Real Live Prof

Spoiler Alert! If you are thinking about applying for a position of Spring Blogger for ETBU, maybe you shouldn’t read this. Or, maybe you should …

My biggest impression was that I was surprised at how much work and effort this discipline really takes, at least for me. My regular Fall preparation for classes is generally lighter than is my Spring schedule. (3 preparations in the Fall, and 4 in the Spring). Even so, blogging filled out my schedule every week. Maybe I should not admit this but it usually took me 4 to 5 hours per week to get the blog done. I found myself thinking about the week’s topic (or trying to think of a topic!) for hours, usually on the way from Longview to Marshall. Once I had settled on a topic, I would try to write the bulk of it in one session. The next day, or later, I would try to edit it some more (often based on commuting musings). Finally, posting day would arrive, and I would edit and even, correct it all again. I would often try to include a picture, which I would snap with my phone, edit, and then get uploaded, cross loaded and placed just so. Plus, I had to learn a new software program, which is always a challenge. (Now it sounds more like 6 or 7 hours.)

My second biggest impression was that I was so glad I had decided to attempt this project in the first place. It has done me a world of good. The first benefit I realized was that as I was trying to introduce readers to my discipline, (sociology), I realized again why I had been attracted to it in the first place. I am not sure, but I might have fallen in love with sociology all over again. A second benefit was that as I was attempting to integrate my faith and teaching, I realized I was much more deliberate about trying to find those teaching moments and launching them when doing so seemed most appropriate. A third benefit for me was the realization that I am a feedback addict, though not so much from students. I loved and benefitted from long discussions about up- coming topics with several colleagues. I may even be guilty of plagiarizing a few of their brilliant thoughts. A fourth benefit was having a creative outlet besides just teaching. I think most people have deep thoughts (even Jack Handy) but few of us have a place to bounce those thoughts around. Writing a blog forces one to think deep thoughts and then, to commit those thoughts to “paper”. 

On the negative side of the ledger, I would have to confess that I repeated the mistake I made in seminary. I allowed deep thinking and blogging to be a substitute for the personal pursuit of face time with God. In seminary, I allowed religious course work to substitute for pursuing God personally. After all, I was studying Scripture, but not on a personal, what-does-this-mean-for-me basis. (I was never this bad, but while I was there, the school had to enact a new rule that required the students to actively participate in a local church because many of my fellow students chose to sleep in on Sunday morning.) A second drawback for me was that I realized I have a limited capacity for deep thinking, and so I wonder at what else I should have been thinking about during those times I spent thinking about the blog.  

As I am writing my last blog for this series I wonder at what will be my final takeaway. Will it be another crossed-through item on a not-yet-started bucket list? Perhaps it will be the first of several blogs. I honestly do not know, but I am so grateful for the opportunity. Thanks!                

 

Real Live Prof

Semi-sweet. I am really sure that when I took the class, “How to Teach Sociology” at UNT, the prof never covered the end of the semester.

I was in my office this week, between classes, when three students dropped in. One is graduating next week, and is already applying for jobs for which ETBU has well prepared her. She is also getting married next year (she has already picked out the guy, and is asking us to save the date). The second student graduates in the spring, and is already planning on grad school. She too, is applying for jobs in her field. The third student (I have now run out of chairs), is graduating in the spring, and looking at grad school as well. They are all excited about life and the seemingly endless possibilities and permutations. I am very excited for them, and I know they will do very well. I should probably care more that they are so raucous and such frequent visitors, because I am sure “they” disturb the peace of the otherwise somber and tranquil office. But, I love being with students. It is my favorite part of the job. It is also emotionally taxing when they leave.

I know this because they will soon graduate, and be gone. Oh, they will promise to “stay in touch” and will try to do so. I might see some them at the Homecoming football game, or be asked to write a reference letter…and then I will see a posting or status update of theirs on Facebook, and realize I have not seen or heard from them for several years.

Students are also nervous about their futures and all of the unknowns it holds for them. I am always amused when they ask me, “Will you be at my graduation?”

I always respond, tongue in cheek. “I was thinking about not going this semester. However, because you were such a wonderful student, I will go, just for you.” (Of course, I am required to go.) But the truth is, I would not miss it even if I could. Semi-sweet: I love to meet the students’ families and I love to say over and over, “Congratulations!” However, nearly 30 graduation ceremonies (3 per year) have taught me it will probably be the last time I see most of them.

I was eating breakfast very early this morning with my wife Diana, when she said, out of the blue, “I miss my kids”.  One has graduated college, and has a job (The dream comes true!), but she lives 3 hours away. The second is half way through college, and stays gone most of the semester. The third, whom she was about to struggle with waking and getting to school, is in 8th grade. But I know what she means.

Real Live Prof

In sociology, our “Big 3” theories are Conflict Theory, Functionalism, and Symbolic InteractiBig 3onism. We use each of these as frameworks to analyze “everything.” Sociologists think they have helpful insight about all things, including society, institutions, and global inequality, all the way down to small groups, families, and our interactions with vending machines. Symbolic Interaction itself has a sub-theory called Labeling.

Labeling theory suggests that we receive labels from significant people, including peers, in our lives as we are growing up. They are like giant bumper stickers slapped on our foreheads. Every time we look in the mirror or think about ourselves, or snap a “selfie”, we see the label. I always ask my students to imagine the biggest kid in 2nd grade sitting down at lunch across from the smallest kid in 2nd grade. The small kid’s mom is concerned her boy will not grow up fast enough, and so she packs extra Twinkies in his lunchbox. The biggest kid’s mom is concerned her boy is already too big, so she packs him carrots and celery instead of dessert.

One day, the big kid looks at the little kid and his Twinkies, and says, “I love Twinkies”.

The little kid hears this and fearfully shoves them across the table and tells the big kid, “Here, take mine!”

The big kid takes them and enjoys them. Both kids just got labeled: Bully and Wimp. The big kid soon learns his size and burgeoning reputation can help him get all the Twinkies he could want while the little kid soon understands that he must supply whatever the big kid wants.

Another thing about labels that I always try to include in my lectures is that negative labels stick best. I often ask my students to try and recall some negative label that their parents or teachers gave them. It is amazing how the pain and shame of a careless or mean word uttered by an authoritative person can easily flood back in on us as we so easily remember those words from years and even decades ago. I can tell my daughters every morning how beautiful, sweet and smart they are and it will barely stick. I can say one time in a lifetime that they are ugly, sour or stupid and they will remember those words forever.

The power of a label comes from believing uncritically that the labeler knew what they were talking about. As soon as we do the labeled behavior, we hear the labeler say, “See? I told you that you were_________.” Eventually, we live “down” to their labels and agree with them.

So, imagine my surprise as I went to Senior Chapel last week and was greeted by a person passing out colored markers. He had written negative labels on his arms. As the program began, I was amazed to hear person after person talk about their labels that had been stuck on them: porn addict, drug abuser, judgmental, masturbator, etc. As they talked about their labels, a common thread began to emerge. They said that only as they confronted the labels and their own sin and asked God for healing, forgiveness and recovery, did the labels begin to come off. This is the key point I always make with my Loser Selfieclasses: the only way labels ever come off is with the grace of God. It is the very rare person who takes the negative label as a challenge and says to their critic, “You think I am loser? I will show you and become a winner!” 

As we were entering chapel, we were offered pens as a way to remind us to get real, honest and even transparent with each other about our labels. I happened to be sitting by two students during the Senior Chapel and when they heard we should write labels on ourselves, they got excited. They offered to write labels on me…ouch!

Real Live Prof

Every now and then I have to know how far out of touch I have become with the younger generations. Last week, as my mostly freshmen class in Intro to Soc finished a section over deviance, I had them watch a PBS Frontline documentary, entitled, “The Pot Republic” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-pot-republic/ ). The film is about the current debate over the legalization of marijuana in California for medicinal use. Many growers throughout the state legally grow marijuana for the ever expanding medical market. Apparently, a person visits with their doctor, who then writes them a prescription, which legally allows them to buy marijuana.

After viewing the film, I asked the class to respond to a threaded discussion question in our online grading system. The question was, “This film highlights the current debate about the legalization of marijuana in California. Do you think it should be legalized nationally? Or, should we only think in terms of legalizing “medical” marijuana? Or, conversely, treat it the same as alcohol (legalize it, tax it, and regulate it)? Finally, do you think someone who recreationally uses marijuana would make a great disciple and follower of Christ? (In other words, WWJD?)”

The answers were informative…when the students (42) were asked, “Do you think it should be legalized nationally?”, almost half (20) chose not to respond directly to the question. Of those who did respond, 7 were “neutral”, 6 were “yes”, and only 11 were “no, marijuana should not be legalized”. When the question was asked if it should be treated as alcohol, (“legalize it, tax it, and regulate it”), half of the 42 agreed with this approach.

Finally, when students were asked if recreational users would make, “a great disciple and follower of Christ”, the answers were informative, at least to my expanding generation gap. Roughly, 1/3 were neutral, 1/3 were “yes, they would make a good disciple”, and 1/3 were, “no, they would not make a good disciple.”

At this point you are probably expecting me to rail against the youth of America and how they are on a slippery slope of moral decay. This might end up being a diatribe, but against another subject. What I saw in their collective answers was a logical progression of their public school educations: multiculturalism. In part, multiculturalism asks us to not “pass judgment” on other cultures, and that we should show respect for all cultures as your culture’s equal. I think the net effect is seen in this casual “survey”. We seldom give an answer that is not qualified with, “in my personal opinion” clause. It is considered even more polite and correct to not give any opinion (after all, they are all equally valid). When I was young, issues were “polarizing”, meaning they split people into two camps. Now I think issues are “tri-polarizing”, meaning they split people into three camps…for, against, and “I would rather not say…”  This third camp was borne out when students justify their answers with the notion that using marijuana should be a personal decision that somehow would not affect others. Or, they would add that it is just their (current) personal opinion, which is subject to change.

I am sure some of the answers could be attributed to posturing (the whole class can read their responses). Some of the answers could be attributed to trying to please the grader with an answer they think he would like. Even so, the camp that bothers me the most are those who claim indifference. Surely they have an opinion. Their culture, however, forbids them to express an opinion that might be construed as negative, offensive, or even, impolite.

How would I have responded to the threaded discussion? I would rather not say…

MM

Real Live Prof

The Cheater

Redneck recycling

Redneck recycling

Several years ago, I started offering extra credit for tests in my classes if students would study together in groups for at least 30 minutes. I have them sign a sheet that says in part, “I will give you 3 points for studying in a group, and 6 points if you study in two different groups.  If you are dishonest and claim to have studied when in fact you did not, you and your entire group will lose all points earned for this (and previous) assignment and you will no longer be eligible to participate in this extra credit assignment”. I offer this assignment because some students really do much better by studying with others, and, as a sociologist, I like to do my part to help students socialize. Also, it helps students’ test grades (by 3 or 6 points), who are often shocked that college is so much more “challenging” than was high school. 

Students turn these group study forms in just before the test. The Cheater turned his in, as everyone else. After I graded the tests, and returned them the next class (!), his “partner” on the group study form waited after class to speak with me. He asked if “Ralph” had turned in the form.

“Yes”, I said. “And I gave you credit for it too, didn’t I?”

“Yes, I got credit, but the thing is, well, we didn’t study together”, he stammered.

“Oh,” I said, “I see. Then, I will take off the extra credit.”

“I apologize”, he said.  

“Thank you for listening to your conscience and being honest”.

The next step for me, after removing the extra credit from the online grade book from both students, was to come up with a plan for how to confront the second student. I stewed, and schemed, and even steamed over it. I finally went passive-aggressive, and did not confront the student. My PA plan was to wait and see what he would do. Then, I reasoned, I would confront him.

Nothing happened for several days, and we got on with the next chapter, “Deviance”. Along the way, we covered a section called, “Techniques of Neutralization”, which always sounds ironic to me when we cover it. These techniques, I explain to them, are the rationalizations we use to excuse our own bad (sinful) behavior. (Apparently I am always the only honest one in class, because I ask if anyone is as good at this as I am, and no one responds.)

The five techniques we cover are, “Appeal to Higher Loyalty”, “Condemnation of the Condemners”, “Denial of Responsibility”, “Denial of Injury” and “Denial of Victim”. The ironic part for me is that the lecture almost sounds like I am teaching them how to excuse their own bad behavior. (“If you want to lie to someone, just say to yourself, “It won’t hurt anybody”” denial of injury) or, “I wouldn’t have to lie to if you were an honest person” (denial of victim)). I admit the irony to every class: “Please do not take these notes to improve the way you sin”, I plead!

I finished the “techniques” lecture, and my still non-confronted Cheater decided to talk to me after class.

“Dr. Miller, I noticed online that I had group study credit for the last test, but that it went away.”

“Yes, it did”

“Can you tell me why?”

“Sure. The person that you “studied” with confessed that you didn’t study together”.

“Oh? That’s funny, because we studied together by texting”, he said.

“Really?” (At this point, my “Really”, was probably not simply dripping with sarcasm, but freely flowing). “Funny thing is, that test that you want the extra credit for, was over groups, and I am sure you understood that groups were, “more than one person, in the same place at the same time”. I am sorry, but texting does not count.”

“Oh”, he said, and drifted out the door towards chapel.

Later as I thought about the techniques of neutralization, I realized that the Cheater had added a sixth technique, “An appeal to definitions.” I thought it was clever, but still full of holes.

 

Real Live Prof

Social Comparison, revisited.  It was a late afternoon, as I recall. I was chatting with two of our junior profs, when one said, “I am just so puzzled by my students. I give them an easy assignment to do and they just seem to ignore it. Don’t they understand that not doing it will impact their grade in bad way?”

So I told them this story:

The famous "A" row,  situated near rthe front of every classroom.

The famous “A” row, situated near the front of every classroom.

I recalled being equally disturbed about student apathy when it came to their grades. Five years ago, I was teaching an intro to sociology class when I did one of my favorite first day exercises. I was teaching in Marshall Hall 107, which is an amphitheater -style room.

As we were starting the first day, I asked, “Is every one comfortable with their seats?” Everyone agreed that they were.

“Well”, I said, “That’s kind of sad…because you all have to find a new seat. Here is what I want you to do. Starting with this seat (far left, front row, I demonstrate by pointing), I want you to seat your selves in reverse alphabetical order.”

Someone always asks, “Can we have the roll?”

“No. You have to do it yourselves”

They groan. A lot. And then they stand up, and someone begins by stating, “My name is Zach Zedikiah, so this is probably my seat…” and he sits down. It is painful and awkward as students state their names, introduce themselves to each other, and slowly find their seats. After Alyssa Amanda Applewhite has taken the last seat, we check it, and then (always) correct it. And then, I tell them they have already begun seeing sociology…leadership, lack of leadership, social loafing, meeting someone who will turn out to be a friend,  etc., with the added bonus of being reminded of the alphabet song. (They always manage to look really unimpressed.)

After this part, I state that there are some, for whatever reason, who need to be really close to the front of the room.  And, I suppose, it might even be possible that some may need to be towards the back. If you can persuade someone to change seats with you, you may switch. However, I always point out, the front row is where the most “A”s are made…and the back row is where the most “C”s are made.

As I share this story with the junior profs, I tell them this is my “Aha” moment in to the enigma that is the modern student. One student, James W., who was unwittingly placed on the front row by virtue of his name, stood up and announced, “Dr. Miller, I only want to make a “C” in this class, so I will happily trade with anyone on the back row.”

Fortunately, someone on the back row needed to be on the front row, so I let them change seats. As I followed James’ semester in the grade book, I soon realized that, though very bright and active in and out of class, James really only wanted to make a “C”. I was astounded. Why be so smart and aim so low?

I asked the two profs, “What kind of students were you in college?”

They both humbly replied, “”A”s and a very few “B”s”.

“Who did you hang out with in college?”

“Other good students”

“And when you got to grad school?”

“Other good students”

“Did you or your friends you hung out with ever start a class and not try to get an “A”?

At this point, they proved their sharpness and mental acuity by realizing that perhaps they were (socially) comparing themselves to students who were in school for very different reasons and with very different goals, than they had been.

“At some point”, I said, “We realized that good grades would help us in our careers. In fact, if we are honest with our nerdy selves, we liked school and studying. I think we unwittingly (and unfairly) compare our experience as good students who wanted good grades, with those who only want or need, to pass.”

The great irony, of course, is that James W. went on to grad school…and by his accounting, did very well.

Real Live Prof

Perspective. Before I taught at ETBU, I was an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist. (btw, “Adjunct professor” = part  time professor.) DBU prided itself on being a degree completion destination, and so, many students were well into their 30’s or even 40’s and were coming back to finish their degrees. As a teacher, I was almost never the oldest person in the classroom.

One of my favorite ways to introduce a class to the value of a sociological perspective was to pose as a student on the first day of class. I would walk into class the first time we met, usually a few minutes early, sit at a desk in the middle of room, and start asking “other” students what they had heard about the professor. As I was part time, I was somewhat anonymous and seldom the oldest person. Since few had heard of “Miller” and fewer still even knew my gender, there were not a lot of comments. So, I would start smack talking about myself. “I heard his tests are impossible!” or, “He makes you write a really long paper!”

Usually, I would let the class continue for 15 minutes past the start time. Inevitably, a student would finally get up and announce they were going to talk to somebody in charge and find out why the prof never showed up. At this point, I would stand up and say, “Well, I guess I could teach.” I would then walk to the front of the room, pass out the syllabi, and start a short lecture on why I loved sociology and the different perspectives it forces us to use.  The students usually were fairly good natured about my “prank”, but they were also furiously rewinding their mental tapes about anything incriminating they might have said before I outed myself as a prof.  

In my Minority Groups class,(which I often taught at DBU and annually teach at ETBU) I send my students to their same denominational churches that serve a race, ethnicity or people group that is different than them. Usually this means that white Baptist students visit Black Baptist churches, or Hispanic Baptist churches if they speak Spanish. They learn about another groups’ way of worshipping and their customs. Often times, at least for white students, it is the very first time they have ever felt like a minority in their lives. I think this is a great perspective to have, and to have challenged. Students almost always talk about the fact that this is a very positive experience, but that before they actually visited the church, how it was scary, intimidating, and uncomfortable for them. They usually admit that they were very glad they did it, and how they will not take their race for granted anymore.

Almost always, the pre-prof outing conversation in my classes was about other classes and profs the students had before this semester. I learned a little too much about my colleagues on several occasions. Once, I learned too much about myself…

I had sat next to a student who was eager to tell me about her friend who had taken the same Minority Groups class the semester before. She told me all about this crazy visit-a-church assignment. I listened politely as she told me all of the details. She finally concluded her recounting of her friend’s experience by stating that her friend thought it was the easiest class she had ever taken.

I was really surprised by this. “That doesn’t sound like an easy class to me”, I said.

She replied, “Oh, but it was! My friend totally faked the whole thing!”

A few minutes later, I stood up and said, “Well, I guess I could teach.” I walked to the front of the room, passed out the syllabi, and started a short lecture on why I loved sociology and the different perspectives it forces us to use.

Real Live Prof

004

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

It was shaping up to be a great Sunday evening. My wife and I were having dinner, without kids, with another couple. We love this couple, but because of family and that demon, Busyness, we do not get to chat with them as much as we would like. Inevitably the dinner conversation turned to our histories. I was surprised to hear a very familiar story from her.

It seems that when she was in college, in her last semester, she was doing her student teaching. She had always wanted to be a teacher. Unfortunately, within a few days of starting her student teaching, she knew it was not for her. She dropped out, worked for a year, and finally went back and finished her degree with another major. So, while I am very glad she finished her degree, I can wish that she had taken a Service Learning class along the way.

At ETBU, I teach this class every semester. Since it is an upper level elective, the students who usually take it are seniors. Their first question is almost always, “What is this class all about?” The short answer is that after students enroll in the class, they must find a place to volunteer for either 30, 60, or 90 hours during the semester. For many, it is exactly like the frustrating process of finding a job later on. Employers do not return calls, or respond to emails. They seem really annoyed when students keep asking about the volunteering opportunity. Or, the potential employers throw down gauntlets of procedures and forms which appear designed to discourage the students from actually working.

The students’ next question is, “Well, where do I volunteer?” I explain that the volunteering can be a career investigation in an area they are interested in when they graduate in a few months. A kind of “try before you buy” approach, I suggest.

Over the 8 years I have taught the class, the overwhelming response of students to volunteering has been very positive. Students who shadow workers for a semester have a very real understanding of what a particular job is all about. They know how to get the job they have seen modeled. They now have a reference in the area they want to work in and they have started networking. They can even list the volunteer experience on their otherwise very skimpy resumes.

When the experience is not positive, the students still come away with amazing personal insight. I well remember a student asking me to help her find a volunteer situation that worked with children. Together we found an after school program that allowed her to do just that. In the middle of that semester, however, she had the “Aha” revelation that she did not want to work with kids, ever. She finished the semester, but soon changed her major. She is now working exclusively with adults in counseling and loves it.

I really believe in Service Learning, and I often wonder why more students don’t try out prospective jobs through this program. Service Learning is part of my story as well. I began teaching at a junior college (so the pay was actually close to volunteering!) When I wondered about teaching at a Christian college, I applied to adjunct teach at Dallas Baptist. After a few weeks of teaching there, I was hooked for life. Eventually I found my way to East Texas Baptist, and I can echo Solomon’s words: I have found great satisfaction in my work and I see that this is also from the hand of God.

Real Live Prof

I equal YouSocial Comparison: according to my Social Psychology text, we all do it. (Irony, already?) It seems we have self knowledge (“I can catch fish.”) but social comparison allows us to make sense out of our self knowledge (“I can catch fish, but not as many as Uncle Si”.) Social comparisons are most meaningful when we compare to others in our same categories.  Students interpret their test grade, for instance, by comparing it to those sitting around them. “How did you do?” they ask with urgency after every test. They also have to know, “What was the highest grade in the class?” and, of course, “What was the average?”

We make upward comparisons to those who are much better than we are at something. This might depress us, or encourage us to strive harder to improve. We also make downward comparisons to those who are much worse at something than we are. Often this helps us feel better about ourselves. (“At least I can catch more fish thanWillie!”)

At this point in the lecture, I asked my class, “So, who do you compare yourself to when you want to know how you are doing, spiritually? Do you compare yourself to the people at church? (I asked the class knowing full well that they were among the least-churched demographic in America, 18-25 year olds.)   

“You mean like the Church Lady?” one student responded, referring to Dana Carvey’s SNL character.

Another commented, “They are all hypocrites at church anyway.” I let that slip by, without comment. (I am learning restraint, Mom.) Their comparison group is probably their peers, who also don’t go to church very much.

Social Psychology also suggests that we can choose to compare ourselves and how we are doing to “standards”. I suggested to the class that if they wanted to know how they were doing with love, for instance, they might compare themselves to the Bible, and its standards as set out in 1 Corinthians 13:    1Cor13  

“What should we think about when we do compare ourselves to “impossibly” high standards like these?” I asked the class. “Should we give up because we will never measure up? Or should we be inspired to try harder?” (Apparently the class assumed it was rhetorical, because there was not much of an answer…)

Our culture’s standard of love would have to include “hooking up”, “friends with benefits”, serial monogamy, divorce, infidelity, and “shacking up”. All this under the narcissistic banner of: “WHATEVER MAKES ME HAPPY!”

So, I have a choice. I can compare myself to the 1 Corinthians 13 standards of love and often fail and need to ask for forgiveness, but, with an extra measure of grace, try again. Or, I can compare myself to my culture’s standards of love, and succeed every time.

Real Live Prof

 

"IF YOU ARE OUT THERE" STAY. I DON'T NEED YOU

“IF YOU ARE OUT THERE” STAY. I DON’T NEED YOU

I am oddly curious. I see this sign every day as I go to and from school. (It is on Highway 80, between Hallsville and Longview.) Not once have I ever been tempted to stop and ask why they put up the sign. To be honest, I was a little fearful about stopping and snapping the photo. Not once have I wanted to see if they would talk to me about the sign. It seems a harsh statement. I sometimes do wonder about how I shut people out of my life.

On the other hand, I do greet Dr. Bob Benefield every day. He is almost always the first one on campus in the morning. We always park in the same area, and if I get here early, I leave “his” spot open as a show of respect and deference. For years I would walk by his office on the way to the ‘fridge. I needed to drop my brown bag lunch and then turn on the computer and start rushing into the day. I would throw a, “Morning, Bob” his way. He would throw a cheery, “Morning” back at me. We rushed on. For years. My “keep out” sign was firmly in place.

And then, one day, we got to campus at about the same time. We walked into Marshall Hall together. About half way there, he asked me if I heard the mockingbird. Now the tricky thing about recognizing a mockingbird’s call is that it is known to not have a unique call. It simply mimics all of the other birds’ calls. So, to truly hear it, you have to listen to several calls, and then determine that they are all coming from the same bird. Bob then mentioned that this particular bird had been calling here for several weeks at about the same time every morning. Immediately I was convicted that I was very guilty of sprinting into my office to get the day going and that I was not even aware of God’s great creation testifying all around me.  

I love irony, (and puns) so at this point I’m guessing that God was taking out two birds with one stone that morning.  I soon realized that I was also missing out on another great benefit because of my “keep out” sign. Collegiality. I do not often think about, much less give thanks for, all of the smart people I work with. They richly bless my life. They help me solve so many of my problems and give good perspectives to my experiences. When I have electrical questions, I ask Randy; when I have financial questions, I ask Jimmy and when I have counseling questions, I ask Tom and JR (I’m sure it is wrong of me, but I secretly like that they often disagree with each other about their advice to me). All of my golf questions are referred to Dr. New. When I have questions about pop culture, I ask my classes. When I have questions about my generation, I ask my small group at church. (Again, I am oddly curious, and I am always asking questions.)

My life is sadly less when I tell people to keep out. Beside the “keep out” sign, on the business next door, there is a sign which proudly proclaims, “Open 7 Days”. This is the sign I want people to see on me. I want to be open to all of the wisdom around me, and I want to be a resource for those around me as well. (Just last week I caught Bob snapping photos of the sunrise; the same sunrise I squint into for miles and miles every morning. Maybe there is a beauty behind all of that harsh light that blinds me. Thanks again, Bob!)

What does your sign say?