Sunday, January 27, 2013

Roots & Chaff - Psalm 1 - Instruction among the Righteous

Psalm 1 contrasts the righteous, rooted like a tree planted by water -- set over against the wicked, who are like chaff.

This weekend, I shoveled my way into the earth to, yes, uproot some roots, from a bush (not even a tree) that I cut down several years ago.

Even though the ground was soft (after a rain) and the roots were dead from having been cut many years ago, it still took work with my shovel and my lever to get the first 1-2 feet of roots out of the ground.  I didn't dig any further.  It would have been too much work and I only needed to get the shallow stump out of the ground, to prevent someone from tripping.

After that job was complete, taking strenuous work for many minutes, in relatively mere seconds afterwards, I raked a few leaves into a pile and dumped them, leaving the broken-small-bits-of-leaf-debris for the wind to blow away.

I note this as I reflect on Psalm 1 which I'll teach tomorrow.

A well-planted, secure tree is truly hard to uproot.  It takes much work!  (I'm thankful the roots I removed, were long ago dead.)  The truth is - a well-planted tree like the one I have shared here (National Geographic Picture), a Redwood, really can not be uprooted, not by human hands, at the roots.  The roots stretch too far and go too deep.

Chaff - like the leaves, have no hold on anything, blown away with the breeze.

Believers are called to be rooted - firm - secure - diligent - studious - planted.  This security comes from engagement - walking, standing, sitting  - with Instruction & Torah, among other righteous

I want my life to be rooted. 

So I will plant myself in God's Instruction & seek mentorship in righteousness!

Travel to Israel - Connected to My University Work - Open for All

Many people take trips to Israel.  Wayne Stiles surveyed his travel partners to discover why so many Christians value their travel to the Holy Land

  • 98% of survey respondents noted that historical geography helps their memory of biblical events and applications.
  • 87% agreed that the study better directs them toward biblical application.
  • 96% have increased in their love for God and the Bible through the study of geography.
  • 99% agree that experiencing the land of Israel has strengthened their spiritual life.

You can travel to Israel with a trip I'll host in January 2014  - via connections with a class I teach Fall 2013.  (Taking the SNU class is not required for the travel! - Advance reading & study to appreciate what you'll see is always encouraged!)  Travel will be for 10 days - between about January 3 and 13 - but plan on January 1 to 20 - just in case!

More information will follow later in Spring 2013 - but it's a GREAT time NOW to start planning for how you will fund the trip.

Want to see actual participants from trips I've hosted sharing their experiences in short 60 second clips?

Here is descriptive information about my last trip - which will be similar to the 2014 option.

Email me at if you're interested.  

More from Wayne Stiles on the Benefits of Understanding Biblical Geography.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Divorce & Faith

As faithful as I want to be in modeling life for our children, I am reminded nearly everyday of the perspectives that shape their identity, as a result of the fact that my children are raised in two separate homes because of divorce.

I grieve over how the disruptions of these dislocations have shaped them for many, many, many years.

Sadly - a series of new reports from various studies with the Center for Marriage & Families - confirm that even "good divorces" have a strong negative effect on the faith life for the children of divorce. An executive summary for press release purposes is here.

This is "sad news" for me for the future of belief and believers - and sad news for me, very deeply, as a parent.

I wish we in our world will find better ways to love one another.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reflection on blessing.

If I had poetic skill I would compose a poem of blessings - the blessings of my life and the hope I have to extend blessing to others.

My poetic skills, limited as they are - will get me this far.

I am blessed.  I hope to extend blessing.

~ marty

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Constantly amazed - Creation is too big to imagine!

My faith claim & belief affirms a simple idea:  Creator creates Creation. What it means to describe a Creator, the Creation - and the nature of creating are complex.

What constantly astounds me alongside my faith claims, are the profound discoveries and insights gleaned from Scientific discovery.  (I've commented in the past on the Mystery I find alongside scientific insight and knowledge - here and here.)

Reuters reports that findings by academics from Britain's University of Central Lancashire were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society - revealing a group of quasars so large that they challenge Albert Einstein'sCosmological Principle.

The quasars are "so large it would take 4 billion years to cross it while traveling at speed of light."

Imagine a Universe so big, that it has no limits.  

And then - realize your imagination can not imagine enough space to contain the splendor and majesty of the Heavens!

Thank God We Didn't Stay Put

It's such a privilege of my life to be connected to great young people of faith, who embody and reflect the life of God's Kingdom.

I recently listened to a great sermon by one former student, Kyndall (Rothaus) Renfro.  In it, she reflects on who the Magi were, and how they were seeking, and what it meant - and what it means - to be on "pilgrimage" in life.

Here's a link to her excellent sermon - and a few quotes [below] - that stood out for me as I myself want to "not stay put" as I work alongside others to establish and extend God's Kingdom of Peace to our world.
'In his book, The Sacred Journey, Charles Foster says, “Pilgrimage involves doing something with whatever faith you have.”'

'Barbara Brown Taylor wrote, “The church is not a stopping place but a starting place for discerning God’s presence in the world.”[ Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church, (HarperOne: 2006).] The church is one concentrated place to see and find and hear God, but God is everywhere. '

'Charles Foster paraphrases Jesus’ message about the Kingdom of God this way: “Get up, get out, wake up, walk on, open our eyes, ask for new eyes: you’ll see it if you are really looking for it. It’s here, it’s now, it’s on the road that I’m walking . . . Do you want to see it? Walk that road too. You’re blinded by indolence, by living in the center. It’s all happening at the edges, in the forgotten places, in the places you can’t get to by car or where your auto insurers wouldn’t let you drive, among the people you’ve put out with the trash. Reclaim the ability to be taken by surprise, and you’ll see it there, glistening so brightly you will never believe you could have missed it.”[Charles Foster, The Sacred Journey, 78.]'

'Fast-forward with me for a moment and wonder: What on earth was it like when the Magi got back home? Were they ever the same or were they forever changed? Had it been the pilgrimage of a lifetime? What stories did they tell their children and their grandchildren? And did they wake every morning ever after with this prayer on their lips, “Thank God. Thank God. Thank God we didn’t stay put.” Amen.'

Saturday, January 12, 2013

3 books on selling / development

Yes Ma'am,No Sir: The 12 Essential Steps for Success in Life by Coach Carter
This books adds personality and personal stories, to what can be read in a number of books on business and success in life.  The book was not invaluable – but it offers fairly “common sense” principles, alongside stories and coaching experiences.  With chapters focused on the need to respect people, write down your goals, be persistent and courageous, participate with family, and embrace hard work – to list most of the chapters – the author summarizes what I would call a “solid work ethic” embedded with good morals and family values.  Nice, but nothing remarkable within the genre of “success” or "personal development" books.

As an educator & minister, I don’t find myself “selling things.”  And yet, there is much that I do that involves the need to read & discern people.  And, as I work more with broader institutions, I realize that with grants and the possibilities that might emerge in my future for other forms of leadership – I am aware that I might do more “selling” in my future.  [Getting people to buy into the importance of a “product” that a school I work for might offer – or making contributions to a non-profit I work for.  In that regard, Sell or Be Sold was a solid text.]  In truth, many of the chapters (or subsections of chapters) read like “blog-posts” with snippets of key ideas about how to “sell” and move product.  But the book offered ideas on believing in the product you’re selling and motivating others to believe in it with you.  In that sense, I gleaned a series of insights from the text and – if I’m ever trying to negotiate an important deal on something in the future – I’ll want to remember to come back to this text to see if there is something I can “do better” to close a future deal.  

The book’s title is an over-sale of what is in the book!  The book is much more about how to use key phrases, ideas, and how to use body language to both discern other people – and to, as it were, fool people into thinking you know more than you know.  I have not read anything else by these authors, but based on the titles of their other works – this book seems to be a marketing gimmick to re-publish what they have already sold.  Their previous books on interrogation and reading people might be better than this one.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Emerging Pedagogies

In order to keep up with young people, and to be the best professor I can be, I stay abreast with ideas about how technology shapes the way we process content - the way we discern data - the way we learn.

I am not convinced that all persons (young & old) are using technology in the best ways [see note below] - but I do think all teachers need to be mindful of how technology is working for us in teaching environments.

Technology is reshaping the idea of learning - and new learning cultures, in fact, emerge with different forms of technology.  [The ability to collaborate in real-time, in "the cloud," from multiple geographic locations with programs like Google Docs has already transformed the way I encourage learners to collaborate in this new culture!  In fact, the educational technology guy offers 50 sites that offer collaborative tools for education.)

Along with others, I have to be aware of and conversant with "emerging pedagogies" that are shaping how we think and learn.  I try, in fact, to routinely test & adopt learning technologies toward the best practices for online and blended (hybrid) teaching.

Today's SmartPlanet(dot)com article predicts the Ten Things to watch for in Online Education for 2013.   (I'm not sure anything in the list is surprising for those who work with online technology and emerging pedagogies - but a good list to review, all the same.)

** NOTE:  I think most of us use it too often to 'check-out' or 'tune-out' and it's all too easy to get sucked into a kind of Vortex of Unproductivity when it comes to being online or in front of a screen.  [Teenagers are now being called "screenagers" with all the time they spend in front of some kind of computer, phone, or tablet screen!]    In my own use of technology, I have found programs like "leechblock" and a "pause" feature for gmail help me stay critically aware of my own use of programs/websites as I try to best optimize my own goals and agenda!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Great ways to consider you life's purpose!

It is a rare book that I purchase after reading from the library!  I do this, I’m sure, with less than 5% of the books I read . . . and I ordered this book after reading it.  

I read widely in the areas of psychology, self-help, personal growth & development, and leadership – and  note that there is “nothing new under the sun” with this book – Identity:  Your Passport to Success by Stedham Graham –with foreword and afterword from John C. Maxwell and Stephen R. Covey.   This book says the same things you can read in many other places.  

I bought the book because it combines & collects, in easy terms, with great end of the chapter “Questions to Consider” – a simple, reasonable, discernable blue-print that any person could use to explore & improve their life.  

I’ll have every member of my immediate family read this book in 2013!  I'll recommend it to young people!

The simple 9 step-process is no-more and no-less than this that I’ll cite below – but actually doing this, could, for anyone – transform their life!

1)   Check your ID - Find your identity and explore all that you truly are.
2) Create your vision -this lets you make realistic goals for your business or personal life.
3) Develop your Travel Plan - Create a Plan of Action that allows you to work toward your goals
4) Master the Rules of the Road - You need guidelines to keep you on your course, and traits such as honesty, trust, hard work, determination, and positive attitude can help you on your journey.
5) Step into the Outer Limits - Leap. To gain ground you have to take that single step into the forest outside of your own comfort zone. Growth means risk.
6) Pilot the Seasons of Change - If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always got.
7) Build your Dream Team - Construct relationships that are supportive with both mentors and peers who can help you to achieve your goals.
8) Win by a Decision - What you are and have been in your life depends on the decisions you have made. Take each decision under careful consideration realising that it will reverberate well into the future.
9) Commit to Your Vision - Put your focus on your goals. Energy, enthusiasm and follow-through are essential to attaining them.