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Don’t order that Big Mac!

Everyone go back to vacation and post pics of your food and the wildlife and the beach sunsets. Yes, Delta variant is on the rise and it is unsettling and yes, mostly un-vaxed people are afflicted, and YES many un-vaxed people appear to be getting their information from social media and unvetted news sources. In short, they are listening to people who aren’t “experts” in the field. Ok, well facebook is anything but a forum of “experts” so stop feeding the monster. If the only place you have to debate about the Covid vaccine is facebook, you are probably not qualified to provide “expert” opinions. Chances are I am not an expert either.

I am certainly not an expert of other individuals and the complexities of why they are not making the choice that is right for me. As a society, we need to clear the stage so that it becomes impossible to listen to nonsense instead of having those important conversations in private with our own medical providers. It seems to me, we are drowning out the voices that people should listen to. Shhhh! Vacation pics! We are all experts at that. Kindness. Love. Empathy and Mercy as we attempt to minister to people who, just like us, suffer the consequences of the choices they have every right to make.

My thing is fast food. Over 20 years ago, after I gave birth to Baby #4 as an older mom, I realized that, with my genes, the only chance I had of still being alive at this kid’s wedding was to give up fast food and the convenience of that. I was also aware that my being able to idle up to a drive through window and order a Quarter Pounder and large fries with a soda was a part of my class privilege. No one feels the need to question an unhealthy “skinny-fat” person driving a Lexus about her choices. It seems to me the best thing we could do to help our fellow Americans navigate Covid and heart disease and stroke and cancer and kidney failure and lupus and high risk pregnancies and just about every health problem that could be faced is not to increase minimum wage for fast food workers (which isn’t a bad idea) but to eliminate fast food altogether and force our society to relearn how to soak a pot of pinto beans and to eat slow again.

This pandemic is a complex issue and everyone who diminishes it down to a black and white decision is making it political. So stop. Everyone. Stop. In your spare time (some of you will have loads if you stop posting Covid articles on Facebook), read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Find the photo I saw this past week of a bottle of alcohol that was labeled “Government Whiskey” and was distributed along with bad cheese to Native Americans on reservations. Attempt to understand. Go stealth with the preaching to people you don’t even really know on social media and have smaller, more meaningful conversations with the people you personally know that are against the vaccine in the context of friendship and care.

And no more Taco Bell for you. 🙂

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What did you learn?

Today I engaged in a roundtable discussion with some of my amazing colleagues at McPherson College as we spent time processing what it was like to teach during the Covid-19 pandemic. The fact that President Schneider allowed time and space for us to process our experiences made me feel valued. The organizational question asked of us was “What did you learn?”

I didn’t share much at the roundtable because, well, I am a writer and why waste a good journal prompt on the spoken word when I can hoard the idea, listen to others and rush home to fill my blog with all of my insights and ideas. Here is what I learned:

  1. Most of what works in teaching during a pandemic works even better when not in a pandemic. Open communication, flexibility, patience and grace. Flexible deadlines and the willingness to communicate the same message again and again to students who have questions is something I have always done as a teacher. It was even more important during hybrid course delivery.
  2. Today’s students are often living in pandemic-like situations even when the rest of us, who are insulated from hunger, poverty, abuse, neglect, and anxiety about where the next ——– is coming from, can easily pretend the world is a stable place. When all the unknowns during Covid-19 left me taking on bad habits or attempting to escape rather than get my work done, I realized that we, as teachers, often expect our students to juggle these kinds of stressors all the time.
  3. I am not a teacher-centric teacher. If a student doesn’t know how to write a good essay, I don’t consider that an insult to me or that it is beneath me to teach such a student or that someone else in the faculty food-chain should have taught him this instead of me. The truly valuable educational moments are not mine, as the teacher, to dictate. I can plan for teachable moments, but they aren’t always going to happen according to my best-laid plans. Teachable moments operate much more like Nirvana.
  4. Flexibility and inconsistency are not the same thing.
  5. I simplified my lesson plans and it helped me to teach better. Post-pandemic, I will continue to simplify.
  6. I was cognizant throughout the pandemic that part of my job as a teacher was to model for students an honest but positive quest to thrive while in survival mode. I might not be teaching my dream lesson plan on Zoom (because my dream lesson plan consists of fully exposed faces in face-to-face format) but I could still have a good day.
  7. It was easier to allow at-risk students to fall through the cracks during the pandemic and it was much more difficult to pull them up through those cracks after they took the plunge into failure.
  8. It is ALWAYS important to take time to connect because without human connection, retention won’t happen. They will always remember how you made them feel is often quoted, but the pandemic taught me that this remembering and feeling is the only gate through which any kind of meaningful learning can be attained. This is foundational.
  9. Children learn what they live is another well-known parenting mantra, and we readily accept that this applies to small children, but what we don’t always remember is that the children in this premise grow up often to become those self-fulfilling prophecies I studied about in sociology class. Good teaching changes narratives rather than just reinforcing existing ones.

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Sign Language

God, You continue to move, like the wind, like a bird

sleep is flight for you, and I continue to move, not always

in graceful ways. Stillness is a part of dance. White space is integral to poetry. Rest empowers our wakefulness. Emptiness-fullness. Darkness-light. Instead of focusing on contentment, Lord, today I focus on its movement–on my walk. Lord, what do I do with my arms of praise? What motions might signal the elusive enough? How do I hold myself?

As an empty vessel that allows other sinners to fill me up? Do I reach

like a child in front of a blue fir for the wisps of lowest imperfection? Do I settle for this and with these stretches name myself? Let me strive for the top where the fronds are star-like and the sky

intercepts light. Let me bend my legs only to jump for more. Let me only entertain Your words and Your responses to me. Slowly and perhaps for years more slowly I am learning this; but you know what? It doesn’t matter how awkwardly we catch the current. If we learn to listen only to this, we fly.

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Freedom

This is my favorite poetic first line ever written. Sharing this poem today as we celebrate all the freedoms. This poem was published in 2013 in Relief Journal. It takes a stab at our tendencies as Christians to claim free grace for ourselves then revert immediately back to legalism. It’s a picture of what it looks like when we reject our freedom in Christ and try to earn instead of receive.

Freedom                                                                                      

God is nothing more than a psychopath                                                       

if He is everything you need him to be—

a neutered animal hiding in the bagpipes,

some pretty floral tones of devotional cover

with stretched tape measuring your thigh in shorts,

delivering pears in foil boxes at door-point.

Breathe and let the micro-manager work

His magic. Turn wine back into water.

Free from law we must obey the rules—

they multiply like cells under microscopic scrutiny.

Sweetener in your coffee? Disposable diapers?

Bible without embroidered cover? Days of the week

without to-do? Leavened bread? What, exactly,

are you praying for, exactly?

Have you so soon forgotten your legacy—

how you are related to the last century?

There is no male or female but we know

there are always cousins. Life is an organ

which must be touched at all times by all appendages—

sweat while you play. The bricks of heaven

lay before you in the street you cross

to get to the other side. And God waits in the phone booth,

 sheds the skin He died in just so you could try on these wings.