If you’ll be my sunny day, I’ll be your shade tree

Photo Credit: DaveLawler via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DaveLawler via Compfight cc

Maybe it was moving to Texas. Maybe it was watching The Voice. Maybe it was a Pizza Hut commercial. But lately, I’ve really been enjoying Blake Shelton’s music.

Judge me if you must, but I’ve always thought he seems like a genuine guy, and I’m always impressed with celebrity couples who can stay married for longer than a few days. Blake is married to Miranda Lambert (a country star in her own right), if you were wondering :)

Why am I talking about Blake Shelton today? Well, to be honest, I heard his Honey Bee song this morning, and it has been stuck in my head all day!

It is a catchy, sweet song! You can click here for the YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZjosn2u1gA, or read the lyrics below

“Honey Bee”

Girl, I been thinkin’ ’bout us
And you know I ain’t good at this stuff
These feelings pilin’ up won’t give me no rest
This might come out a little crazy
A little sideways, yeah maybe
I don’t know how long it’ll take me but I’ll do my best

You’ll be my soft and sweet
I’ll be your strong and steady
You’ll be my glass of wine
I’ll be your shot of whiskey
You’ll be my sunny day
I’ll be your shade tree
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

Yeah, that came out a little country
But every word was right on the money
And I got you smilin’ honey right back at me
Now hold on ’cause I ain’t done
There’s more where that came from
Well you know I’m just havin’ fun, but seriously

If you’ll be my Louisiana
I’ll be your Mississippi
You’ll be my Little Loretta
I’ll be your Conway Twitty
You’ll be my sugar, baby
I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

Your kiss just said it all
I’m glad we had this talk
Nothing left to do but fall in each others arms
I coulda said “I love you”
Coulda wrote you a line or two
Baby, all I know to do is speak right from the heart

If you’ll be my soft and sweet
I’ll be your strong and steady
You’ll be my glass of wine
I’ll be your shot of whiskey
You’ll be my sunny day
I’ll be your shade tree
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

You’ll be my Louisiana
I’ll be your Mississippi
You’ll be my Little Loretta
I’ll be your Conway Twitty
You’ll be my sugar baby
I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle
And I’ll be your honey bee

I’ll be your honey bee 

Photo Credit: R.H.Sumon™ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: R.H.Sumon™ via Compfight cc

Am I crazy, or does this describe God’s plan for marriage? 

Ok, I am a little crazy, but given what I’ve heard Blake Shelton say about God and marriage, I don’t think I’m completely wrong!

I think we’re all pretty familiar with the Genesis story…

Genesis 2:18, 21-23
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper that is right for him. … 21 So the Lord God put the man to sleep as if he were dead. And while he was sleeping, He took one of the bones from his side and closed up the place with flesh. 22 The Lord God made woman from the bone which He had taken from the man. And He brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She will be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and will be joined to his wife. And they will become one flesh.

One of the many things that can be taken from this passage is that men and women aren’t meant to be alone. God made women for men, to complete them, to help them.

And this is the main message of Honey Bee, I think.

It doesn’t work for all the lyrics, but you certainly can’t have sweet tea without sugar. And you wouldn’t need a tree for shade if it wasn’t sunny outside.

Whether you phrase it in terms of Southern charm and a catchy tune, or not, the fact remains that men and women need each other. And I always love when God’s message comes out in pop culture!

Not to burst your bubble, but in the interest of ethical blogging, it must be noted that Blake Shelton did not write this song. In fact, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip did.

But I’d like to think that Blake really believes in what he’s singing – otherwise, it wouldn’t be so popular, right?

In a recent interview in Redbook magazine, Blake described how important his wife is to him, and gave his advice on being a good husband.

Photo Credit: Daniel CJ Lee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Daniel CJ Lee via Compfight cc

 “I think you’ve got to be confident and a little bit of a pushover. Obviously, you’ve got to be a loyal person. I’m never going to listen to someone trash my wife. I think you have to be willing to take a bullet for somebody if you’re going to stand up there, take your vows, and be married to them for the rest of your life.”

Sage marriage advice from the expert!

Ok, obviously, God is the real expert. He knew Adam could not do it without Eve, just like He knows how much I need my husband, and how much every marriage depends on the partners relying on each other.

A beautiful plan, don’t you think?
AML

Like eagles y’all!

“East Texas? Why do you want that job?”

Photo Credit: Patrick Feller via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Patrick Feller via Compfight cc

“Are you sure you like it here?”

“What’s in Marshall, Texas anyway?”

“Isn’t that far from home?”

I’ve been getting questions like these ever since we moved to Marshall – mostly from my parents and grandma – because they just don’t see the whole picture.

If I’m honest, I don’t really see it either. But that’s ok. God does. It’s just our job to trust Him.

In fact, I’ve moved around more than you’re average young adult. And my parent’s aren’t even in the military!

I was born in Shreveport, LA. We lived there until I was 7, when we moved to Euless, TX  because of my dad’s job. When I was 10, we moved to Omaha, NE, again because of my dad’s job. Then I got my bachelor’s degree at Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln, NE. I moved to Saint Louis, MO to get my Masters at Saint Louis University, and moved to Lawrence, KS to get my PhD.

For those of you keeping score, that means moving to Marshall was my my 6th move!

Photo Credit: Frenkieb via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Frenkieb via Compfight cc

My dear, sweet husband has been with me for two of those moves. And that’s a lot for most people we know! Not to mention six!!

Has the path always been clear? Absolutely not!

There were a few veeeeeeeeery long months where I was about to finish my Masters degree, didn’t know where to apply for PhD programs, wasn’t getting accepted anywhere, couldn’t get a regular job, and almost lost all hope.

But then I got accepted at the University of Kansas – my ideal program! I prayed about it, and God said that He told me to wait, and everything would work out.

When I was about to finish my PhD, I had some choices available. I was receiving a tuition grant in exchange for teaching undergrad Communication classes, and it would have been possible for me to stretch out the work on my dissertation another year, and just stay in Kansas for the 2013-2014 school year. I was comfortable there, so I thought I’d just see what kind of jobs were out there to apply for.

There were some veeeeeeeeeeeeery long months where I was looking for jobs, applying, and getting rejection letters. I was thinking that maybe I was supposed to just apply for  positions again the following year, because NOTHING was working out.

But then I got a job at ETBU – my ideal program! I, very excitedly, prayed about it, and God said that He told me to wait, and everything would work out.

Sometimes, in moments like these, God’s voice sounds a little sarcastic to me – like, silly, you know that I will take care of you and that I have a plan, you just aren’t patient enough to see it through. Does that happen to anyone else?

Throughout all of this, I continually turned to Isaiah 40:31. I even had a sticky note on my computer with that verse, so that I would see it every time I sat down to fill out ANOTHER application.

Isaiah 40:31 New Life Version (NLV)

31 But they who wait upon the Lord will get new strength. They will rise up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weak.

Does anyone remember that scene in Remember the Titans where the large, white football player recites this verse in song? That’s how I always think of it :)

If you need a refresher, check out this clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M66CWwlrp_c

Well, the moral of this long, drawn out story is that God ALWAYS has a plan.

Photo Credit: EladeManu via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: EladeManu via Compfight cc

And it is ALWAYS better than any plan you or I could dream up. We just have to wait to find out what it is, which is definitely the hard part.

Since coming to Marshall, other wonderful things have happened to me and my family, and it is a constant reassurance that we really are living out God’s plan, and it feels good!

I know that lots of students are staring graduation in the face right now, or in six months, and it is scary.

But take it from me, God’s in your corner, and things will work out if you just wait for His plan!

AL

A Biblical Response to Domestic Violence

Does the Bible specifically address domestic violence?

Domestic Violence

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If the number of sermons or Bible studies you have heard directly discussing this reality were an indicator, what would it suggest about your church’s biblical engagement with this issue?

A recent Life Way survey revealed that 42% of Protestant pastors rarely or never address domestic and/or sexual violence in their sermons.  However, one in every three women will experience physical violence from an intimate partner in her lifetime thus raising the question: why have nearly 50% of these pastors rarely or never addressed a critical issue faced by 33% of all women?

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines domestic violence as:

The willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another.

The NCADV notes:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States
  • More than 10 million women and men experience domestic violence each year
  • 1 in 7 women will experience stalking victimization during their lifetime
  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide
  • Intimate partner violence is most common among women between the ages of 18-24
  • 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner
  • At least 21% of all victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse
  • The cost of domestic violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year.

In recent weeks national news has focused on the reality of domestic violence due to the wide circulation of a specific incident caught on an elevator video between an NFL player and his girlfriend.

According to a recent and related Associated Press article, a number of women used the hashtags WhyIStayed and WhyILeft to “share their own stories reflecting the sometimes difficult choice of whether or not to leave an abusive partner.”  One woman was Beverly Gooden who tweeted on September 8, “I stayed because my pastor told me God hates divorce.  It didn’t cross my mind that God might hate abuse, too.”

Does God hate abuse as well?

By the standard of church awareness, teaching and response to the reality of domestic violence one might be tempted to answer in the negative.

Illustrative of the experience of far too many women in the church, one British website notes:

Quite often, if we as victims approach and confide in an elder, priest, or member of our Church, hoping for some support and encouragement, we can leave feeling even more guilty and trapped than we did formerly.  We may be told that the abuse is due to our own lack of submissiveness, or our own sinfulness, that we would not suffer if our faith was greater, or that we will be rewarded in the next life for the suffering we experience in this one (!?!).  I have heard of women who have been told earnestly by their vicar that it would be better for them to die at the hands of their abusive husband than to seek a separation and protection for their children! … The question, however, for every Christian person should not be what does our Church say about our situation, but what does the LORD say to us in the Bible?

Malachi 2:13-16 addresses the reality of domestic violence:

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the Lord made them one?  In flesh and spirit they are his.  And why one?  Because he was seeking godly offspring.  So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

16 “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.

So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. (NIV 1984)

Despite the fact these husbands were weeping and wailing before the Lord and offering sacrifices to him, they were rejected.  Why?  According to verse 16, the Lord hates divorce and the Lord hates a man who covers himself with violence towards his spouse.  Though there is some debate about how to best translate verse 16, the NIV text indicates that when it comes to discussing familial health, churches ought to address intimate violence in a substantive way.

According to Scriptures, a person engaging in verbal, sexual or physical violence against an intimate partner or family members is committing sin.

The Malachi passage is far from alone.  Other passages implicitly addressing this reality:

Genesis 1-2 articulates marriage as a helping relationship forged in the unity and equality of one flesh

Psalm 11:5 notes that the Lord “hates with a passion” those “who love violence”

Isaiah 59 does not mention specific sins but clearly condemns in verse 2 those whose “hands are stained with blood” and “fingers with guilt,” and again in verse 6 that those who commit “acts of violence” with their hands are doing “evil deeds”

Matthew 18:1-10 describes children as those highly regarded in the kingdom of God and therefore to be welcomed, honored and protected

1 Corinthians 13 offers a portrait of love that is patient and kind and free of intimidation, abuse or violence

Ephesians 5:21 discusses mutual submission

Ephesians 5:25-33 calls upon husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church: sacrificially unto death

Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 emphasize that fathers should not provoke their children

Domestic violence is sin.  When a person engages in verbal, sexual or domestic violence he or she has broken faith with his or her husband or wife.  Domestic violence is far too often a dirty secret happening behind closed doors and weekly filling church pews in suffering silence.  We have a responsibility to name this sin and to be grieved over its prevalence in the world.

If are to be God’s people then we must publicly teach that domestic violence is sin, acknowledge our complicit silence in this area, provide safe havens for those seeking freedom, regularly pray for those trapped in abusive situations, and model healthy and life-affirming relationships.

EMB

Does God have a Facebook page?

I am really excited to (hopefully) teach a new class in the next few semesters  - Social Media Communication. Anyone interested?

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

I have taught a similar class before, but not under the guise of the integration of faith and learning. Bringing faith into the discussion adds a completely new element, and one that I’m excited to explore!

Since I’m a little bored today – even professors have trouble concentrating on a Friday :) – I decided to start thinking about what the syllabus would look like for this new class. Let’s just say that I’ve found myself in a pickle.

How can we bring God into the discussion of social media? What kinds of questions should we be asking and answering in a class like this?

What can God add to the internet? Nope, wrong question. God created the internet (obviously), so he’s added everything already….

What does the internet have to do with God? Wrong question again, and same simple answer: EVERYTHING.

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

What does God have to do with the internet? UGH! Everything again! And still not an interesting question or answer!

How about, what can the internet add to our understanding of God? Or, how can we see examples of His glory/mercy/work/amazing-ness through the internet?

Hmm maybe we’re getting somewhere now…

Off the top of my head, obvious places where God shows up on the internet include:

  • Youversion.com, a site where you can read multiple translations of the bible,
  • Biblegateway.com , a searchable Bible site that also provides many different translations and where many ETBU folk have been participating in the Bible in a year program,
  • or even the websites for churches, like Mobberly Marshall where my husband and I attend…

…But what about more unique ways that God’s love is visible online?

My family is planning to go to New Orleans for Thanksgiving this year, and we are going to rent a house to stay in while we’re there. This experience has introduced me to Air BnB, a vacation rentals site.

Is everyone on this website a Christian? Probably not. But I can’t help but think of Christians using this site to live out 1 Peter 4:9.

Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

Can this be seen as the internet helping us follow God’s plan for our lives?

Can’t you imagine the wonderful ministry opportunities that could become available if you opened your house in this way? You don’t know who would choose to stay, or what stage in life they are in, but surely God could use this opportunity for His Kingdom!

Or what about ChristianMingle.com?

Is there a guarantee that everyone on this site is Christian? Decidedly not.

Cardinal rule #1: You CANNOT trust the Internet!

But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t using the site for His purposes. Maybe that’s the best way for you  to meet your husband or wife. Who are we to claim knowledge of God’s plan or methods?!

Maybe this isn’t going to be the root of Social Media Communication class, but I definitely think these questions deserve some investigation. Maybe I’ll even use this post as assigned reading…

Photo Credit: Julia Manzerova via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Julia Manzerova via Compfight cc

If we return to the question I posed in the title of this post, Does God have a Facebook page? — how would we know if He did or didn’t?

He could be posing as Joe Schmo, John Smith, or Jesus Christ, offering status updates, pictures and music preferences, and we would never know. At least not for sure anyway.

Remember, you CAN’T trust the internet!

Bringing God into the discussion of social media communication seems to offer some exciting topics, and opportunities for discussion. I’m so excited!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how faith could/should be brought into a class about the internet, or social media. There are so many possibilities :)

The syllabus is still being worked on – you could contribute!!
AML

Walk the Walk… in secret?

After my last post about Small Group Communication class working with Mission Marshall, I got some questions about what communication has to do with a service project, and why we would count that as a class requirement.

So that got me thinking… an easy answer would be that the point of Small Group Communication class is to learn how to effectively work in groups, be a leader, and make your group stronger. Therefore you need a group project, and what’s better than applying your skills in a real life situation?

Photo Credit: sparklefish via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: sparklefish via Compfight cc

But that doesn’t speak to why I felt I could write about this project and class in a blog focused on integrating faith an learning in the classroom.

I’ll admit, I’m very new to the idea of talking about faith at school. You might know that I got my PhD, and a lot of my teaching experience, at the University of Kansas. Great school, but public. There was absolutely no room for religious views of any kind at school.

But, we did have Small Group Communication class, and my adviser developed this idea of connecting the class with an outside organization so that we could also make it a service project.

You did not have to teach the class that way. A board game creation project would also fit the bill.

But thinking back now, those of us who adopted the service project model all had something in common… I think we were all Christians!

We just did not talk about it. Ever.

For me, the connection between doing a service project and integrating faith and learning is clear. Didn’t God teach us that every helping hand we extend is the same as helping Him?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’” Matthew 25:34-36

Photo Credit: the tartanpodcast via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: the tartanpodcast via Compfight cc

At ETBU, we talk a lot about faith in the classroom. Professors are encouraged to share their own faith stories, pray with students, and involve Bible verses as they are relevant.

We do a great job of talking the talk in the classroom.

I think all of us are also walking the walk with God, but maybe in a more private manner. How often are classes involved in feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked?

How often do we help students walk the walk in public?

When I was at KU, I was involved with a great church and felt that I was doing my best to serve others… on Sunday. Then I would return to work, where I was forbidden to share my religion in class, and leave it all behind. A good idea? Of course not, but I caved to the pressure.

The one place where I could broadcast my Christian values clearly and reach out to help others with my students was through the service project in Small Group Communication. And I think we were all doing that, we just didn’t talk about it in those terms.

Moral of the story? I think it’s threefold:

  • I am so happy to have the freedom at ETBU to talk about our Christian walks openly with students!
  • Serving others IS serving God.
  • Doing more than talking about faith may be a better measure of the integration of faith and learning.

AL

Sense and Sense-ability…

People know about the five senses:

  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Smelling
  • Tasting
  • Touching

(If you want to be more up-to-date scientifically, add Balance/Equilibrium to the list for a sixth sense.)

These senses are the way we know about the world around us.  Each sense has a special way of receiving the outside information with one or more receptors.  The receptors then send the information to our brain where we become aware or perceive it.

Without the proper receptors, we cannot sense the environment.

rainbow

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With our vision, we sense light, a small part of the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation in the environment. We see the wavelengths as colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), and if all the wavelengths are present we see white light.

If the wavelengths are on either side of the rainbow, e.g. infrared light or ultraviolet light, we can’t see them.  We don’t have the receptors for infrared light or ultraviolet light.  We build artificial receptors or cameras to sense this light and produce an image that we can perceive.  Pictures made with these cameras show us images of our world that we miss just because we lack receptors for the information. These environmental cues are invisible to us.

That doesn’t mean that these things are not natural, we just don’t perceive them.

Some people seem to be more aware of their environment.  They seem to have a “sixth sense” (or seventh sense if you want to be more technically correct…see first paragraph).  That teacher with the “eyes in the back of her head” or the mother who knows when her child is in trouble.  You may have been in a room and “felt” someone looking at you.  Is it possible that these people are more “tuned-in” to the environment?

Maybe they sense invisible things in the environment such as gravity or creepy stare rays or “getting-into-mischief-vibes”.

There are many “invisible” things in our environment.  Things like radiation, air pressure, microscopic creatures, and love. When something is invisible to us, it becomes more difficult to understand. We tend to ignore it or find it mysterious or frightening. The spiritual world is a part of this invisible environment.  I find the spiritual realm to have mystery and intrigue. Many people just choose to ignore the spiritual.  So is this invisible environment “supernatural” or just a different part of the natural?

angel glass

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Sometimes God adjusts our senses to be able to see parts of this spiritual world. In Numbers 22:31, Balaam’s eyes were opened and he saw the angel with sword drawn. In 2 Kings 6:17, Elisha’s servant’s eyes were opened and he saw the angel army upon the mountains.  We tend to forget the fact that angels are among us. They need to be visible for us to stop ignoring them. What spiritual images are we missing because we lack receptors?

What type of receptor would let us see angel armies? Instead of a sensory receptor, the receptor for the spiritual realm appears to be faith, i.e. the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is what allows people to perceive the spiritual world and make it an important part of their lives. It provides the ability to sense God working in our lives.

I like the chorus of an old Sierra song, “…in the Story of Life, I’ve found the only way I can ever survive is reading by the light of my Faith…” (Sierra, 1998).  Faith provides the “vision” to see life with its eternal meaning.

People have the ability to increase their sensitivity to the environment.  We know that people who have lost their sight have the other senses become more sensitive. Other people have focused on their senses and increased awareness of their environment. With practice and meditation they can train their senses to be more tuned-in, increasing their “sense-ability”.

This can happen in the spiritual realm also. Prayer allows us to focus on the spiritual. Meditation can train the faith receptors to be more sensitive. Maybe we can tune-in our spiritual seventh sense to become more aware of our true environment. More interaction with the spiritual world can make it less mysterious and less frightening. The increased sensitivity would allow us to be consciously aware of this invisible world that is all around us making it more “natural” in our lives.

What ways could you focus on your Faith to increase your sense-ability of God’s presence in your life?

dsb

Faith outside of Church

It’s not a simple question.  Where does my faith intersect with my discipline?  I mean, I grew up as a preacher’s kid going to Sunday school and church and camp and Bible drill and more church… even Wednesday night business meetings. I checked all the right boxes on my envelope and turned it into the offering plate. I memorized Scriptures to win a bicycle, sang in the youth choir, and went to vacation Bible school and mission trips. Born and raised Southern Baptist, but is that my faith?

I loved math and science.  I studied the earth, the sky, the outdoors, animals and the wonders of nature.  I wanted to be an astronaut or scientist.  And through high school struggled with how my faith fit with science.

I tried to merge the two areas of my life by going to a small Christian college, East Texas Baptist College (ETBC…I was here before U.) and majoring in biology.  As with most liberal arts colleges, ETBU was not known for its science education. You know, the science professors here probably couldn’t get a job at a real university so they settled for teaching at a liberal arts college.  Still I enjoyed my classes, and although the coursework was more challenging than high school, I made A’s and had plenty of time for extracurricular activities such as Christian ministries as well as pranks other social activities.

It was during these years that I discovered my so called faith was really more religion than relationship.  I spent the first two years of college as a bed-side Baptist playing the religion game. Then at one of the chapels I didn’t sleep in, or a BSU revival week, or a Bible study in the dorm, or somewhere it clicked that the relationship was more important than the religion. Even Jesus said that eternal life was getting to know God and His Son (John 17:3). The Bible became a fountain of knowledge about Jesus and God (even the Old Testament). My faith was flourishing. Obviously I needed to become a minister right? I added a minor in religion. That would take care of that faith and discipline problem.

Still had a love of science… Can a scientist be a minister?

I received my degree in biology and scored high enough to attend graduate school at Texas A&M University.  When I entered Texas A&M, I was directed to the large animal surgical ward in a neuroscience lab.  I found the professor in the middle of surgery in which he was inserting a probe into a cow’s brain.  As he operated, he described the various regions of the brain as the probe passed through them.  As he talked, I found myself totally ignorant of any of the anatomy he described.  I was embarrassed with my lack of knowledge and, in my mind, blamed the poor instruction I received in my undergraduate anatomy class.  I figured that the instructor had skipped those portions of the textbook because he did not know the material.  Of course, what should you expect from a small college where the science professors were probably second-rate or last-chance employees?

Sometime later, I was moving boxes of my old textbooks when a lab manual fell on the ground.  It was my human anatomy lab manual from ETBU. Remembering my embarrassment in the surgical ward, I took this opportunity to revisit my disgust of the former anatomy professor. I turned to the nervous system section and found a picture of the brain.  Instead of being skipped over, I found every blank filled in with proper terminology.  On top of that, it was in my own handwriting!

Not only had the professor gone over this material, he had covered it completely.  Apparently, my learning was not learning after all, but it was short-term memorizing.  I had crammed for the tests and made the grade, but did not learn the material.  My graduate work at Texas A&M took longer to finish than it should have.  I had to spend some of that time relearning the things I had not truly learned during my undergraduate years.

Intersection of faith and discipline? How about working for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23)? Doing my best in all endeavors, including studying. Is that faith?

Faith intersects my Life… Not just at church. Now I look for those intersections in everyday life.  I hope to let you in on the larger intersections I find…

Ironically, I became a biology professor at ETBU, (insert God’s laughter here), where I try to encourage my students to learn it right the first time. And this job was not my last choice…It was my calling and my ministry!

The Necessity of Reflection

There are many surprising truths I have learned in my semester of blogging—that vulnerability is powerful, that online community can be Bashawtangible and unifying, that bloggers are often on the front lines in the war against injustice and ignorance (and are sometimes the most blatant promoters of injustice and ignorance).

But the greatest thing blogging has taught me is the necessity of reflection.

Reflection is necessary for self-understanding and societal awareness—As human beings living in an age of hyper-technology, we tend to think we are more connected to people and ourselves than we have ever been. We believe that watching 24-hour news, following the latest YouTube trends, and posting our daily activities and random emotions on Facebook make us experts on people, connections, and ourselves. But, in reality, we are less aware of our own feelings and problems and blind to the needs of others because we do not take the time to think, reflect, and write. We fill our heads with the opinions of others and never stop to consider how we feel about those opinions, never process the changes in the world and the changes in our hearts. Reflection is the antidote to ignorance of self and society.

Reflection is necessary for teaching—Since I have only been a full-time professor for two-years , I am clearly not an expert educator. Every day, I make mistakes in my teaching. In academia, however, there is an unwritten rule of “fake it until you make it” (even if you never actually “make it”). We think that in order for students and other teachers to respect us and listen to us, we have be experts, to always be right, to never show weakness. And so we fake knowledge and good teaching until we forget that we are faking and begin to believe that we do know everything. And that makes it hard to know our faults, hard to listen to others, and hard to learn and grow as teachers.

Robert Frost had it right when he wrote, “I talk in order to understand; I teach in order to learn.” Reflecting and talking about myself and my teaching this semester (however narcissistic it may sound), opened my eyes to the areas in which I needed to grow. As I shared these areas for improvement in my blog, I was teaching others. And, beautifully and ironically, what I taught to others was always what I most needed to learn.

Reflection is necessary for faith—It is quite popular these days to talk about faith as a journey. This is far more than a trendy illustration; the idea originally comes from the Bible. In Scripture, we can follow the stories of people of faith, from Abraham to Esther and Levi to Paul, and see that faithful living requires forward movement and a purposed destination.

Faith is moving forward—moving away from the old self and its desires and moving toward the new self, the new kingdom, a new calling. And movement forward does not occur without a radical change in perspective and situation. Abraham’s faith required a geographical shift of epic proportions. Esther’s faith demanded death-defying courage and commitment. Levi’s faith forced a career transfer, from tax-collecting to disciple-making. Paul’s faith necessitated a name change and initiated one of the most significant life transformations in all of history. Faith compels us to change. But we cannot change, cannot move forward, if we do not know who we are and where we are now.

So, reflection is necessary for faith because reflection is necessary for change.

The greatest truth I have learned from blogging is that reflection is what moves us forward; it gives us the tools and time to understand ourselves and our society; it unveils our faults, our inadequacies, and our need for improvement; it forces us to not just have faith but to do faith; it motivates us to follow God’s call, to reform (re-form!) our hearts, and transform, not just our lives, but our world.

 

jgb

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…

Watch this Video : http://youtu.be/8H48vMYu1J0

Hillsong United – Oceans (Where my feet may fail)

” Spirit Lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Whenever you would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

in the presence of the Savior

I will call upon your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in your embrace

For I am yours and you are mine”

This past Sunday I was introduced to this praise and worship song. I remember thinking back to lifeguard training. We would tread water for 20 minutes straight with our hands above the water in-order to get our lifeguard certification. We started with 5 minutes, then we trained for 10 minutes. Eventually, we mastered 20 minutes. This skill was required and needed for life saving purposes. If I was drowning, I would want a lifeguard that could tread for as long as needed.

This reflective process has taught me that we set standards, we prepare our students for what we know they will need, and we implement strategies to help them succeed. But in reality, we can only prepare them for so much. So much more learning must take place through life experiences and outside of class assessment.

At this time in the semester, I see many of the students treading water with their head just above water. I challenge my students to cherish these moments. Let God use these moments to prepare them for the road of life ahead. To one day be the leader that is teaching others. My hope is that these moments they share at this university will help them to dig deeper in their faith. My hope is that God will take the moments and use them to draw closer to him.

My challenge to myself is the same. I am in my own journey of “treading water” and I know God is going to lead me to a deeper place in my faith. He is going to stretch my abilities and give me the ‘required skills needed’ to make a difference.***


Podcast Update

I have been tracking the progress of the students viewing the podcast prior to class. Six out of 16 students are viewing the chapter podcast prior to or after class.  In addition, the same 6 are completing all assignments whereas the other 10 are just not. Conclusions: if students do not turn in assignments, they are also not likely to read, listen to the podcasts, or come prepared to class.

In order to increase in-class participation, I started posting the discussion questions from the podcast/reading materials the day prior to class and individually assigning them to a question. Most everyone in class shows up with the answer for their question. This has helped in-class discussion and has given the more introverted students time to prepare to speak in-front of other students. It has also facilitated deeper discussion when the student are prepared to talk about the topics.

Although this process has not been perfect or easy, the process has provided opportunities for students to be responsible and mature learners. These opportunities are crucial for developing critical thinking in higher education.

In summary, I will continue to provide opportunities that facilitate in-class discussion and develops critical thinking opportunities. Today it may involve a podcast, tomorrow it may involve video conferencing or some other type of teaching method.

-LM

The Fear Factor

I went to an academic conference over the summer.  Several of the speakers zeroed in on an area of research that is finally getting some traction.  The question they addressed concerned student success in college.  One survey, taken at the Community College of Baltimore, discovered two primary reasons students drop out of school—They are overwhelmed by life problems.  Or they are overwhelmed by affective issues, mostly centered around “fear, anxiety, and a suspicion that they are just not college material.”

In other words, ability is usually not the problem.  Life is. The fear factor is.

So, how do we help these students?  The suggestions given are common-sense ones—“Create a safe atmosphere” in the classroom.  Find a balance between “flexibility” and “tough love”—between “compassion” and “firmness” (a lot harder than it might sound).  Implement “confidence-building experiences” early on in the semester.

And be aware of mindsets—because students will have “fixed mindsets” or “growth mindsets.”

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck says that a fixed mindset is “the belief that intelligence is fixed [which] dampens students’ motivation to learn, makes them afraid of effort, and makes them want to quit after a setback.”

So when classes get hard, students give up.  Because when they struggle, Dweck says, they “feel dumb.”

Do I have students who have this mindset?  Of course.  But my confession is this: Sometimes I have the same mindset.

I fear failure.  And in my profession, where performance is evaluated and measured each semester, I often feel like I’m not measuring up.  And when I struggle, I feel dumb.  This doesn’t motivate me to be better.  It discourages me and makes me want to give up.

I guess the question is this: How do we establish growth mindsets?  How do we establish the belief that just because something is challenging and causes us to struggle, this is not a reflection of our intelligence or ability?

I’m pretty sure that most of the speakers at the conference did not embrace a Christian world view.  If there is such a thing as grace, I learned, it is merely a human grace we extend to each other.  And as teachers, we know the expectations of gracious teaching.  Help students to realize their potential and to be true to themselves.   Encourage.  Uplift.  Reinforce.  Reaffirm.  We do this because we care about them.  But we do this too because we care about retention, and we must always be looking for ways to keep students from dropping out.

But is this all there is to teaching?  Just getting students to finish college and get jobs so we not only identify them as successful but ourselves, as well?

I worry a lot about leaving God out of this equation.

Do I care for my students? Yes.  Do I want them to graduate?  Yes.  Do I want them to get good jobs?  Yes.  But. . . .

If this is all we are about as educators, we only address part of the need.  Because each one of us has a soul.  And souls don’t have expiration dates, like milk.  We will all live forever.

I take education seriously.  But I take eternity much more seriously.

I admit to my students that college is a big thing.  But it is not the whole thing.  God has opened this door of opportunity for you, I tell them, so seize it.  Work hard and be successful, not to bring honor to yourself, but to bring glory to God.

And when they get scared.  When they start to struggle.  When the challenges seem insurmountable.  I remind them that they can do all things through Christ who gives them strength.  Trust Him, I say.  Lean on Him.  Because He is real and He is relevant.

I work hard in the classroom.  I take the material seriously.  But I am also serious about modeling a life that glorifies God, the author of grace.  If they don’t see that life in me, I have failed.  Measure me all you want.  Evaluate me all you want.  But I have a greater judge.  And when I stand before Him, I hope I hear these words—“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I want that for me. I want that for you.  I want that for my students.  Because that is true success.  

SC