “What next Lord?”  My father has almost been swallowed by some potholes.  Parkinson’s disease killed my mother.  That was a really long deep hole.  Yet Mom kept smiling because she gave everything into God’s hands for Him to control.  Easier said than done, don’t you know?  Mom trusted me enough to share her deepest emotions, regrets, loves, losses and questions.  I was looking forward to a time with Mom where we could travel the world together.  Instead we shopped Albuquerque together on Mom and Cat day.  Sometimes we just drove around the neighborhood so she could get out of the house.  We talked about everything and nothing.  Mom and I could sit in the same room, reading different books, never saying a word to each other and be perfectly content in each other’s presence.  I used to watch Mom cook and be her helper as a child.  Years later she watched while I cooked.  She couldn’t help.  Several times Mom would break into tears out of frustration and depression saying “I’m just so useless!”  Most of the time, I simply held her and let her cry.  Being helpless/useless is the most horrid place to be.  It is one of my fears of the future, being useless and/or helpless.

                Can I be like Jesus?  Will I be able to give everything into God’s control and keep smiling?  What will I do if I become useless and helpless by human definition?  Dad and I would tell Mom to pray.  Keep praying.  There is great power in prayer.  Will I have the faith that if the only thing I can do is pray then will I pray?  That is a sad sentence isn’t it…to say if the only thing I can do is pray?  Prayer is talking to God, the most powerful Being.  We should be visiting with God more but we are a people of action, movement always going.  We are the ones who judge usefulness by what we do, not the way we live.  We need to change our perspective to how well we live rather than what we do.  Our standard for living well should be Jesus. 

Today I choose to be like Jesus and I will talk to God, no, I will visit with God about everything.  I will be in His presence and be content.  I choose.  I choose Yahweh.

Who do you choose?

Empathy and Autonomy

I am a Trekker.  Trekkies are pop culture fans.  Trekkers delve into the socio-political, philosophical and humanistic caveats of the various Star Trek series. We know the word “caveat” and use it correctly. As an adolescent I admired and tried to emulate the character Spock.  I was drawn to the ideal of logic without emotion. Spock and I learned together that emotions play an important role in human society and relationships.  Emotions are messy, undefined and illogical.  Logic is precise, neat, and understandable.   I still prefer logic to emotions.  It is interesting that we are talking about feelings when discussing intellectual traits.   One might assume that intellectual traits would incorporate logic only, yet someone who is truly adept at critical thinking understands that humans are emotional creatures and we are forever influenced by our own emotions as well as the emotions of others.

Today I want to discuss the essential intellectual traits of empathy and autonomy.  Empathy can be simply defined as the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions, the ability to share someone else’s feelings (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).  Autonomy is simply defined as: the state of existing or acting separately from others, the power or right of a country, group, etc., to govern itself, self-directing freedom and especially moral independence (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).  These two topics are far more complicated than the definitions given but we have to start somewhere.

Intellectual empathy vs. intellectual narrow-mindedness  (www.criticalthinking.org.)

To be empathic usually requires a shared experience.  Sympathy is the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).  To be intellectually empathetic, we need to consciously put ourselves in someone else’ shoes that is “Walk a mile in their shoes.”   I remember many times that I just “KNEW” that I was right and then discovered that I was wrong…really, really wrong.  When we encounter someone who is adamant about their belief in something and it is really, really wrong, then we need to be empathetic and gently show them what is right.  To do this we need to reconstruct that person’s reasoning, assumptions and ideas in order to LOGICALLY show them the error.  We also need to be open to correction when we are incorrect.  Here the emotions come into play.  We must be gentle, kind, patient, considerate…Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.  (RSV)

Narrow-minded people are never wrong.  They refuse correction.  They are brusque, harsh, unkind, and the very antithesis of the Spirit.  Jesus exemplified the fruit of the Spirit.  Do I?  Do you?

Intellectual autonomy vs. intellectual conformity (www.criticalthinking.org.)

Autonomy is a self-governed state where we exist/act separately from others.  We are rarely ever separate from others.  Emotions tie us together.  Perhaps a better explanation of autonomy is the ability to think rationally for one’s self.  I have a master’s degree in biomedical ethics.  The most hotly debated subject is autonomy.  When is a patient old enough to make their own decisions…be autonomous?  When is a patient rational enough to be autonomous?  When is one in control of their beliefs and values in order to make rational decisions?  We want our patients to be able to analyze the evidence (e.g. test results) and make a rational, logical decision about their treatment.  Is a 12 year old capable of such decisions?  Is anyone capable of making such a decision when their life is threatened?  These are questions from bioethics, what kind of questions might we ask in other areas of life?

I often pray for “the wisdom and knowledge to know right from wrong and the strength and courage to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.”  Is this autonomy or conformity?

I think conformity is when we follow blindly.  We should always be analyzing what we do and why we do it.  There is a difference between FAITH and conformity.  Faith is an assurance for things hoped for whereas conformity is a “whatever, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my life.”

(Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 RSV)

Faith is active.  Conformity is dormant, intellectually sedentary.

Think about Jesus.  Was He empathetic?  Was He narrow-minded?  Was He autonomous?  Was He a conformist?

Romans 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. RSV

Be autonomous.

Be empathetic.