Sunday, August 16, 2009


I have been wrestling with a corner of my mind for years, at least four now but maybe more, and the knowledge contained within proved dastardly and fiendishly difficult to comprehend. I would catch glimpses of it, you see, when meditating or writing and  I prayed for wisdom and guidance on a host of related issues without recognizing the connection to this stubborn mental thorn. This mind motivator tinged many of my thoughts and behaviors these last years so subtly and thoroughly that I didn’t recognize the expression or difference.

In 2 Corinthians, 12:7-10  St. Paul says,

Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
I failed to see this thorn in my side until recently. My mind had been dwelling on people from my past and the new future opening ahead and I realized that I have let my grief for the loss of two people I loved color almost all I’ve done since they passed away.

Sure I had expressed that grief, I had given way to sadness, but I had never gained the perspective I needed to take their loss and transform it into a lesson on life and love and how to better live my life. Instead I clung to visions of the past and who they were to me, not who they are to me. I was incapable of thinking about them in the present tense because I harbored confusion and fear and regret and despair in this balled up corner of my mind.

An impenetrable sphere, this tiny pea rotted in my brain until their memory poisoned me and my outlook on daily activities. I didn’t even sense the wilting and decay of their memory it happened so slowly, but now I see that by freezing them in the past they turned my present cold and lonely. I can’t bring them back, but I can let them live on, vibrant and full of color, in my life today.

Two songs helped me bridge this gap, along with the reading from St. Paul and the love and beauty of my new daughter. The songs are below. Also, if any of you want access to the pictures of my daughter, just send me an email or let me know in the comments. I’ll give you access to her snapfish account – I figure this way I can control who sees what of her online at this young stage of her life.
How to Save a Life – The Fray
Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And pray to God he hears you

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he's just not the same
And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life

A Long December – Counting Crows
A long december and theres reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I cant remember the last thing that you said as you were leaven
Now the days go by so fast
And its one more day up in the canyons
And its one more night in hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven...i wish you would

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that its all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl
And its one more day up in the canyons
And its one more night in hollywood
If you think you might come to california...i think you should

Drove up to hillside manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her

And its been a long december and theres reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I cant remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

And its one more day up in the canyon
And its one more night in hollywood
Its been so long since Ive seen the ocean...i guess I should

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fantastic News

I know that I’ve been gone for some time but the last few weeks have been particularly challenging in very good ways. First, my time at home with Madison is rapidly coming to an end and I try to spend as much time with her as possible, which of course negates my ability to meditate/write on Courage. In just a few weeks Madison will be headed off to school at a fabulous day care that meets this educator’s demanding and unfortunately knowledgeable requirements. The fact that I have to now open a sweat shop full of illegal immigrants to make cheap clothing that I then sell to Wal-Mart in order to afford this school is irrelevant – anything for the baby!

Second, I am pleased to announce that I have a job! I have kept quiet about this for a week or so (a little more from the initial ‘offer’ from the Assistant Superintendent, but only a week from the date of the actual approval by the school board) to rest and relax and take in some much needed success and ego-stroking.
Let me say though, right off, thank you to everyone that has given words of encouragement, prayers, positive thoughts and otherwise kept me from banging my head against the wall. You all played instrumental roles in keeping me motivated to find a position. I’ll be teaching 9th grade civics at a school district in rural York County. This school has the nicest staff and administrators of all I interviewed with and I feel lucky to be a part of their team. They make tremendous progress and do so very much for the children on a rather limited budget (note the rural).

Part of this last week saw me spending two days on a high ropes and low ropes adventure course working with the incoming 9th graders in their transition program from middle to high school. I had a great time meeting staff and students alike and enjoyed floundering in a harness 100 feet off the ground in front of my future charges and colleagues! Don’t ask me about the bruises on both biceps, my hips, legs and bum, and don’t inquire about the many blisters on my hands!

So, all in all, things are looking up! Now it is just a matter of balancing Madison, preparation for school, and other requirements. I shall start commenting on your blogs soon!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

I will bury you….

The princess felt the pea through countless mattresses, the Great Wall and the Pyramids reached heights unforeseen on the broken backs of slave labor, but a princess she remained and mighty they still are so does the curse of what lies beneath forever haunt what remains in sight?

Is the princess no less royal for her super-sensitive back and silliness, or the feats of ancient civilizations any less inspired and magnificent because untold numbers died unwillingly in their creation?

I write about the past, fleeting moments made real only by memory, and others read my tales and stories about baggage and trauma and regret and scarred lives, and they  reach out impulsively with sorrowful souls for some kind of emotional connection, but why?

Am I less perfect, less human, in need of more or different mattresses because of what I share? Is my coming into this creation and being present today any less grand because I arrive at the now through a terrible series of moments in my past?

At what point, then, do we forgive ourselves and others for the sins of yesterday(s) and permit them and ourselves to live out the shared miracles of our lives?

If we say, ‘He got what he deserved’ or ‘what she did was unforgiveable’ then do we say the same about ourselves by default?

As I approach next week’s interview I return to my past and the choices I made and those made for me by others and I see now that they matter, and yet that they are irrelevant also. I am now and here, not there and then, and never will I be again at the same point in time in precisely the same way, so I remember the past but only that – I choose to be here not in spite of my past, or because of it, but because I simply am….here. Now.

Related media that inspired this reflection:

Come out come out
No use in hiding
Come now come now
Can you not see?
There's no place here
What were you expecting
Not room for both
Just room for me
So you will lay your arms down
Yes I will call this home

Away away
You have been banished
Your land is gone
And given me
And here I will spread my wings
Yes I will call this home

What's this you say
You feel a right to remain
Then stay and I will bury you
What's that you say
Your father's spirit still lives in this place
I will silence you

Here's the hitch
Your horse is leaving
Don't miss your boat
It's leaving now
And as you go I will spread my wings
Yes I will call this home

I have no time to justify to you
Fool you're blind, move aside for me
All I can say to you my new neighbor
Is you must move on or I will bury you

Now as I rest my feet by this fire
Those hands once warmed here
I have retired them
I can breathe my own air
I can sleep more soundly
Upon these poor souls
I'll build heaven and call it home
'Cause you're all dead now

I live with my justice
I live with my greedy need
I live with no mercy
I live with my frenzied feeding
I live with my hatred
I live with my jealousy
I live with the notion
That I don't need anyone but me

Don't drink the water
Don't drink the water
There's blood in the water
Don't drink the water

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Life update

It’s been some time since I’ve posted, not out of an intent to ignore my readers (what few must remain!) or this journal, but only because I’ve been both busy and feeling a tad vulnerable.

The past month has seen my daughter baptized (and what a fiasco the was having so many people over – the gifts she received just about covered the cost of tossing a weekend long party for twenty people), my job transitioning to the west coast, without me, and then of course the whole falling down the stairs, laid up, physical therapy thing (maybe a week left of that?).

Toss in a job search in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression and the stress has been interesting.

It’s not that I’m feeling over-burdened (I’m not), but more scared that there is some other celestial boot anticipating my next move and gleefully preparing to clobber me about the head. Fear? Quite probably. Self-doubt? There is some present. I think though that my lack of writing really comes down to feeling vulnerable.

When I write I open my heart and mind to try and create powerful words that have meaning and impact, purpose and resonance, and accessing those parts of my mind and soul can sometimes be dangerous. I don’t always like laying everything out here for people to see, and while that was the whole point of starting Courage I am feeling reluctant to do so now. Maybe it’s the whole primal John Wayne-father syndrome (MUST BE STRONG FOR FAMILY, GROK!), I don’t know, but this entry is a step in confronting it.

And no, this wasn’t a planned entry, and I didn’t proof read – stream of consciousness, baby! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, as Ric Flair says!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

High Hopes

What motivates us to trod the same road so many times, or even more central to the question, why do we think a different approach or a change in life situation will lead us to a new and improved solution to our problems?
Unless we embrace true conversion of heart how we move forward, why we move forward (should we move forward) means little in that we covertly desire a return to what we know and what is familiar.
Pathways to the familiar are too easy to find if we don’t struggle to re-evaluate why we want to reach a particular destination and what we hope to achieve by arriving in a worn out state.
I’m reminded of the video High Hopes by Pink Floyd. Video and links below.

Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young
In a world of magnets and miracles
Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary
The ringing of the division bell had begun
Along the long road and on down to the causeway
Do they still LIVE there by the cut
There was a ragged band that followed in our footsteps
Running before time took our dreams away
Leaving the myriad small creatures trying to tie us to the ground
To a life consumed by slow decay
The grass was greener
The light was brighter
With friends surrounded
The nights of wonder
Looking beyond the embers of bridges glowing behind us
To a glimpse of how green it was on the other side
Steps taken forwards but sleepwalking back again
Dragged by the force of some inner tide
At a higher altitude with flag unfurled
We reached the dizzy heights of that dreamed up world
Encumbered forever by desire and ambition
There's a hunger still unsatisfied
Our weary eyes still stray to the horizon
Though down this road we've been so many times
The grass was greener
The light was brighter
The taste was sweeter
The nights of wonder
With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river
The grass was greener
The light was brighter
The taste was sweeter
The nights of wonder
With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river
Forever and ever

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One of these days, Alice……

It’s been some time since I’ve updated, so forgive the brevity of this morning’s post.
First, though, I wonder – why is it that I have a compulsive need to shake any beverage that comes in a 1/2 gallon container before I pour? Example – I don’t shake 1 gallon containers of milk before I pour, so why shake the 1/2 gallon?
Second, my back has kept me distracted these last few weeks, enough that I’ve not had much energy to reflect daily and pour those words onto page. It’s not terribly painful day-in and day-out (though there are days and times throughout most days where it’s a 7 or 8 on the pain scale) , but it’s just draining enough that I’m exhausted by the end of the day and too eager to pack it in and get sleep rather than reflect on a reading or passage or meditation.
I call my back a distraction because the majority of my time has been with Madison, which is such a glorious and unrivaled gift. I spent most of last week recovering from her Baptism the previous weekend, and the previous week preparing for said sacrament and the great influx of family and friends into town.
The benefit of big life events when you live a good ways away from everyone? Friends and family feel obligated to make the trip because they see you too infrequently as it is. The trial of big life events when you live a good ways away from everyone? They expect a LOT and eat you out of house and home, thinking (rightly in most cases!) that traveling so far justifies entertainment. Besides, they are there for a three month old, not my wife and me!
Third, the job search is time consuming. There are 501 school districts in Pennsylvania and many are a bit byzantine in how they approach the application process, so it can be trying to identify openings and prepare the required credentials packets. Not to mention that there really isn’t a central online repository for a digital database – there are several and many districts use one or another exclusively. It’s a trial.
I’ve had a few nibbles on the job search front, but getting back into the classroom is difficult. Most districts take new teachers, not ones that are veterans and have moved around in the field for various reasons, so their application process is geared toward the younger unseasoned crowd. I’ll find something, though – just have to keep plugging away!
So I hope you’re well, everyone, and as I get a bit more time and a bit more energy (or better figure out how to manage the energy I have) I’ll keep posting.
And I guess this wasn’t so short a post after all!

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

University Politics…

University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.
Henry Kissinger
US (German-born) diplomat & scholar (1923 - )

Quote Details: Henry Kissinger: University politics are vicious... - The Quotations Page

I subscribe to a quote of the day via Google Reader and this one resonates with me deeply.

The institution I work for is breaching contract with a partner entity and shutting down our entire office. We serve ten thousand or so children, teachers, and parents across the country, providing them with real school improvement and a different way to teach and learn that focuses on the emotional as well as the intellectual.

Yet, that is not noble enough a reason to continue our program through 2010, as agreed upon in contract, but rather due to a whole slew of poor decisions, bad planning, and complete lack of will and effort on the part of some, our hard work comes to an end in 30 or so days.

Why? The program has been labeled as ‘not central to the college’s mission’ and that it would be fiscally ‘irresponsible’ to support such a program in these economic times.

And so we are cast into the breeze and free to flit about aimlessly, the collateral damage of recession, lack of vision, and poor planning.

What irks me is that this is clearly a financial decision. Solely a financial decision I would be willing to bet, particularly given that our office’s goal is to bring the liberal arts mentality into the K-12 school system, something that is directly aligned with the mission of a small liberal arts college.

And the reason for the quote, you ask? The politics and sideways glances surrounding this botched and butchered transition reek of closed door meetings, fear, and a focus on what has always been done, not what could and should be done in the future.


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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Health Update

Hi all; after a particularly lousy night’s sleep Thursday I succumbed to my wife’s urgings and went to the doctor. I’ll get to that fun time in a moment. I have a wicked awesome lumbar sprain and a cocktail of drugs to treat said sprain that is strong enough to sedate Mine That Bird.

A muscle relaxer to curb the spasms that I had from my bum to my head (which was a particularly weird sensation), vicodin for the pain, and prescription strength ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory.

I also had the fun of nine x-rays and scheduling 21 physical therapy appointments. AWESOME!!!

What does all this mean, loyal readers? Why, that when I do post entries I’m likely to spell every other word wrong and generally ramble on and on and on without getting to any substantial point. It’s not my fault, though – it’s the pills!

As for the Doctor, there I am, sitting in the examination room with him and he asks me what I have been doing to manage my pain thus far. I decided to be honest and tell him I’d been popping motrin like they were skittles (taste the rainbow) – and his response? He scolds me for taking more than I should have been taking. Did I need a scolding? Not right then I didn’t. Maybe he missed the tears in my eyes caused by all the pain, or how shallow my breath was because the muscles around my lungs were tightening up into my back, or maybe he overlooked how I couldn’t even stand or sit properly without grimacing.

Granted, he may have been having a bad day, but how about a little empathy pal – do you *really* think I wanted to fall down the stairs with my two month old child? Or how about this doozy – he asked me, ‘so just how many stairs did you fall down?’

Oh, right – so sorry, Doctor, I guess I failed to count them on the way down WHILE HOLDING MY CHILD TO PROTECT HER AS BEST I COULD! So I gave what I thought was a good approximation – 15 to 20, whatever is between one floor and the next.

And he retorts with, ‘There are usually only 13 steps per floor.’ If you KNOW that already, just put that down, dammit! Get to writing the prescription so I can maybe wipe my bunghole without groaning all the while!


So, from sunny Pennsylvania, I and my new best friend, Mr. Heating Pad, wish you nothing but good fortune!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quick update

I’m not ignoring this blog – forgive me for not writing this last week. I’ve been busy making the transition from a last week of busy busy work and four weeks of parental leave. I am trying to get as much time in with Madison as I can before they lay me off at the end of June. So, long story short, most of everything I had to accomplish by the end of June had to be finished by last Friday.

Add to that a nasty fall down the stairs here at home and the resulting aches, pains, bruises, and sore ego, and I’ve been more prone to pill popping than blogging; Motrin is my friend.

I’ll be back as soon as Madison and I figure out a schedule together and I master the best time to write on here without missing stuff around the house or with the little Peach (what my wife and I have taken to calling her).  Well, we also call her Peachkins Jones, which is a pseudo Psych reference (the TV show on USA). If you watch Psych you’ll know that James Roday’s character, Shawn, always introduces his partner, Gus, played by the super versatile Dule Hill, with wacky aliases like, Ovaltine Jenkins, Lavender Gooms, Schmuel Cohen, Longbranch Pennywhistle, Scrooge Jones, and so on. As great fans of the show, Madison somehow became Peachkins Jones.

Anyhoo, I’m off to go make nice to the Motrin. Ciao for now.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The small scroll

I found this in Revelation, 10:9 today:

‘So I went up to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. He said to me, ‘Take and swallow it. it will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.’

NOTE: This is a very early sketch at meditation on this subject, so by no means consider this my final view on the subject (I just read the passage over lunch a few minutes ago so this is very much a free-write)

Exegesis tells us that the scroll was bitter sweet because although God’s victory was near at hand, the suffering of his people would be a bitter and trying affair.

Why is that? At what point should we quit resisting suffering and embrace it as a gift? Doesn’t humility require we make that choice? If we accept suffering as inevitable, if we appreciate the opportunities proffered us by the unfair, unjust, abusive, are we more in tune with what it means to be a good person, to live out truth?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next person who gets frustrated and upset and worn down and plain old tired with suffering when it comes my way, but I wonder if that’s my doing, or suffering’s fault?

If a river’s current is carrying me inexorably away, why waste all my energy fighting it? That’s not to say that I lose hope of survival or redemption or justice, but rather that I use my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual strength to maintain hope in the future; that something better is coming.

I suppose some people view swimming against the current as that something better? That as long as they resist they are not conquered by suffering? Some sort of spiritual, ‘it’s better to die standing up than live a lifetime on your knees’ mentality?

At what point does that become prideful, though, the ceaseless battle against your suffering?

I suppose resignation to our fate is a bitter pill in some ways, but does it have to be such a trial? I feel like there’s something more, something missing from the concept that suffering must be bitter by its nature.

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 11, 2009

What makes me happy, redux?

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A brief update: Sorry for the delay in posting - I've been busy trying to get a personal web pageup and running to use as an online portfolio (allllmost there) and I've been meeting and gathering application materials for a return to the classroom. Ah, the delightful days of job searching. Yayrecession!


So, a few intrepid readers asked me what I need to be happy. Sneaky sneaky readers, using myblogthings against me, I'll getses them, my precious!!!!

According to blogthings, I need friends; that I feel lost and not quite right when not surrounded by others.

I do and I don't agree with that generalization. I need friends, it's true, and having gone through the last five or so years with a smaller than average (for me) entourage I have felt at times a little needy, maybe a little isolated. My wife and I needed that time, though. I was dealing with a bunch of things (I still am, but have a better handle on how to deal with them) and she and I worked hard on our marriage, which needed our attention.

The rewards have been great on both fronts - a healthier marriage, a brand-spanking new 8 week old daughter (our first), and greatly improved mental and emotional well-being. And, as she and I have had successes we are beginning to stretch our wings again and find some friends that match our life stage.

So, yes, blogthings was right, sort of, but it was wrong as well. As to what does make me happy - baseball, a well cooked prime rib smothered in au jus, fresh green beans, steamed broccoli, the sweat from a good day working outside, letting loose my uberdork and gaming to no end, kisses from my wife, my daughter's fart-induced smiles, spiritual enlightenment, writing, reading, speaking in fake foreign accents, movies, WWE wrestling (619!!!!!!!!), snuggling with two cats and an afghan crocheted by my Nana, random naps on the couch, bubble baths, the smell of freshly ground coffee beans, the caffeine buzz from said coffee beans, and the smell of a crisp summer night.

What about you? What makes you happy?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What do you need to be happy?

You Need Friends to Be Happy
You are a friendly, social person. You seek out connections and relationships.
Being close to others is very important to you, and you don't like discord.

You feel great when you're cooperating and working with others. You enjoy belonging to a group.
Nothing makes you feel worse that feeling alone or alienated. You want to be liked by those around you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rain’s plea ~ draft

Luscious wet earth smelling of

wild onion, new grass and loamy hope,

invigorate me and chase away

the fog and clouds and draining rain,

soaking days and souls and minds.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Educational Philosophy

I’ve been banging out a new version of my educational philosophy in preparation for interviews and any potential consulting gigs. For the uninitiated, an educator should be able to concisely and concretely summarize what they believe is most important in teaching and learning. Their statement should be theory based and reference classroom practices.

It can be expanded upon in detail in other sections of a professional’s portfolio, but this is the meat, the center of what you do in the classroom. It should be only the best stuff; all the fat trimmed from the meat.

I’d like some feedback from you, if you don’t mind offering it. I’ll paste the first draft of mine below and if you’d offer suggestions and critiques in the comments it would be much appreciated. As a reward, I’ll insert a surreal clip from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, where Pink is reminded of his father’s death, mocked for writing poetry, and then fantasizes about how educational institutions destroy the souls and minds of children, by design.


Social studies classrooms are supremely situated to study culture, society, history, its leaders and peoples, and the controversial moments of time. As a social studies educator it is my duty to help students ethically and morally apply the lessons of the past to the challenges of today, empowering them to participate fully in America’s democratic society.

As such, I believe:

Ø In critical pedagogy

- that as a participant in the democratic process I am a teacher as learner and my students are learners as teachers, necessitating student centered instruction, assessment, and classroom management

- that schools are not neutral environments, but subject to political and social pressures and expectations, so I must help students gain critical consciousness about the impact on society of their, and others’, decisions

Ø In the inherent, individual nature of each student

- that learning requires assent, desire, action; it is characterized by discovery and surprise (Ayers, 6)

- that differentiated instruction and aligned assessment is the best way to meet not simply academic needs, but the specific needs, demands, hopes, desires, and potential of my students (Ayers, 2)

- that there is no substitute for authentic instruction and assessment to meet the varied learning styles and intelligences of each student

- that arts-based integration motivates students and increases comprehension and understanding regardless of cultural or economic background

Ø In the power of reflection to improve teaching and learning opportunities

- that reflection allows everyone to consciously choose who they are becoming, whether a teacher or a learner

- that the time to take control of my instruction, and my students of their learning, is now; that our growth and development is in our hands

- that I need reflection to best inform and guide my theory based practice


Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is courage?

Every now and then I stumble upon entries from other blogs, or words of wisdom shared in conversation, or inspiration from some other source, that help me define what courage is

If you go back through the years of entries in this blog (and if you're ambitious its 3,000 + comments) you'll see I try to define courage often, inspire it in others, reflect on it, increase it in my daily practice, and otherwise search for a greater meaning behind the word. 

I have some inklings in my brain as to why I am fascinated with this word and its meaning (though I've never been brave enough to definitively state my motivations) but I did find a passage the other night in 1 John, 5:18 that struck me with its clarity and purpose.

So if our question is 'what is courage?,' here is John's response:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

What is courage then? Perfect love. 

What a brilliantly phrased definition. I am fascinated by the implications for how we love as humans if  you reflect on the idea of perfect love. Are we talking about agape? Eros? A form of Philia? Storge? In all these ways of loving a perfect love can exist, without fear of punishment, free to soar with the greatest intentions and celebrate the highest values, creating in all those it touches true courage to live a bold life of peace and harmony.

When we say with sincerity, 'I wish for peace,' or 'I'll think of you often,' or 'I'll pray for  you,' are we truly saying, 'I love you?'

In this sense, courage has little to do with actual fear. The idea that courage is not the absence of fear but doing the right thing even when afraid is perhaps better understood as a measure of conviction, not courage? For if we possess the greatest conviction in a scenario where others may feel fear, then we will not fear. In that instance it remains possible for us to love perfectly. If our conviction falters some so that fear creeps into our hearts and doubt into our minds, then even if we do our duty or perform our task, we do so without full conviction, but rather with enough conviction. And so while in that moment we may be capable of love, we are not capable of perfect love.

Share your thoughts or ideas, please! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Art the power

Found this blog post via meta filter; talks about how city artists took over billboards and instead of subjecting us all to advertising for a day we got art instead.

This is the kind of illegal activity that I can support.

Monday, April 27, 2009

In the field

One of my favorite films is Legend of Bagger Vance, and I just left a comment over on Indigo's blog where she talks about how she's celebrating her five year's of sobriety. The memories and thoughts she brought to bear led me to a reflection about what we all look to for inspiration when fighting off feelings of sadness, desperation, or madness. 

One of the things I do is watch films that speak to me in certain way. In this case, Legend of Bagger Vance reminds me that harmony and peacefulness in our souls can be found in the pleasure and joy of daily life and the natural world around us - it's only when we attempt to let ourselves become a part of everything that we become anything. 

Here's one of my favorite clips from the movie that I'd like to share with you! In this part of the film Damon's character, Rannulph Junnah, is struggling to come to terms with his life in a way that makes sense to him, that explains why what happened to him has changed him forever. His caddy, played by Will Smith (Bagger Vance), is telling him about 'the field', that place where you are synchronized with all of the world around you and your working mind stops and ascends to an enlightened moment where you see how you can contribute to the glory of nature, life, and the spirit.

Have you had such moments? What allows you to find them? For me, I have found them in sports, truly, and in practicing my faith, but also in meditation and in the rhythm of certain activities like fishing - Rebecca Anne, I'm looking at you - and sometimes I find them unexpectedly as a day dream is intruded upon by a warm spring breeze that steals my mind away and leaves me sitting in sheer rapture and joy!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What vitamin are you?

Some light fare today - a long day so I've not had much time to devote to reflection or meditation. 

As a result - blogthings:

You Are Vitamin D
You're a naturally strong person. You've always had a lot of endurance.
You can survive what would make most people crumble. You have both mental and physical strength.

You don't do a lot to stay healthy - you just live a pretty natural lifestyle.
You stay away from processed junk, sleep like a baby, and get plenty of sunshine!

Friday, April 24, 2009

They don't love you like I love you

Another favorite of mine (and one of my wife's, too, I should add!) that I found an embed for. 

I love the desperation in this song, the quiet plea that is at the same time a rehearsed act. Does she mean it, or doesn't she? Would Maps be better off moving on and leaving her, is he strong enough to leave?

Pack up;
I’m straight; 
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say 

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you; wait, they don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you.....

Lay off;
Don’t stray;
Well, my kind's,your kind;
I’ll stay the same!
Pack up;
Don’t stray;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say!

Wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you …
(guitar solo)
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
And wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
And wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you …


I've been thinking on my entry on fear from the other day and then on this snippet from Psalm 140 - 'Deliver me, Lord, from the wicked; preserve me from the violent, from those who plan evil in their hearts, who stir up conflicts every day, who sharpen their tongues like serpents, venom of asps upon their lips.' - and I hate how closely connected the two are in behavior.

Maybe I'm getting a little too Yoda on myself (see the video clip below if you have no idea what I'm talking about) but all too often fears are used to provoke and stir up hate, to create conflict from peace, and to poison our minds and behaviors.

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, one thing you can say about the words and speeches of our new president is that he has cast off the language and rhetoric of fear and hate in favor of something filled with reason and hope. I find strength in the fact that every time I listen to our leaders now I need not steel myself against words designed to manipulate insecurities and rational thinking. It's refreshing to look forward to a speech by a national leader because our message is no longer about dividing us and them, but community and purpose and inspiration.

Whether you agree with the politics or not, whether you think it candy coated hogwash or real inspiration, you cannot deny that no longer are we subject to the words of fear and conflict, and that gives me comfort.

What is it about us though, I wonder, that lets others get away with fear and hate mongering? Free speech is not what I'm debating here, but a lack of persistence and strength in resisting the use of fear and terror as an assault on hope and reason. I am sure we all know someone that spews bile every time they talk, that ferments hatred and drinks it in with drunken glee, and revels in the discord they cause with their putrescent words; let's take a stand the next time we see it, or hear it, and put reason and hope to the test - I'm willing to bet they will win out in the end if we stick to our principles.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Out of fear

I've written a few lines today that have all revolved around the 'why' of my actions - why I do what I do, what I think, etc., and I think I've found something to meditate on later today; why does acting out of fear so often lead to behaving wrongly?

It's a line from Nehemiah 7, where the question is why do we act out of fear to sin? Whether you believe in sin or not, fear drives us to do so many foolish things and if you've been a reader of my blog you know that fear is an emotion that I've long tried to understand, think on, and write about.

Why do you fear? How does your fear express itself? What is it that you fear - and I don't mean spiders, or snakes, but what about them do you truly fear? A phobia is like fear, but different, that's why I make that distinction....

Someone spray me with a hose!


Your Spicy Score: HOT!

You're confident, sexy, and not afraid to go for it. Life is for living.

You love being the center of attention, and you'll do anything to stay in the spotlight.

You have no inhibitions. You're comfortable in your own skin, even when you have no clothes on!

You're out for a good time, simple as that. You can't help it if other people get burned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I just finished up a couple of chapters in Deuteronomy looking for some meditation inspiration for later on and I think what struck me most is this idea of charity. If you are familiar with that book of the Bible, you'll know it's full of community and religious laws regarding cleanliness (ritual and otherwise) and right behavior, but charity is one of the underlying values present in almost every dictum.

In these tough times of recession and fear and bankruptcy it is nice to see charity surviving.

How have I been charitable today? Financial? Physical? Mental? Spiritual? Emotional?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Animal I have Become

This just poppped along my Pandora channel, enjoyed it truly. It reminds me of those times I let my anger take me regardless of how I've tried to fight.

Animal I Have Become lyrics
Songwriters: Stock, Barry; Brown, Gavin; Gontier, Adam; Sanderson, Neil; Walst, Brad;
I can't escape this hell
So many times I've tried
But I'm still caged inside
Somebody get me through this nightmare
I can't control myself

So what if you can see the darkest side of me
No one will ever change this animal I have become
Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal!
This animal, this animal

I can't escape myself
So many times I've lied
But there's still rage inside
Somebody get me through this nightmare
I can't control myself

So what if you can see the darkest side of me
No one will ever change this animal I have become
Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal I have become

Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal

Somebody help me through this nightmare
I can't control myself
Somebody wake me from this nightmare
I can't escape this hell

This animal, this animal
This animal, this animal
This animal, this animal
This animal

So what if you can see the darkest side of me
No one will ever change this animal I have become
Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal I have become

Help me believe it's not the real me
Somebody help me tame this animal!
This animal I have become


Bonus video by the same artist: I hate everything about you.

Every time we lie awake
After every hit we take
Every feeling that I get
But I haven�t missed you yet

Every roommate kept awake
By every sigh and scream we make
All the feelings that I get
But I still don�t miss you yet

Only when I stop to think about it

I hate everything about you
Why do I love you
I hate everything about you
Why do I love you

Every time we lie awake
After every hit we take
Every feeling that I get
But I haven�t missed you yet

Only when I stop to think about it

I hate everything about you
Why do I love you
I hate everything about you
Why do I love you

Only when I stop to think
About you, I know
Only when you stop to think
About me, do you know

I hate everything about you
Why do I love you
You hate everything about me
Why do you love me

I hate
You hate
I hate
You love me

I hate everything about you
Why do I love you

How boring are you?

You Live an Exciting Life

You are anything but a bore. You make sure that life is full of excitement.

You have an adventurous spirit, and you don't like to sit still for too long.

If you feel like doing something, you don't think about it. You just do it.

There's no way you could ever live a boring life. There's too much to do and not enough time.

Havoc part 2

Thank you to those that left comments regarding their beliefs on fate and future. Last night while meditating on the meaning of the two phrases my mind centered on a shared point: that justice will out. Regardless of the nature of what confronts us, what challenges us, attacks us, maybe even defeats us, justice will come if we stay true to right ideas and right morals and values.

I don't know that I'm putting forward some idea of 'what goes around comes around,' but rather that justice centers upon not what happens to those that persecute, but how we handle ourselves when faced with injustice. If we remain faithful to our just values and beliefs the persecution we face is in name only and injustice exists only in the corporeal. 

Justice remains with us in mind and spirit if we have the strength to persevere. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cry havoc!

'Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, that these foul deeds might stink above the earth with carrion men groaning for burial.' ~ Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1. 

I've had this sentence stuck in my craw for some days now and I've been gnawing on it diligently, with tired determination, pondering its stubbornness. 

True, I saw it at first for only a moment as it flashed across my screen, but since it's taken up unpleasant residence in my mind and mouth, bitter and chewy, like so much lemon rind ground to a mealy paste and slathered over my gums.

An irritant of the highest order, second only to George W.B., but its message remains elusive no matter how long my mouth and mind work it over.

It resonated all the more when I read this passage from Acts 20 today:

'I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.'

Some sort of fear, perhaps? Regret? An omen? A portent of darker days? Some sort of hiraedd? I don't know, but wish I did. 

I don't necessarily believe in fate, but rather something closer to wyrd (pronounced 'weird'). It's an old Anglo-Saxon concept that has reflections in the Catholic understanding of time and God. Concepts like wyrd helped create understanding of a linear perspective of time, even though true wyrd is more like a web than a line. 

Think about it like this: If wyrd is like a spider web, there are may parts, and although a fly lands on one small sub sect of the web, its actions vibrate and impact the entire web's existence, telling the spider that dinner has (maybe) arrived. The fly is not doomed, not yet. Certainly, its wyrd is grim (chances are it's a goner) but still, the fate of the spider and the fly depend on how well the insects react, move, interpret sensory data and so on. Wyrd is the web of our lives, the situations we find ourselves in, the choices we have to make, the past influencing us here in the present, and how what we do influences the future.

Wyrd is like one of those Celtic drawings you see of interlaced knots that are really only one strand wound irrevocably round itself. If you imagine your life like one of those drawings, a giant road that you walk on, then whenever we come to a knot in the pattern (a fork in the road, a choice in the present) we have the chance to impact the direction we travel and perhaps even untangle the knot (make straight the path) to ease our travel. So, the next time we come to a similar situation (crossroads in our life) or find ourselves right back where we started, we'll have an easier time figuring out which way to go and perhaps even accepting the outcome of our decisions.

So, wyrd is a concept that means while what will happen to us in the end is known (after all, the web is a predetermined shape), how we get there is of our own making. We can face our situations how we choose, with what values and beliefs and character we possess, and make the best of every opportunity. 

Maybe these messages, from Caesar and Acts, are meditations on how well we confront adversity? One the avenger of the betrayed (Antony spoke the lines), the other with courage enough to leave the flock with the weapons he provided, trusting them to fight off the wolves (Paul was speaking to his disciples for the last time before leaving Asia for Jerusalem)? Maybe it is a meditation on how good must always struggle, or that even those with the best intentions may be led astray?

What are your thoughts?

Friday, April 17, 2009


It was a long afternoon yesterday. My boss placed a very tight deadline on me, reacting himself to pressure placed by another. I confess irritation and perhaps a snarky tone of voice, but I did not (fully) lash out. ;)

Still, I toiled here until 8:00 p.m. and then went home to help my wife with our baby. I felt spent, wasted, and frustrated with my day, my performance, and even my state of mind. While miserable then, I am pleased that the sight of my daughter melted that distaste into a puddle of sappy love, cooing, and smooches.

She taught me a simple lesson last night. She said, 'Dad, listen man, you know how it is; if there's something that you know is right, something that you know you've got to do, then you've got to stick with it. Sure it's gonna suck, it's gonna be hard, and it might even just piss off a few people, but what's the point if you can't be proud of persisting when challenged?'  And she said all that with her eyes and a little half smile brought on by a wicked fart. 

I'm glad she said it - I needed to hear it. Perseverance is so hard when mired down in the ick of daily grinds. Her message is the first thing that popped into my head when I read this passage today:

Malachi, 3: 20-21
But for you who fear my name, there will arise 
the sun of justice with its healing rays;
And you will gambol like calves out of the stall
And tread down the wicked;
They will become ashes under the soles of your feet,
on the day I take action, says the Lord of hosts.

Old Testament fire and brimstone aside, I think the message here is really about persevering in  the face of opposition. If we're true to ourselves, true to our loved ones, true to our values, then in the end we will bask in the sun of justice's healing rays. We need live up to only our own measure every day, and if we are people of faith, then perhaps the measure of our God or Goddess as well, but ultimately if we can't sleep at night it's no body's fault but our own.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Return to the now

With my impending lay off on June 30, the transition of the LBC to an entity on the other side of the country, and my now 1 month old baby going through the fussiness of a growth spurt, I am reminded of just how much I need reminding that it is only the 'now' that is most important. 

I am terrible at remaining in the moment during times of stress; my mind works overtime and attempts to calculate the odds of every possible scenario for every task that I must complete, that I'm currently working on, and even those not yet (but maybe!) assigned to me. This kind of thinking serves no real purpose as the situation is rarely ever that imagined and often the opposite! 

Even on days like today, when the college's finance office demands a product, my Director demands a product, and the person who the entire operation is transitioning to demands products all by the end of the day, or no later than tomorrow, I have to remember that the most I can do is a deliberate and determined focus on the now; to do my best work this moment, to turn out work that is complete and of high quality.

Frustrations aside, and there are many regarding who sets priorities, knowing who I actually serve, and the complete ignoring of where my own job responsibilities fall into this transition, clinging to my integrity and turning out the best possible work and maintaining a positive attitude is paramount. 

Ecclesiastes 11: 9-10 is a nice place to start a meditation on this lesson:

Rejoice, O young man, while you are young,
and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes;
Yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment.
Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence,
though the dawn of youth is fleeting.

Some might see this passage as a doom and gloom judgment is nigh message, but rather I take it as encouragement to live right now, in the moment, to not lament or worry about that which will come, how it will come, and certainly not to fear that which I don't fully know or understand. Instead, as I put forth my best efforts here in the now, I just have to remember that how I respond in this moment to the stresses and challenges I face will have consequences. 

People may be unfairly criticized, or I may become cynical, surly, and maybe even downright insubordinate, all of which are inappropriate and not consistent with what I believe is good behavior. I want my consequences to be well-intentioned and well-reasoned. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

new header

So I spent some time in today and put together the little header image you see above. I'm not sure if I like it - if it's in its final iteration, that is, but what's bugging me is that I can't for the life of me figure out why that little gray box is up there on the right hand side of the header. That is NOT in my .png file. If anyone has a clue, please let me know. 

Where can I hide?

Stumbled on this passage today in Psalm 139:

'Where can I hide from you spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.
If I fly with the wings of dawn
and alight beyond the sea
Even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, 'Surely darkness shall hide me
and night shall be my light'-
Darkness is not dark for you, 
and night shines as the day.
Darkness and light are but one.'
To me this passage serves as a reminder that whatever my inspiration for a post the reflections I craft are meant to be universal comments on ethics, truth, belief, and the self, not some proselytization. You need not be Christian to receive inspiration from Christian writings, or Muslim to be moved by the Koran, and so, to those that find there way here, please remember that Courage is commentary on life and its choices, not a pulpit for judgment. 

I suppose I'm posting today because of this passage. Inevitably I think about my writings here, I debate picking the keyboard back up, and no matter my excuse I cannot seem to leave this place alone. I've tried. Consistent efforts to bury, disappear, and otherwise let Courage fade away into cyberspace always fail and I keep stewing over my inactivity. So, here I am, unable to hide and writing again. We'll see if I  can keep it up on a regular basis. 

On a personal level, I like how this passage reminds me that I have a responsibility to myself to engage in real, critical, and regular self-reflection. I'm not talking necessarily about existential questioning of the self (though it could be), but about a commitment to improve my character and live my life and ideals with integrity. I know I pretend often enough that I need not do those things, but life is always easier to manage when I do. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What's your word?

Your Word is "Think"

You see life as an amazing mix of possibilities, ideas, and fascinations.

And sometimes you feel like you don't have enough time to take it all in.

You love learning. Whether you're in school or not, you're probably immersed in several subjects right now.

When you're not learning, you're busy reflecting. You think a lot about the people you know and the things you've experienced.


Thanks to Pyzam for the new template; I'm liking this look and feeling a bit more inspired to write again. We'll see if inspiration turns into perspiration!