Wednesday, November 16, 2011


“You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.” 
― Dr. Seuss

We are one month into the great adventure of teaching 18 third AND fourth graders at Eglin Elementary School located on the base. It has been intense. I have put a lot into getting a handle on all the myriad of little things I need to know and DO in order to not just teach but motivate my kids to learn. There are days - like today - where I get up early and work late in order to make darn sure that I am as prepared as anyone teaching tomorrow. There are some things that would make my work easier - a projector, document camera, and a Mimio would change my instruction and make it far more engaging. But here I am.

On days like today I leave school and go directly to church to help with the supper. We are now sending out 70+ meals every Wednesday evening all over Valparaiso. When Pam Roberts came to me with the idea I was concerned that we wouldn't be able to do 30. And yet here we are. Not only that, but we are feeding five families for Thanksgiving and helping with their Christmas. Once supper is loaded and gone, then I go help with music. That used to mean playing guitar but now it's serving as another pair of ears to get the sound right and occasionally filling in for the media guru, Michael Weech. Once that is over I head over to lead prayer meeting and teach.

So yeah, Wednesday is a long day - and it gets extended now so I can get ready for school tomorrow.

It's a balancing act and once I get established in the teaching side of things, I hope to be able to spend more time on the pastoral side again. I've rediscovered the tricks I used to use when I was just starting out as a pastor to get the preparation done when time is available, whether it's planned or not.And I'm praying. praying for me to learn and grow deeper as a Christian and more able as a teacher. I'm praying - for every child every day and for their families, just as I pray for the members of the congregation.

Hardest thing I have ever done. I remember times when I was growing up that my Mother would have me doing something I felt was too much work. She'd tell me that she knew it was a lot of work, but it would make me a better person and she was doing it because she loved me.

God must love me a whole lot. :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I Love America

Our school (Eglin Elementary, on Eglin AFB) had a wonderful Veteran's Day walk Tuesday. The whole school went over to the All Wars Memorial on base, and when the buses parked, the kids and their parents (many of whom were in uniform) walked together to the memorial. The program was great. In preparation that morning, I had the kids writing about "Why I Love America". They worked for a while, and as I walked around and looked at their work, most centered on what they owned - X-Box 360, or what they could do "play video games, eat McDonald's" etc. A few said "freedom."

But not nearly enough.

So I got them all together and explained that when I was in elementary school, I was asked to recite something in a veteran's day program.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I then launched into an explanation of just why out of everything I knew or experienced of America in my life what I learned when I was about their age had stuck with me. I wanted to share it today with you. This isn't the way I explained it to 3rd and 4th graders, but my readership doesn't hold a high percentage of that demographic. :) So for you, gentle reader, here's why I love America.

We - that was huge, because until those words were penned, there was no "We", only a collection of states born from different motives and filled with people determined to live their individual lives for their own reasons. "We" was the binding principle that said to the world "We may all be individuals, but when it comes to knowing, believing, and defending at the cost of our lives if necessary - "We" are one.

Hold these truths - In the era we live in, people feel free to live their own truth. They pick it from here or there and preach toleration of whatever anyone chooses to believe. At the birth of our country, out of all the "truths" that were out there, our forefathers decided to proclaim to the world that this nation would live out a creed higher in purpose than just making a living.

That all men are created equal - I know, I know - maybe the first thing you think of is how that lofty goal took many years and the shedding of thousands of lives in a civil war to approach. And maybe you think we still aren't there. But for a nation whose inhabitants came from the rigid caste system of Europe to write this into their founding document sent to the world as why they were forming a new country - it was explosive. It marked out one corner of the world where freedom was real - or would be.

That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights - "lex rex" - the King is the law- meant that a man's rights were whatever the King said they were, or whatever the government said they were. This phrase places man's rights beyond reach of King, parliament or Congress, grounding them in God. Again, the mere idea is so far beyond anything that had ever come before in Europe, when the common man read this he knew there was one place in the world where a king's or nobleman's whims held no power over them.

"...that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." - We frequently focus on the three mentioned, but should also notice the founders knew enough to know there were more than just those three. "Among those" means that while America wanted to let the world know that those three - "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were at the core of what America aspired to be, there were things already acknowledged and truths accepted across cultures that would be part of America's genus as well. If we guarantee that rights are "inalienable" because they are given by God, we do not have to name them all.

The uniqueness of these phrases, regardless of the imperfectness of how we lived it out is why I love America. And I learned that in elementary school.

If we aren't inspiring kids today to remember what makes America great, the loss will be... everything.