Hope

My journey of personal observations which I have made over the years to apply Bible reading in my life.

Psalm 130:7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
Observation
God redeems us from our sin and its consequences out of an expression of His love which is sacrificial and selfless. That is our hope when all else fails, it is our hope before self reliance, it is our hope in the beginning and in the end.
Application in my life
I read where the United Nations commission on global warming says that human life will be affected by rising surface temperatures, water will not be available to sub saharan areas of Africa and similar lands, millions of square miles of habitats along the coastline will be under water, and crops will not grow in areas where they currently do. People will migrate in order to survive and less food will be available to feed the growing planet’s population. I did not feel very good about our future reading this. The experts predicted violence and unrest by groups of people in reaction to the climate changes.

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Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is an example of the increased harm climate change has already brought into the environment today, which is more violent and deadly weather than ever before. When I think about the bleak picture that this presents, verses such as Psalm 130:7 help to provide a calm that comes with the realization that although I may not be able to place much hope and confidence in governments or corporations or other people, I do have a God with whom my hope belongs. While I believe †he increase in greenhouse gases do to human consumption is partly the result of sinful behavior and unwise choices, I also believe we all have a responsibility to do what we can to fix it.
My prayer
Lord help use providence to deal with the consequences of global warming, provide us shelter and safety from the storms ahead, let us act wisely to minimize the harm that the destructive production of greenhouse gasses has brought upon us. Allow us to see Your vision for a lifestyle that is a blessing and not a curse, Amen

Balanced Living

My journey of personal observations which I have made over the years to apply Bible reading in my life.
James 4:13-15 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say,” If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Observation
James admonishes against the sin of worldliness and is speaking specifically to a certain kind of behavior that people fall into, or find themselves participating in or misguidedly see as the right way to act. It becomes part of the culture and as such dominates the thinking and the lives of many who live within it, including Christians
Application in my life
So our american culture has many Christian aspects to it as it has matured over the years. Christianity has always played a part, however, many people have distorted both the culture and the religion. What I get from this discussion is the idea expressed as Balanced Living. For example, planning and goal setting are good things to do in the proper situation. But what this verse reminds me of is where God fits into all that planning and goal setting. I want to strike the right balance in my life so that I do not plan God out of it. I used to work so much that I did not have time for church. How did that plan work for me?
I like to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr who was leading a great cultural movement and died before the movement reached the point of changing American institutions. So he understood the concept of “If the Lord wills, we will live to do this or that.” And  he understood that he was a mist that appeared for a little time and then vanished. But the work can continue on with others who follow the same paths. For me it is summed up in the statement ‘redeem the time’.
My prayer
Lord if You will, let me redeem the time that I have to do the things that You direct me, that You place on my heart and are providing the spiritual force to accomplish. Let me lead a balanced life that places You at the center, and my family around the center, Amen

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Documentary: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, starring Fred Rogers

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Megyn Kelly TODAY

Documentary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, starring Fred Rogers

The film portrays the relationship between the educational children’s public television series Mister Roger’s Neighborhood (1968-2001), and its creator, writer, composer, and host, Fred Rogers.

The message of the show was simple. However the substance of the show was very deep and highly complex. A subtle irony associated with it developed around the observation that for some, the simplicity of the program may have masked the inherent brilliance from them. So they failed to appreciate the true value it had for children.

I find a parallel with the Biblical account of Jesus of Nazareth. Many of his messages appeared simple on the surface. Yet the substance of what Jesus communicated has astounded countless readers over the generations with its complexity and depth. Personally, I think that the reaction to what Jesus said tells you more about the person who forms their opinion, than it does about Christ. Comparatively, the same applies to Fred Rogers. Your reaction to him and his television show reveals more about you, than it does about the value of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

One of the takeaways for me from the documentary was how important the manner in which Fred Rogers acknowledged the dignity of each individual child was. Another was how selfless his commitment to children seemed to be. And another was the contribution he made to so many lives. There were more for me, but I’m focusing on these three.

Fred Rogers gave his total attention to children. He answered serious questions about life for them. He created an atmosphere where spending time together was more important than mindless humor, and he incorporated music to aid memory, create comfort, and impart joy. His respectful approach was unparalleled, and sadly, has not been replicated to this day.

One unique aspect of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is that while other educational programs focused on teaching reading, vocabulary and arithmetic, it focused instead on teaching kids how to think and mature as human beings, how to deal with the realities of life like friendship, responsibility, kindness. I’d imagine every key concept was covered short of income tax. Fred Rogers did this because he cared that TV could harm children if all it gave them was relative garbage (vis a vis the saying ‘garbage in garbage out’). I think it was his Christian calling, which speaks to his belief in practicing what Jesus preached.

He was determined to counter the mindless entertainment forced into homes and provide quality content for the benefit of children, regardless of the challenging circumstances or misguided critics, which often were too many. My favorite part of the film was when Rogers faced off against the U.S. Senate effort to cut funding for public television in order to put the money into the Vietnam War. The documentary is well worth seeing for just that scene alone.

The contribution Fred Rogers made to the lives of so many people is best exemplified by his statement that ‘you are special just the way you are’. He believed this about himself, and he was aware that so many children struggled in their childhood and later in life because of their lack of self esteem and the emotional and psychological handicaps inflicted upon them as a result. His legacy, generations of well adjusted people, is a testament to what he was able to accomplish because of this belief.

Wisdom

My journey of personal observations which I have made over the years to apply Bible reading in my life.
Hebrews 9:8 The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing. Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.
Observation
In the letter the author is explaining the transformation taking place between the old covenant that began with Abraham and the new covenant that exists with the ministry of Jesus Christ. He mentions that people did not know the way into the most holy place during the old covenant. Christ provides this new knowledge through His position as the new high priest
Application to my life 
As a professor I am often reminded that I am most effective when I find ways to help others learn new things. The more new things I am able to learn, the more effective I can be teaching others. Similarly, God continuously reminds us that wisdom is the key to understanding, and the knowledge we gain is a blessing. The knowledge provided by the coming of Christ was good news in one particular way: that it meant the establishment of a new covenant and by that a new way of salvation became available for all who would choose to accept it. This is what God wants Christians to share; to teach, to anyone willing to believe it. There are so many people today – all around the world – who do not have this knowledge and who would choose to accept it, if only someone would teach it to them.
My Prayer
I pray that I may do my part to help others learn about the new covenant and the good news of Christ. I pray that I continue to learn by prayer, and by reading the Bible, so that I can better share these truths and so that I can help others grow while I grow and increase in knowledge about being a disciple. Lord strengthen me in these areas, Amen.

 

Book Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I read Small Great Things during a time when racial animus seemed to be causing so much harm in America. I did some research before choosing to read it. I needed the book to have value to me, for the time and effort I planned to commit. I wanted the book to make me better somehow. If it could do that, then perhaps I could recommend it to others for similar reasons.

What I liked.

This is a book about consequences. I call it a picture book. For it depicts how we can take people, make negative assumptions about them, hinder them from having prosperous lives, limit their educational potential, send them countless messages to convince them they are inferior, and create a system that severely punishes them, whether they deserve it or not.

By depicting this, the book allows us to ask ourselves why does this happen? How could it be tolerated? The author tells the story from points of view that enable us to think about ourselves, critically, and determine if we are part of the problem, part of the solution, or both.

The first person POV forces you to engage in the story, doesn’t allow you to remain on the sidelines as a bystander, watching others passively. It makes you uncomfortable, forces you to feel the emotions, the guilt, the pain, anger and frustration of being lost in a world that appears to provide little more than wrong answers. Choices between lesser evils.

What is the message? Somethings are very wrong here. This should not be. This need not continue. It will, unless.

The 3 main POV characters are very real, well fleshed out human beings whose thoughts and beliefs are given great attention. Their family and friends are well developed and multidimensional too. This is a world you will recognize, as all too familiar. Just as much attention is paid to the thoughts as it is to the words that are spoken and the actions taken by the victim’s family, the accused, and the legal professionals handling the case.

I believe this is a courageous piece of fiction by Jodi Picoult. My hope is that more talented authors have the desire and willingness to do something like this. Make a real contribution to the reading community of something that they can use to improve their knowledge, their understanding, and their ability to grow morally. To find the difference between right and wrong, and choose justly.

What I didn’t like.

I have personally seen many people stand up and defend others who have been mistreated. So I know first hand what good things we are capable of. Yet why does it seem that the world around us is getting worse? Why do things appear so hopeless? Small Great Things is stuck in a world doomed to repeat its failures, with the resulting damage to our culture, our economy, and our future. Not good. Yet I can’t so much blame the book as much as I can recognize that the fault lies with the society that the book explores. If this is an accurate reflection of the world we live in, maybe the best thing to do is for us face the reality that our ship is taking on water. So let’s figure out how best to bail while we form a plan to plug the leak.

What you should know.

Jodi Picoult has mastered her craft. She is famous for the research she does into each novel. You will learn something. Will you like it? Will it entertain you? Should these be your main considerations? If the hardest things in life require the most effort, if they can only be achieved by having all available gifts and talents working together in a cohesive team with a common objective, what is your role? What are you doing about it? How much damage is your inaction causing? This book may help you find these answers.

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Book Review: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Book Review: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

What I liked.

This is a smart story. It’s action packed for those who like the genre. It is also suspenseful and stuffed with dramatic confrontations. It isn’t just smartly told. The prose is easy to follow with a good bit of humor for such a serious subject, an act of cyber warfare on the United States. This is one of the highly charged current topics up for debate as the modern world becomes more and more dependent on artificial intelligence and we realize how much of the essentials we take for granted are interconnected in an invisible cyberspace that has little, if any, existence in a tangible form.

Why is this an important issue all of us should think about? Here are some reasons. How much money do you have? What is the source of your income? Your savings? Your investments? Your health benefits? What physical proof of them exists? How much of our basic needs, water, electricity, communication, depend on the electronic grids that help facilitate them? How vulnerable are we individually and collectively as a society if we do not protect them well enough from potential enemies?

All of these ideas and more are addressed in this novel. But it’s all done in a very entertaining fashion. It doesn’t preach, lecture, or promote an ideologically biased point of view. It delivers the news. Then lets you, the reader figure things out for yourself.

On a deeper level the story is strong in the way it touches on key themes such as trust, integrity, political animosity, and prejudice. I applaud that effort because I think it’s true that if we don’t work on removing stereotypes and establish priorities that put the common interests of most people first so that we avoid trying to create winners and losers in every important area, we may wake up to find out that we have already lost what few other nations have ever had, a secure republic that works for every American who is willing to work hard to live with liberty and pursue what makes them happy.

What I didn’t like.

Some of the characters were not developed well at all. They were primarily present to move the plot along without delving deep enough into their motives or moral dilemmas. I’m not sure they even had any! So the problems a world power like the U.S. faces from external threats aren’t going to be fixed by such a simplistic worldview that is barely defined. I will admit that we have to figure out our internal problems before we can best understand foreign threats. So I hope the next novel following this, if there is one, makes an effort to look at where our enemies come from and what we can do to mitigate their creation.

What you should know.

This is a book for the average everyday reader. It isn’t full of technical, high level complexity. Although it has a message that everyone should consider. There is nothing wrong with simplifying things in order to make the story more enjoyable for most. If you are looking for the intricate details found in some of the more intellectual offerings from other authors, try not to be too disappointed. Think of it as a fun summer read.

Recommendation: Must Read

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Undergrad Summer Reading

How to get the most out of your online college class.

I’ve been teaching undergraduate courses via computer for about a decade. Here are some tips based on my personal experience that can help you get the biggest return on the investment of your time and energy within this type of learning environment.

Because it is so foreign to the traditional face to face classroom model that students have learned to navigate most of their lives, students often arrive in an “online” class unprepared. This can create the kinds of obstacles that lead to less that the ideal conditions for learning excellence.

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The traditional class has set days and times where the student is present and focused primarily on receiving new information and knowledge about the subject material. Their complete attention is committed to listening to the direction of an instructor and they face immediate consequences for not having prepared in advance by reading, studying, and note taking. Questions are addressed in a manner that allows for immediate clarification and professors are able to offer multiple examples which can help cement the learning of new concepts. Students can also employ multiple learning modalities in one setting by vocalizing their thoughts, hearing the information spoken, seeing visual representations of the content and writing down cogent facts that have significance.

The typical online class has no set day, no set time. Students must make a conscious decision about when, where, and even how they will engage with the material. That engagement is first and foremost, reading, reading and more reading! Any writing, listening, speaking or visualization are primarily brought about by the student deciding to add those aspects by introducing each of them on their own. Would the typical student know how to? Would they even recognize the need to do it in order to learn better?

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Tip: if offered, attend an online orientation course.
These courses are designed specifically to educate students on the unique challenges online classes present so that students can equip themselves with appropriate strategies to do well.

Tip: Plan to study the first available day that you have for each learning module.
Each online class is divided into modules that take place over a number of days. Students who perform best start their work on the first day that the module is assigned. They read the assigned material. They take notes. They learn the definitions of new terms and they quiz themselves on key concepts that they have identified. Verbal quizzing – saying the answers out loud – is a good way to add 2 modalities. Reading and taking notes or highlighting is not enough by itself to retain a large enough amount of the information. By studying early, you allow yourself time to absorb new knowledge. In a few days you can review the material and find out how much you have already retained. This is critical for an online student. You can then take the remaining available time to focus on the parts you’ve yet to memorize. Also, you can ask questions or ask for any help from the instructor. Students who wait until the module is almost over to begin working have lost the ability to benefit from any of these practices.

Tip: Engage in the class as often as possible.
Many classes attempt to simulate the face to face dynamic that occurs with discussion groups and professor led seminars. This is done by allowing students to ‘text message’ one another during the module to exchange ideas about various topics. Instructors know how important this community building is for student success so they often provide detailed written guidance on how to interact with other students for maximum benefit. Many students do not follow the instructions. Instead they assume a level of participation that they think is required and commit to do only that much. That falls far short of the engagement needed to help not just the particular student but everyone else in the class as well. Imagine that you are in a traditional face to face classroom and the three other people assigned to your small group discussion do not say a word to you during the entire class. Even when you ask each of them a specific question, they just look at you and stay completely silent. Finally, after you have reached the point where you have given up all hope after patiently waiting for a reply – the instructor announces ‘time’s up’ and asks each group to report out on your discussion – your classmate whispers to you, ‘I agree with what you said’. What did you get out of that?

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Tip: Reader; know thyself.
How good of a reader are you? What is your reading comprehension? There are reading strategies that teach how to get the most information in the shortest amount of time from textbooks. Did you know that? Do you use any of them? Colleges typically have the ability to score textbooks on their level of readability – how hard it is for the average student to read it and understand it. You should find out the readability of your class textbook and compare it with your own reading level. This will tell you how much work you have cut out for you. Ultimately, an online class will be based on how much reading you do and how much you are able to learn from reading.  Here are 3 reading systems that I share with students. Try each of them and test your results. You can also modify them or combine the best parts, tailoring them to what suits you best.

SQ3R

P2R

S-RUN

Excerpt from The President is Missing

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Why you want to read The President is Missing:

Participation in our democracy seems to be driven by the instant-gratification worlds of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and the  twenty-four-hour news cycle. We’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations. The media knows what sells—conflict and division. It’s also quick and easy. All too often anger works better than answers; resentment better than reason; emotion trumps evidence. A sanctimonious, sneering one-liner, no matter how bogus, is seen as straight talk, while a calm, well-argued response is seen as canned and phony. It reminds me of the old political joke: Why do you take such an instant dislike to people? It saves a lot of time.

What happened to factual, down-the-middle reporting? That’s hard to even define anymore, as the lines between fact and fiction, between truth and lies, gets murkier every day.

We can’t survive without a free press, dedicated to preserving that fine line and secure enough to follow the facts where they lead. But the current environment imposes serious pressures on our journalists, at least those who cover politics, to do just the reverse—to exercise their own power and to, in the words of one wise columnist, “abnormalize” all politicians, even honest, able ones, often because of relatively insignificant issues.

Scholars call this a false equivalency. It means that when you find a mountain to expose in one person or party, you have to pick a molehill on the other side and make it into a mountain to avoid being accused of bias. The built-up molehills also have large benefits: increased coverage on the evening news, millions of retweets, and more talk-show fodder. When the mountains and molehills all looks the same, campaigns and governments devote too little time and energy debating the issues that matter most to our people. Even when we try to do that, we’re often drowned out by the passion of the day.

There’s a real cost to this. It breeds more frustration, polarization, paralysis, bad decisions, and missed opportunities. But with no incentive to actually accomplish something, more and more politicians just go with the flow, fanning the flames of anger and resentment, when they should be acting as the fire brigade. Everybody knows it’s wrong, but the immediate rewards are so great we stagger on, just assuming that our Constitution, our public institutions, and the rule of law can endure each new assault without doing permanent damage to our freedoms and way of life.

I’d say this novel is a must read.

From Chapter 8 The President is Missing (Bill Clinton and James Patterson) © Little, Brown and Company

Faith

My journey of personal observations which I have made over the years to apply Bible reading in my life.
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Matthew 16:18
Upon this rock I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it
Observation
Faith is a foundation of Christianity.  An aspect of that faith is the belief that God has given Jesus as the savior of mankind.  Faith in that truth is the basis of being a Christian
Application in my life 
Jesus tells me that this concept is the victory in the spiritual battle between good and evil.  In the next verse Jesus refers to the keys of the kingdom.  For me I understand these keys to be repentance, prayer, praise, service, and discipleship.  Evidence of my repentance includes removal of sinful thoughts and sinful actions and also by my focusing on Godly thoughts and sacrificial behavior (doing things more for the benefit of others than myself).  Prayer is a daily communication where I open myself up to God and allow myself to hear from Him.  Praise is audible exhortation to God when I am alone or with other believers. The purpose is to please Him as a form of worship.  Service is something I do for other believers as exemplified in Paul’s teachings. Giving to and working for people in the world, both believers and non believers, are acts of service.  Discipleship includes witnessing – sharing my life and my beliefs with others, bible study, having accountability relationships where I help others mature as Christians and others help me, fellowship – spending time together, and counseling.
My prayer
Dear God, thank you for providing victorious kingdom living and the abundant life.  Let my gratitude be expressed in genuine repentance, true service to your children, and submission to your will during my daily walk.

Love

Personal observations which I have made over the years to apply Bible reading in my life.
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John 13:35
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.
Observation
Disciples of Christ are to be identified by the love they demonstrate towards each other.
Application to my life
In my life the best testimony that I will have to anyone else will be the expressions of love between myself and others whom are fellow believers and have the desire to follow Christ’s teachings.  
How are these interactions able to be seen?  
What form do they take?  
Perhaps an example is by helping them out in an area of need.  Or it happens by spending time with them.  Doing things for them.  Establishing a close relationship with them and caring about the things they care about.  But should I cause them hurt or offend them somehow, I need to quickly recognize my fault and express my sorrow and ask for forgiveness.  I also would be quick to forgive them should I be hurt by something said or done to me.
The love that this depicts is a sacrificial love.  This love is not a selfish emotion.  It chooses to place others equal to or above our own interests.  This is something that isn’t human nature.  We are selfish by nauture. That makes this something that is most challenging.  Is that why Jesus gave this command?  Jesus was giving a command that could only be accomplished with the power of God.  By being obedient to God we as fellow believers can express this kind of love.
my prayer
Lord let me obey your command every way possible, Amen.
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The Mystery of Writing and Living

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