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How are you managing your stress?

by Dr. Kaye Busiek

Are you thinking that you want to “finish strong” this semester, but you aren’t quite sure if you have the physical, emotional, or mental strength to get there? It’s that time in the semester when major papers, projects, and final exams are coming due, and it might be helpful to read a few tips that can help you do your personal best.

Positive thinking means we look at the unpleasantness in the world—and there’s plenty of that—in a way that is hopeful and aims to get something done well rather than avoid it. Those thoughts that pop into our head when we have difficult or challenging things to accomplish are called self-talk. Some of us tend to have more negative self-talk (pessimism) than others. Conversely, some are prone to letting positive self-talk (optimism) rule the day. There are some major benefits that positive thinking, or positive self-talk, can provide. Some of them include lower rates of depression, greater resistance to illness, better coping skills during difficult times, and even a longer life span.

In order to tell if you are a negative thinking or a positive thinking, you might consider the following forms of negative thinking. (1) Even after a day of completing tasks ahead of time and receiving compliments at school or work, do you focus on the unfinished tasks and forget about the compliments? (2) When something bad happens, do you automatically blame yourself, even though there were other people who influenced the outcome? (3) When a graded test or paper is returned to you, do you automatically expect to get a bad grade—even though you know you prepared well and may have felt pretty good when you turned the test or paper in to the teacher? (4) Do you feel like you’re a failure if you aren’t perfect (by your own standards)?

So, how can you turn your negative thinking into positive thinking so that you “finish strong” this semester?

* Identify areas to change. Focus on at least one area that would make a big difference if you thought about it in a positive way. One area may be to “chunk” your reading, writing, and general studying tasks because they may be more easily accomplished if you don’t have so much to do at one time. You may also benefit from taking breaks between the “chunks.”

* Check yourself. Positive self-talkers check in during the day to make sure they are focusing on what they are doing well and not all that still needs to be done. They reward themselves in healthy ways, and refrain from thinking or saying condescending or derogatory comments about their performance or attitude.

* Be open to humor. We need to laugh—sometimes even at ourselves—so that we break the cycle that makes every task a “make-it-or-break-it” obligation.

* Follow a healthy lifestyle. Do you eat healthy throughout the day—and while you are studying? Do you take a 5-minute break about every hour of studying? Do you practice deep breathing to relieve the occasional stress? Do you get plenty of sleep in order to avoid feeling tired or “fuzzy” throughout the day?

* Surround yourself with positive people. Positive self-talk is much easier if we surround ourselves with people who are also thinking positively about you and about themselves.

* Practice positive self-talk. Replace any negative conversation you’re having with yourself into positive affirmations and gentle encouragement.

Most importantly, don’t forget about the power of prayer! God is ready for you to give your concerns to Him. He knows your struggles and your negative thoughts, and He’s ready to guide you as you strive every day to “finish strong”!

Summarized from Healthy Lifestyle, Stress Management, by Mayo Clinic Staff

Will Laptops Save Education?

by Dr. Dawn Wilson, Associate Professor of Instructional Technology

The beginning of a new school year brings renewed energy and new initiatives. Districts work all summer planning for improved ways to increase student achievement and enhance teacher productivity. In Houston, school districts are also rolling out new plans to increase students’ achievement as well as their 21st Century skills.

This year, Houston Independent School District will distribute laptops to every student in 29 of its high school campuses (the final 11 will get them next year) as part of it’s PowerUp initiative. Many other districts are following suit, rolling out 1-1 access to technology for their students either through BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives or district supported technology initiatives.

How will all this technology in the classroom affect learning? Well not at all, unless the teachers have been given the time, tools and support to change their teaching strategies in the classroom. Teaching and learning won’t really improve unless the pedagogy is modified to fit the new teaching environment. Providing digital devices for students is a great first step, but it will just function like an ereader or etextbook (a different way to take in the same information) unless teachers learn how to change to a more student-centered teaching and learning environment.

Problem Solving with TechnologyIn these new classrooms, students should be collaborating as they research content, analyze and synthesize the information and then find a way to represent their learning using these new tools they have at their fingertips. Students can create videos, animations, websites, blog, even tweet to demonstrate what they are learning. No longer do teachers need to create a PowerPoint to deliver content to students telling them everything they need to know, but instead they should be designing and facilitate learning activities that engage students in learning what they need to about the content. Then the fun part starts. The teachers allow the students to use any number of creative ways to demonstrate what they have learned and how this information is relevant today.

How are teachers going to learn this new pedagogy? It is probably not going to happen by attending a summer technology workshop. Instead, teachers need to be given the time to learn from each other. They need to rethink instructional strategies. Peer-coaching and instructional-coaching are both professional development methods which have shown positive effects on teaching, but it requires an investment of time and people. Teachers need time to meet together, share what they are doing, and try new things. Teachers learn best when the learning is targeted (something for their own discipline that they can use right away), scaffolded, and differentiated (don’t we encourage this for our own students learning).

In order for all of this technology to make a difference for students, we need to be sure the needs of our teachers are being addressed in personal and meaningful ways. School districts need to find ways to address the needs of the individual teacher, while also reaching the masses, and teachers need to find ways to invest in themselves and share their successes! When they create a great new technology rich lesson that works – share it with other teachers!

So all you teachers out there…increase your own personal learning community.  Reach out to  teachers on other campuses that teach what you teach! Connect with others using social media! Partner with another teacher on your campus to learn how to use a new tool with your students. Partner with your students to try something new. Don’t be afraid! Get connected! Make a difference in a student’s life! Make the 2014 school year your most innovative school year yet!

Developing Strategies and Heart for the Culturally Responsive Classroom

by Dr. Kaye Busiek, Assistant Professor

inclusion

The number of culturally diverse students in American public schools is rising (Davis & Bauman, 2013), and the academic needs of far too many of these students are not being met (Rychly & Graves, 2012).  Consequently, schools need to find ways to prepare curricular and instructional opportunities more effectively for our diverse learners so that more of them can be successful in the future.

 Students are highly influenced by their personal characteristics, experiences, challenges, and choices (Howard-Hamilton, 2000).  The various experiences that students bring to the classroom, such as family beliefs and values, form the foundation of how learning will be perceived and processed by them.  Teachers who respect the differences in their students (i.e., ethnicity, gender, social class, age, religion, geographical origin, race, sexual orientation, and exceptionality) are better able to meet their learning needs.

Culturally responsive behavior is defined by Gay (2002) as “using the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively” (p. 106).  According to Wlodkowski and Ginsberg (1995), students’ motivation for learning cannot be separated from their culture.  Teachers must avoid taking a neutral stance on the culturally diverse make-up of their classroom and instead embrace ways they can weave relevant aspects of students’ lives (e.g., values, traditions, language, learning styles, and relationship norms) into the fabric of their curriculum and pedagogy.

According to Howard-Hamilton (2000), teachers can be more effective if they limit the use of instructional strategies that focus on more traditional, teacher-directed models of teaching and learning (e.g., lecture, grades, and content mastery), replacing it with student-centered, engaged learning opportunities that are meaningful and respectful of their cultural differences.  A culturally responsive teacher regularly utilizes four practices:  (1) empathy and caring, (2) sincere reflection of their own beliefs about people from cultures other than their own, (3) recognition of their own cultural frame of reference, and (4) knowledge acquisition about other cultures (Rychly & Graves, 2012).

Caring and empathetic teachers develop healthy relationships with their students while holding them to a high standard of achievement (Rychly & Graves, 2012).  They demonstrate friendliness, warmth, affection, respect, and security in a family-type environment (Brown, 2011).  At the same time, culturally responsive teachers are assertive—establishing their authority by clearly stating expectations and consistently enforcing rules and policies.  Every student is expected to learn, and underachievement is unacceptable.

In order to respond successfully to the culturally diverse needs of students, teachers need to reflect on their own beliefs about people from other cultures (Rychly & Graves, 2012).  Teachers typically ask students to adapt their learning style to fit the teacher’s instructional style.  Tomlinson and Javius (2012), however, state that teachers should following the “platinum rule” rather than the “golden rule”:  Treat others as they want to be treated.  Teachers would be wise to look first at their instructional resources and practices from the students’ standpoint.  This examination might reveal that traditional practices and material represent the highlights and successes of a society to which they cannot relate (Howard-Hamilton, 2000).  By continuing to maintain status quo, teachers can perpetuate stereotypes and one-sided thinking due to the authoritative position of the classroom teacher.

Once teachers get in touch with their own perceptions and biases about people from other cultures, they must recognize the parameters of their own frame of reference (Rychly & Graves, 2012).  This frame of reference may view students from diverse backgrounds as underachievers who are incapable of achieving at high levels.

Finally, once teachers understand the importance of getting to know the culturally diverse backgrounds of their students, they will need to acquire information that can guide instructional planning, delivery, and assessment.  Surveys, questionnaires, and informal discussions can be utilized to learn about the interests of their students–such as music, art, hobbies, and sports (Rychly & Graves, 2012)—their communication styles, their educational successes and failures of the past, and their learning style preferences.

When teachers commit to curriculum and pedagogy that is culturally responsive, “they are able to move forward in ways that respond to the differences instead of holding all classroom participants to their own standards or views” (Rychly & Graves, 2012, p. 48).   Howard-Hamilton (2000) contends that teachers may need to incorporate more of the following:  cooperative learning, reading selections with a multicultural perspective, and the intentional infusion of diverse opinions and perspectives in class discussions.  Tomlinson and Javius (2012) state that culturally diverse students will benefit when they are allowed to celebrate and showcase their differences, are invited to discuss their similarities, are asked to make meaning in multiple ways, are engaged in rigorous learning opportunities, can make connections to their own lives utilizing authentic products (i.e., letters, projects, and projects), can utilize a wide range of resources (i.e., print, audio, video, Internet), and learn skills for independence and self-direction.  It behooves every educator to seriously consider what steps need to be taken in their educational practice so that every learner can be engaged in continuous, meaningful learning.

 

References

Brown, D. F. (2011).  Urban teachers’ use of culturally responsive management strategies.  Theory into Practice, 42(4), 277-282.

Davis, J. and Bauman, K. (2013).  School enrollment in the United States: 2011.  United States Census Bureau.

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching:  Theory, research, and practice.  New York:  Teachers College Press.

Gay, G. (2002).  Culturally responsive teaching in special education for ethnically diverse students:  Setting the stage.  International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 15(6), 613-629.

Howard-Hamilton (Summer 2000).  Creating a culturally responsive learning environment for African American students.  New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 82, 45-53.

Rajagopal, K. (2011).  Create success:  Unlocking the potential of urban students.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

Rychly & Graves (2012).  Teacher characteristics for culturally responsive pedagogy.  The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education, 14(1), 44-49

Tomlinson & Javis (February 2012).  Teach up for excellence,  Educational Leadership, 69(5), 28-33.

Wlodkowski, R., and Ginsberg, M. B.  (September, 1995). A framework for culturally responsive teaching.  Educational Leadership, 53(1), 17-21.

In Memory of Nelson Mandela

The following blog originally appeared on April 11, 2013. At the request of Dr. Renata Nero, it is being reposted in memory of the extraordinary life of Mr. Nelson Mandela.

 

 mandela

 

July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013

A Lesson in Posttraumatic Growth

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

Earlier this year, a great man was hospitalized for a recurring respiratory problem. Some speculate that his current health challenge is related to his imprisonment where for 18 years he was confined to a small cell and forced to do hard labor in a lime quarry. Oddly enough, this same lime quarry and small prison cell may have prepared him to lead a nation. This great man is Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

In 1964, Nelson Mandela arrived on Robben Island to serve a life sentence. He along with other co-defendants were accused of plotting to overthrow South Africa’s apartheid regime and convicted of sabotage. His time in prison easily could have spiraled into a life-sentence filled with bitterness, unforgiveness, and hopelessness. Instead it was turned into a series of opportunities for Mr. Mandela to strengthen his commitment to seeking justice and radically transforming the lives of those around him.

One of the opportunities he seized while in prison was establishing a “university”. This “university” was secretly housed in a cave and was beyond the view of the prison guards. The prison guards intended for the cave to be used as a restroom for prisoners working in the lime quarry. Instead, in this unlikely place, Mr. Mandela established a school where history and politics, among other subjects, were taught to fellow prisoners who had little to no formal education prior to being imprisoned at Robben Island.

Furthermore, despite being confined to a small cell where he slept on the floor, Mr. Mandela used this as an opportunity to learn from the prison guards. He entered into debates with them and studied their worldview, history and language. In so doing, he was in a stronger position to form a coalition government with all South Africans once he was released from prison and elected to the highest office in the land. This was yet another way Mr. Mandela transformed his prison sentence into preparation for the presidency.

Romans 12:2 instructs believers to take a Godly perspective when it comes to considering life’s circumstances. In Mr. Mandela’s case, he took a constructive approach when dealing with injustice. As a result, he saw new opportunities he would have missed otherwise, developed relationships with the prison guards he could have viewed as “the enemy”, and became a symbol of strength and courage to people around the world. Conversely, the worldly way of dealing with injustice is to vow revenge, retaliate and harbor unforgiveness. This clearly is contrary to the Word of God. Well, what about those persons who do not subscribe to biblical teaching? Is there a psychological correlate to support this biblical teaching? The answer is “yes” and is found in the area of posttraumatic growth research.

Posttraumatic growth (PTG) research is the systematic study of how adversity has the potential to lead to positive change. Examples of positive change that may result from a traumatic event include the following: 1) finding opportunities and possibilities in the midst of the crisis; 2) developing a closer identifcation with those who suffer; 3) appreciating life more fully; 4) discovering a new level of personal or inner strength and 5) deepening convictions or spiritual beliefs (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).

In closing, there are PTG lessons all around us and one need not be a world leader in order to experience growth through adversity. By choosing to look at and respond to painful life circumstances in a constructive way, there is the potential to exceed the quality of life enjoyed prior to the crisis. Finally and not surprisingly, the biblical imperative for believers to renew one’s mind is not just good for spiritual growth but for psychological well-being as well.

Reference

Tedeschi, R. G. and Calhoun, L. G. (2004). Posttraumatic growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psychological Inquiry. 15 (1), 1-8.

The Teacher’s Tale

teachers taleby Dr. Eloise Hughes

I am often comforted by the fact that God not only looks on the outside of a person but most of all concentrates on our inner selves.

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

Good to know, right?

And I wonder if we, as teachers, should follow His example more closely as we look at and evaluate our students.  Who knows what each child is carrying around on his or her shoulders?  (illness; family death; divorce of parents; peer pressure; abuse; hunger, etc.) How can you tell if each student is performing at his/her potential or is operating with handicaps that are not visible to the rest of us?

How quickly do we judge students’ abilities and motivation at the same time we ourselves are being defensive when others are critical of our teaching? We demand more evidence and second opinions when administrators, parents and students label our work as inferior; however, do we give our students the same benefit-of-the-doubt approach?  Something to think about…

About 25 years ago as I worked on my Med at HBU, I was assigned a “big book” project by our then literacy professor, Dr. Ruth Ann Williamson.  At the time, I was teaching senior English at Westbury Christian School, and as all senior English teachers know, criticism of the content material can be excessive at times, especially if it’s not written in modern English.  The Canterbury Tales is an excellent example of wonderfully entertaining literature that is difficult to understand and often grumbled about by the students required to read and evaluate it.  And so I devised an assignment to add some interest in this historical piece of fiction.  Each of us, including me, the teacher, would write an original “tale” to add to Chaucer’s collection. As you may or may not remember, each tale had to have a lesson or moral, and I knew just the moral I wanted my tale to include.  The text is below, and there is an Animoto video linked here:     The Teacher’s Tale.

The Teacher’s Tale

By Dr. Eloise Hughes

Loosely based on The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer

 

The journey proceeded the day was gone.

The way to Canterbury was weary and long.

The group made camp at a convenient place.

The were tired after a trip of grueling pace.

 

The host decided a story was needed;

The tale of the teacher was now to be heeded.

She sat by the fire, the pilgrims around,

Patiently waiting for her to expound.

                                                                                                 

The teacher, a large old lady with spunk

Pulled out a book from her bag full of junk.

“This volume,” said she, “is full of adventure.”

The pilgrims scoffed, wanting her story to censure.

 

“Once upon a time, a long time ago,

I showed this same book to some students I know.

They, too, were skeptical.  In fact, they moaned,

‘Not another story from old England!’ they groaned.

 

“But when I opened the book and began to read

from an author who closely followed Bede,

They were introduced to a variety of pleasures.

Who knew that books could be filled with great treasures?

 

“Merchants, knights, nuns, farmers and wives…

The characters made the plot exciting with their lives.

Riddles were solved, and love was extolled;

Villains were thwarted, and heroes were bold.

 

“The stories contained teachings and morals

Learned from mistakes and even from quarrels.

The students were aghast!  They’d really had fun

When the reading was finished, and all the work done.

 

“The pupils had come to a surprising insight—

That sometimes, MAYBE, the teacher was right!

So, you see dear pilgrims, if all of our stories were put

Into a volume that was someday old, all covered with soot,

 

“And students asked to study it thought it bland

Were surprised to learn that pilgrimages in old Engelande

Were made up of a variety of people, all classes…

Religious, scholarly and poor, both lads and lasses

Sharing their lives, dreams, souls, and rhymes,

The future folk could better understand our times.

 

“A book must be opened, its chapters to share

With adventures and thrills beyond compare!

And so dear pilgrims, you, too, can discover

 

“A book should never

be judged by its cover”

 

And here are photos of the book I created; remember in 1990, the only way to cut and paste required scissors and glue! The prints included are actual replicas of those published in the first editions of The Canterbury Tales.

http://www.photosbyjimhughes.com/School/The-Teachers-Tale/33303670_vrTvRG#!i=2891508988&k=bDGQJbx

Just like I wanted my students to give The Canterbury Tales a chance, I need to remember to give the same consideration to students, parents and all the others with whom I work before I make unfounded quick judgments!

Helping Digital Immigrants Achieve Citizen Status

by Dr. Dawn Wilson

Marc Prensky (2001) labeled those born after 1989 Digital Natives.  This term describes those who were exposed to digital tools from the time they were small children. In today’s schools, we have Digital Natives being taught by Digital Immigrants (whose who have had to learn the language of the digital environment). Many suggest that one of our major problems in education stems from digital immigrants teaching digital natives using archaic methods. photo(3)While there are many teachers embracing the use of technology as a tool for teaching and learning, many also choose to resist using these tools.

More and more districts are beginning to move 1-1 initiatives into their schools. For those more experienced, less technical teachers, this is a threatening shift.  Teachers must either learn to use the tools, or leave their jobs. Schools now, more than ever, are focused on efforts to challenge immigrant‘s to improve their technology use or move on.

Could it be that the digital immigrant teachers just need to shift their teaching and learning paradigm?  Recently, students in HBU’s undergraduate education program partnered with residents in a nearby senior citizen retirement center in order to help them utilize technology. photo(3) copyWe are beginning our third year of this partnership.

I found it very interesting to see how the needs of these seniors changed in the last year.  Usually seniors ask for help on email, Facebook, downloading pictures, sending e-cards and using Word.  This semester their needs have changed dramatically!  Many of the seniors brought iPads, and want to know how to use this tool for learning, brain exercise, picture taking, and communication. It was great to see the instant partnership develop as the HBU students shared their knowledge of iDevices. It was equally refreshing to see seniors so interested in learning to use technology.

photo(3) copy 2I am inspired! Watching the seniors and college students sit side by side, and investigate, problem-solve and apply new learning together made me realize that we have it all wrong in many districts and schools today. We are encouraging teachers to learn to use technology tools, and then use them with our students. I wonder why one has to happen before the other?  Teachers often resist the use of technology in their classrooms because they believe they must be experts in the tool’s use. The only way to become an expert is to jump in and begin to use the tool.  Why not capitalize on the knowledge and skills our students bring with them regarding the tools, while sharing our own content are knowledge and skills.  If we work together and collaborate as partners with tech tools in the classroom, then we can make room for the most powerful and empowering teaching and learning for all involved.  Let the students teach us what they know the most about – tech tools, and in return we will teach them the content knowledge they need.

Let’s push our egos out of the way and make room for collaborative learning with the most powerful and motivating tools as possible. Develop partnerships in the classroom for learning. It is a win-win scenario for teachers and students. Once we change our teaching paradigm, we will finally be able to overcome the real digital divide.

An Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks

Image

by Dr. Dawn Wilson, Associate Professor in Educational Technology

After  over 20 years, I have just completed teaching my first few sections of an online course.  I must admit, while initially skeptical of the whole idea, I find myself rather pleased at the outcome.  At the same time, it helped me to shift some of my thinking about teaching and learning not only online but also in face-to-face contexts.

I teach courses that help educators learn how to integrate technology in the classroom.  These teachers believe a lot in the face-to-face classroom.  When I began this process, I was not sure if students could produce the same kinds of learning in an online course verses the face-to-face course.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like teaching online.  I too love the face-to-face interactions I get to have with students as they are learning something new.  You know, that aha moment!  I hated to miss out on those moments.  Additionally, in my face-to-face courses (technology integration mostly), there are often levels of remediation that takes place as students navigate the use of new software and tools. I wasn’t sure how that would translate to an online environment.  

It turns out, students were able to produce the same learning regardless of their environment. I also learned that in the online environment, the best part was to watch the students support each other’s learning. The online discussions and Q&A forums became places where students could be encouraged, challenged and supported by someone other than me in the classroom. This was awesome to read and watch in action. It was truly a powerful learning community focused on the topics of the week.  By the end of each discussion I had heard comments from every class member (when was the last time that ever happened in a face-to-face-class). In addition, I was able to personally give feedback and comments about student products and contributions to the discussion each week to each class member (again, when was the last time that happened in a face-to-face class). I loved the fact that while I designed the instruction and created the learning environment, there were many voices in the instructional environment – not just mine. I learned new things along with my students as they explored topics in ways I had not thought about initially.

It was also fascinating to watch my graduate students begin to embrace the possibility and the benefits of online or blended or flipped instruction.  They found the individualized feedback and time on task very valuable.  In a world where we are all asked to differentiate, they found online learning itself to be differentiated (especially by pace) for the student.  One student may need an hour to accomplish a task, while the next may need to rewatch or reread things several times before clearly understand the content.  If the course is constructed well, students should also have a way to practice the content and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.  Assessment should include not only multiple choice tests or quizzes, but also discussions, projects, presentations and exams. 

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t have it completely figured out.  I need to be more intentional about guiding and facilitating the level of the depth in the student postings. I need to make refinements in some of the rubrics to more clearly delineate good from great learning artifacts. I need to find better ways to manage all of this work – individualized feedback, requires extra time, and I haven’t mastered a manageable system.

What I am most encouraged to find that graduate students now have many options available for them as they choose to extend and expand their learning.  These choices will only grow as we advance our vision of online learning.  As I have watched the Khan Academy model grown in acceptance, I find I am even more encouraged about how these models can enhance even our K12 and undergraduate student experiences. 

In Disrupting Class Christensen suggests that computer assisted learning will revolutionize teaching and learning.  Student will sit in front of a computer and between the program and the computer and the student, learning progress will be made.  My recent experiences have me looking for ways to build a learning community for teaching and learning. We are challenged to dig deeper in a learning community, and I found my role as teacher/facilitator in the online class different.  I spent much more time thinking about, planning and preparation for the learning.  Then once the class began, I spent more time individualizing instruction.  Students functioned, not as an island, but within an online learning community constantly challenging each other.  This teaching and learning model is a win-win scenario for our students.  I can’t wait to do it all again!

He Did It!

by David Keith Moss, Assistant Director of Compliance HBU

On this Memorial Day let’s remember the men and women who fought and died in service to protect our country and to continue to provide us the freedom we have today! We often times take that freedom for granted and more times if we take the time to recognize the freedom, we don’t acknowledge the people who suffered and died to provide us that freedom! Please take a moment today to sit back and thank God for those military men and women who gave their lives for us, to provide the freedoms we enjoy today. One of those freedoms is that of reading our Bibles and loving the Lord our God out loud!

 

What do I mean by loving God out loud? I mean to have the freedom to carry a Bible, to talk openly about your belief and to speak boldly about your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. We have that freedom, but do we evoke the right to speak about it openly? I am so guilty of shying away from opportunities to claim Him to others and actually am ashamed that sometimes I get hesitant when I say God bless to a cashier or waiter for fear they will reject or that I will hurt their feelings. Why is that? Because I go on my own power and I allow self to enter into the equation of being rejected. What I need to hang on to and to carry with me is the power of the Holy Spirit and through his power and love I can overcome that fear and fight off the thoughts of rejection and boldly claim Jesus Christ as my Lord.

 

My prayer is that each of us would take heed to God’s truth and listen to Christ’s words when he spoke them to the large crowd who was following him in Luke 14:25-35. What does it mean to follow Him? Jesus was telling the people, his followers, his disciples what the cost looked like, meant and the importance for each of them then and for us today, to weigh those costs by looking closely at what those costs would amount to. He uses the example of how a builder would look at a costs of building a tower to find out if he had enough to complete the project. He is asking us to do the same when it comes to following him. Take the time, do your homework and observe and study what it would means and what it takes to be a Christ follower. Jesus was encouraging those who were following him to either go deep or go back! Are we allowed to be a minimum requirement Christian? Or does He expect us to be a maximum commitment disciple?

 

My question to us is: have we weighed the costs and is our desire to be a Christ follower?  Can we follow and remain a minimum requirement Christian? My study shows me we don’t have the choice and if we claim to be a Christian the only way is to become a maximum commitment disciple!

HE DID IT!

Let’s Do IT!

Your friend and fellow follower of Christ!

Let’s go and make a difference both globally as well as locally, by loving people where they are and loving them till they ask why!

Can You Be Spiritual and Not Religious?

James 1:27. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

1 Corinthians 10:3-5.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

 

by Dr. Tom Kennedy

“I’m spiritual but not religious.”  I hear and read this many times.  What does this phrase mean? For people who do research in the area of religion and spirituality, however, separating the two is very difficult, if not impossible.  For millennia the word religious had about the same meaning as the word spiritual.

Today religion is popularly labeled as the doctrine and beliefs of a group.  Spirituality, on the other hand, is individualized and only concerns itself with the relationship of that person to the sacred or transcendent (Koenig, 2005, pp. 44-45). Yet current research finds that at least 74% of people do not make a distinction between religion and spirituality.  How then can we best define the relationship between the two?

In my young adult novel, My First Week in Heaven, I gave an analogy of that relationship.  Let’s assume we have an imaginary child who represents the relationship between religion and spirituality.  The skin, muscles, heart, and other tissues represent the child’s spirituality.  The bones represent his/her religion.

First, correct religion, like bones, provides the proper structure for spirituality.  Spirituality grows in distorted ways without religion.  Imagine reaching over and grabbing the child’s head.  Then imagine lifting up the skeleton out of the imaginary child.  What would happen?  Spirituality would collapse to the floor,

Secondly, religion, like bones, also provides much of the immune system for spirituality.  It helps to fight toxic influences that may corrupt one’s spirituality.  Two of the most toxic influences are the individual’s own selfishness and the willingness to let other people control one’s spirituality.  Of course, if religion itself becomes corrupt, one’s spirituality also becomes corrupt.

Many people think of spirituality as perfect and incorruptible.  Unfortunately, that is not true.  Non-religious spirituality emphasizes special experiences, something you feel.  If there are no feelings to this kind of spirituality, people would not pursue it. I have heard of many strange experiences that were labeled ‘spiritual’ just because there was a burst of pleasant feeling involved.

Perhaps we need to look at who has the right to define religion, spirituality and their relationship.  In I Corinthians 10:4 spirituality is defined as a relationship with Jesus.  Religion in the Bible is a catalyst for that relationship.  The Bible is equally clear that religion and spirituality are not defined by us.  They are only defined by God.  He didn’t ask advice about spirituality and religion at the beginning of humanity and he doesn’t ask us now.  He has already figured it out.

Jesus died on the cross to make God’s religion and spirituality alive, dynamic and interactive with each other.  There is no option to delete one or the other.  So, can you be spiritual and not religious?  I would say, yes.  But this kind of spirituality is weak and directionless, or worse, narcissistic.  Jesus wanted us to have a vibrant faith that focuses on him and he wants us to use the teachings of the Bible to shape both our religion and our spiritual interactions with him and God.  

That is just good psychology.

Koenig, H. G. (2005). Faith and mental health: Religious resources for healing.  Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Press

Summer Vacation 101

Dr. Carol McGaughey

 As everyone knows, summer vacation is a carry-over from the agrarian era when school children were needed during the summer months to assist on the family farm. In this digital age when school children are taken to farms on fieldtrips or play Farmville to learn about farms, this is certainly not a reason to have a summer vacation, yet the break from school still persists. Why?

    Well, first the mythology of summer vacation needs to be examined more closely. According to historians at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum that recreates an 1830’s New England farming village, farm children attended school from December to March and from mid-May to August.  Rural students were not in session in spring or fall so students could help with spring planting and the autumn harvest. Urban schools in the 1800’s were on an 11 month school year to provide a safe, affordable place for the children of immigrants to stay while their parents worked. These students had no summer vacation, despite the common belief that summer vacation is a legacy from the era of farming. So, how did having a vacation in the summer begin?

    According to Professor Ken Gold of City University in New York, school reformers of the late 19th century instituted summer vacation for several reasons, none of which relate to agriculture. First, reformers wanted a standardized school year for the urban and rural communities.  The rural essentially had two terms; summer and winter; while the urban schools ran all year with time off for holidays. The compromise was to remove the summer term with school in session the rest of the year except for important holidays. So, with otheravailable choices, why remove the summer term?

    The wealthy families in urban areas vacationed during the summer, thus pupils were absent for long stretches of time. That was certainly positive for these children as the heat in urban school buildings without air conditioning was stifling causing many other children to stay out of school at that time as well. Additionally, doctors of the era actually thought it was medically unwise to confine students in a classroom year-round. They believed a break was needed. Finally, the summer months were a time for teachers to train as there were few colleges to attend for certification but an availability of summer teacher training.

    Thus, the summer vacation was born. Over the years, it became entrenched in American culture, and the economy began to depend on the many facets that accompanied this extended break from school. Whatever the origin, college students, and their professors, look forward to a time to rest and recharge, to regenerate and re-invent, to remember and reflect.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

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