Monday, December 30, 2013

What Needs to Change About Education

(I was wrong. I actually do have one more post for this year.)

What the organized Church and public education have in common is that there are several shifts that need to take place in both institutions to most radically and substantially bring about a "much greater" environment for the young people within them. 

Throughout this blog, I have written about some of the shifts needed in organized Christianity in our part of the world. Things like...

  • From Emphasis on big events one day a week to Emphasis on making disciples 24/7
  • From Measuring seating capacity to draw crowds to Measuring sending capacity to serve others
  • From Professional pastors (staff-driven leadership) to Reproducible practices (where every member functions)
  • From Publicizing what we are Against to Promoting what we are FOR
  • From Ministry (works) done for Jesus to Ministry (miracles) done BY Jesus
  • From "GO TO church" (as in a place and time) to BE the church (as an identity)

But what about our schools? Are there fundamental shifts that could make dramatic change for the better in education? I believe there are. Here are a few, in my opinion.

  • From Giving grades (that generally offer no information on how to improve) to Providing feedback (that feeds forward to further learning)
  • From Time as the constant (prescribed scope and sequence for all students) to Learning as the constant (asynchronous, self-paced)
  • From Focus on teaching to Focus on learning
  • From Career orientation to Calling orientation (more to come on this in a future post, but you can get a glimpse of this shift here thanks to the work of Adam Saenz

This is clearly not meant to be an exhaustive list, but these are examples of the biggest "bang for your buck" transitions that we can make in public schools. The only disclaimer is that they are not easy.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I Will Have Less Slaves Working for Me Next Year

For my 100th Tweet and my last blog of 2013, I have some bad news and some good news.

While I try to keep my radical reform focus in my Monday blogs on Education topics, and in Wednesday blogs on Church topics, I also try to reflect in other posts about how there is something else that needs to be reformed: me. To say the least, I am a work in progress.

Part of my reformation takes place as I learn new things, some of which are disturbing and challenging. Right now (and for some time), I am a little overwhelmed by what I am learning about the modern day slave trade. To be honest, up until a few years ago, I didn't even know slavery still existed on any kind of large scale. In reality, most estimates say there are about 27 million slaves worldwide. Go here to see a world map that breaks down slavery stats across the globe.

The bad news is that many women and children are trafficked across borders, including our own, for the commercial sex trade. More bad news is that forced labor exists in many places to produce items consumed here. Even more bad news is that the amount of exploitation and abuse of these slaves is enormous. It is almost too much to take in. It is easy to feel that there is nothing I could do to make a difference.

BUT...there is good news! There are organizations and ministries working hard on behalf of those enslaved. These groups are getting smarter and more efficient. Churches are beginning to collaborate to counter this problem like never before. Individuals are networking with businesses, law enforcement, and each other to educate people, leverage resources, and promote peace and freedom. I was privileged to attend my first Allies Against Slavery meeting here in Austin earlier this month. I can promise you there are great people making sacrifices to help others.

I personally cannot think of anything else that could be more to the heart of Jesus than setting people free. So, as terrible as the current state of affairs is, I am hopeful that we can make a difference. I believe we can lift people out of devastation and introduce them to a joyful future. I am confident that I will have less slaves working for me in 2014.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Christmas Story Poem

The Christmas Story – Forever on God’s Mind


I am sure through all your years of life, a story about Christmas you have heard,

But today I tell you the true Christmas story starts even before these words:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Earlier than He made any of this, God thought up a plan for Jesus’ birth.


He hadn’t yet formed the water, built up mountains or planted the first tree,

But He already knew how good and holy He wanted each one of us to be.

With His perfect plan in His mind, He had the wonderful idea of you and me,

So He began molding His design, knitting us together, wanting to set us free.


God showed off His creativity – He painted flowers and butterflies to color the world so bright,

He made lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!), and stuck a moon in the sky to reflect sunlight.

He was an Artist, whose imagination filled the air with birds and the seas with fish.

He was Eden’s Gardener, the Master and Friend who could fulfill our every wish.


As far as people go, Adam was the first one into whom He breathed life,

Then, it wasn’t long until God made another in His image to be Adam’s wife.

This first mom and dad have more to do with Christmas than many might believe,

Because the very first promise of our Savior as a child had to do with mother Eve.


Unfortunately, though, our story has a dark and scary part,

As any tale does when evil puts doubt in a good person’s heart.

Adam and Eve were fooled into thinking they could outsmart God, and they lied,

Suddenly, they were doing wrong and spreading blame, and eventually they died.


It was a tragedy to know God was mad at man, and we might lose His love,

There was nothing we could do on our own. Help would have to come from above.

Adam brought sin to us, which taught us to be bad. How could we ever cope?

Thank God! He planned ahead of time a way to provide freedom and a hope!


God allowed folks to have prophets and laws to guide them until the timing was just right,

But everyone needed a better Gift that would be revealed on Christmas night.

Sin is so bad; it can’t be fixed with just another rule.

It would take a miracle to heal the human race.

The law alone would be a useless tool.

The answer was to send, once for all, an overflow of God’s grace!

Against his enemy, Satan, God would deal a fatal blow when He struck this nerve,

He did the unthinkable and sent His own Son, an offering that none of us deserve.

There would be no need for Santa to double check a list of who is naughty or nice,

No, all sins would be forgiven and salvation would come only through Jesus Christ!


The perfect plan from before time that God had had along was now made known,

2000 years ago, a young woman learned that she would have a child of her own.

It took some time to set the stage for His dramatic arrival here,

But God wanted to provide all the clues so when it happened, it would be clear!


Clue number one was given so long ago in a promise to help us avoid a scam,

It was kept when Jesus was born to bless all people through the line of Abraham.

More impressive is how we were told of many more branches on His family tree,

And it all came to pass about Isaac, Jacob, and others in His genealogy.


But God would not leave it at that or some could call it coincidence,

So He gave us predictions of the time and place of these incidents.

Think, for instance, of what we heard when we read Hosea 11, verse one.

Just as it stated, centuries later, God called out of Egypt His very own Son.


And if the exact small town could be foretold, well, that would be nice,

So, Jesus being born in Bethlehem mentioned by Micah makes one think twice.

What about Malachi’s mention of the Temple, which in A.D. 70 they will destroy?

So it is truly amazing when the Lord Jesus enters it as a boy!


Yes, all of these proofs help strengthen our faith in the Christmas story,

Yet I’ve saved the best for last, the most famous of all, a feat of God’s glory!

Never before and never since has there been such a mystery in all the world,

The magic of Christmas is the birth of the Christ child to Mary, a virgin girl.


Now, with all the prophecies fulfilled and the main event finally here,

Let’s put things in order and celebrate His coming this year.

With all that’s been said, we know God’s idea was always on His mind.

On to the details of this turning point in history that is oh so divine.


This Christmas season, see it afresh as the scene has been set with all the clues,

Follow the action as the characters are ready for their cues.

God’s angel, Gabriel, gets us started by telling Zechariah what is going on,

His wife, Elizabeth, will be having a son that they are to give the name John.


Zechariah was speechless for a while because his wife was well along in years,

But Gabriel went on to pronounce a blessing to Mary and alleviate her fears.

Finding favor with God, she received the report, “You will give birth to a son!”

Since nothing is impossible with God, his name will be Jesus, Savior to everyone.


Mary was soon to be married to Joseph who was upset by this course.

He was a good man in confusion, and thought it best to quietly divorce.

Till God directly intervened to help Joe out and show him there is no need to fuss,

“For Mary’s Son is of the Spirit. He is Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us.’!”


Joseph was glad he could wed and help Mary with this situation she was in,

And more rejoicing came their way when she went to visit her cousin.

Still, though, this story being real life, includes taxes and a decree,

So, in due time, the young couple would have to travel from the region of Galilee.


Farewell to Nazareth, they made their way to crowded Bethlehem,

Where they found no rooms available to welcome the world’s greatest Gem!

It is good to know God’s eternal plan did not depend on enough space at the inn,

The Almighty, full of grace and truth, walked among us to save us from our sin!


Meanwhile, back in the field, some sheepish folks tended their flock at night,

Only to be taken aback by a heavenly guest with a dramatic flair surrounded by glorious light.

The angel declared, “I bring great news of a baby boy, which is Christ the Lord!”

The shepherds were astonished by the sight and the sound as more angels joined in one accord.


At once, the shepherds decided there is no need for this saving babe to still be a stranger,

So, they went to find the two new parents with Jesus wrapped, lying in a manger.

They could not hold it in as they shared with Joseph and Mary their joy.

And they praised God for all they had seen and heard concerning the baby boy!


It had been eight days since the shepherds took their short, adventurous trip,

Which meant it was time to be brought before the Lord for a holy “snip, snip.”

One thing was for certain, Jesus passed the test.

Sacrifices were made and by Simeon, Jesus was blessed.


Word had reached some wise men that the king of the Jews had been born.

They followed a star in the East, but King Herod, they inadvertently warned.

This Herod was mean and did not want the newborn child to live very long,

But Joseph and Mary received the wise men’s gifts, and Jesus proved too strong.


God’s plan was amazing and a huge success.

It would change everything forever and clean up our mess.

Jesus had brought God’s full love to the whole world, then and now!

It was always on God’s mind from before creation to save us somehow.

The “somehow” is the reason for this season. It is the baby Jesus who grew into the God-man.

But don’t be mistaken to think it started there because the Christmas story was written before time even began.


Scripture References
Genesis 1-3
Ephesians 1:4-14
Psalm 139:13-16
Romans 5:12-21
Romans 8:3
(Romans 2-8)
Galatians 3
Hebrews 8-10
John 3:16-21
John 14:5-7
Acts 2:22-36
Acts 4:12
Matthew 1-2
Luke 1-2
Genesis 12, 17:19, 49:10
Numbers 24:17
Jeremiah 23:5-6
Luke 3:33
Hosea 11:1
Micah 5:2
Malachi 3:1
Isaiah 7:14
John 1

For further reading: Genesis 1, John 1, Ephesians 1:3-14, Col. 1:15-23, Hebrews 1, 1 Peter 1:3-21