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How do you teach your will to exercise self control and restraint in this digital age? The phone is an addiction, a magnet, a force that constantly whispers “do something!” We are more efficient and clever with our time, but I don’t know if we’ve gained more time. I’ve gotten more facts and knowledge, but hardly any wisdom.


The internet is a playground for the mind. Every spark and curiosity can find its own rabbit hole for satiation.

I’m back into teaching Gatsby with my students. I get excited because I get to discuss and research Bourdieu, Verben, and other marxist/sociologists with my students through literature. Gatsby is the book to explore and criticize how capitalist America dupes its people into believing that their habits, manners, and consumption reflects their true identity. From Gatsby’s artificial but elevated “old sport” to Myrtle’s trashy Town Tattle (equivalent of a tabloid today) – these are the awkward portrayals of the burros trying to play horses.

I wanted to draw my students in to a discussion about “conspicuous consumption”, or the type of purchasing and flaunting of goods to signal wealth and status. Not surprisingly, according to this slate article,  Blacks and Hispanics spend more of their incomes on “visible goods”, or as Verben would put it, conspicuous consumption. They’ll spend a shit ton of money on Jordans but skimp on healthy food or educational toys.

This went down a further rabbit hole about the cost of shoes.  apparently shoe companies don’t make that much money. But TJ Maxx certainly does. Makes me feel that the economic picture and typical rant against capitalism needs to be a little more nuanced.


Wow, Dallas Willard struck a chord today.

I have searched long and hard for the mechanics of the Cross. How does it work? How does it atone? Why does a man dying on the cross expiate/propitiate my sin? Historical “theories” or metaphors of atonement have been built in response to these historical questions. They take on names such as “substitutionary”, “penal”, and “Christus Victor” – all with special emphases on how the Cross accomplishes the act of ridding us of sin.

They all have their place and help me understand how God’s judgment and mercy are both located on the Cross.

But an overly academic fixation on the mechanics of the Cross leaves us completely befuddled as to why Christ came down in the first place. If it is true that the work of the cross and the supernatural resurrection created the ultimate Deus ex machina moment – wherefore bother learning The Beatitudes, The Sermon on The Mount, the various parables and condemnations? Why not send baby Jesus down, kill him, then resurrect him and not bother about all the teachings about loving your neighbor and our God?

Dallas Willard brings to light this problem in his book “The Spirit of the Disciplines”. As the church progressed, the church began to emphasize solely the work on the Cross rather than the life of Jesus. He writes:

The church’s understanding of salvation then slowly narrowed down to a mere forgiveness of sins, leading to heaven beyond this life. And Christ’s death came to be regarded as only the merit-supplying means to that forgiveness, not as the point where his life was most fully displayed and triumphant, forever breaking the power of sin over concrete existence. (36)

And later,

The cross act was first narrowly interpreted as mere vicarious suffering and then mistaken for the whole of the redemptive action of God. Christ’s life and teaching were therefore nonessential to the work of redemption and were regarded as just poignant decorations for his cross, since his only saving function was conceived be that of a blood sacrifice to purchase our forgiveness. 

Jesus, then, is the ultimate athlete. His life and teaching culminated in his final act of obedience and grace – the Cross. It is not merely an instrument (though it is that) for our salvation, it is Christ’s ultimate performance of love – which we are all seeking to be and do.


How are teachers also parents? sons? daughters? uncles? aunts? lay members of church? leaders at church? husbands? wives?


The fear of taking on any of the aforementioned roles while teaching simultaneously scares the _____________ out of me.

In other news, whenever someone asks me about my job I always respond,


why might you ask?


Okay done complaining.

I must remember to rewatch this about systematic reform:

The problem is not always people, or lack of motivation, or whatever. It’s the SYSTEM of a downnnn



okay. I don’t know how else to describe it. My job is challenging, as always. Every aspect of it. The intellectual side – planing, thinking, reading, designing, wording – is still a challenge for me. The human side – managing, coaching, encouraging, disciplining, loving – remains ever a challenge. Sometimes I wonder if I am cut out for this job. I know I can survive…but can I thrive? Can I, as selfish as this sounds, make a difference?

I have to remind myself that teaching isn’t purely a numbers game. Ideally, I’d love to see my students drink Progressivist Kool-Aid and go to college. I’d like to see them become more nerdy and stop obsessing over their phones, football/basketball, or high school fights (overgeneralizing here). I’d like to see the majority of my classes learn to love reading and discover their writing “voice”. I’d like them to score well on standardized tests.

In my 7 years of teaching, including Turkmenistan, I’ve had:

  • 1 student pass an exam to participate in a State Department sponsored exchange program.
  • 1 student graduate from university and become an English teacher.
  • 4 students enter some Turkmen university. All still speak (er..text) English rather well.
  • 2 former freshmen students enter college.
  • And I’m hoping for a slew of other students go on to college next year.

Not bad. Not quite the numbers that any teacher or admin would hope for, but there’s always Henri Nouwen to encourage me:

God rejoices. Not because the problem of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, nor because thousands of people have been converted and are now praising Him for His goodness. No, God rejoices because one of His children who was lost has been found. What I am called to is to enter into the joy. It is God’s joy, not the joy that the world offers. It is the joy that comes from seeing a child walk home amid all the destruction, devastation, and anguish of the world. It is a hidden joy as inconspicuous as the flute player that Rembrandt painted in the wall above the head of the seated observer.

I have to remember that God loves every individual, and that, while he is the architect and designer of the cosmos and is thus necessarily invested in his creation on a statistically significant scale, he also is the God who paints parables of himself in which he leaves 99 sheep to find the one stray one. This is a God worth knowing.

How Nouwen’s insight about God’s character connects with my less than exemplary teaching stats is not clear. I think I am trying to console myself with dismal numbers by noting that I have made a difference in at least a few students’ individual lives.

Today I read a blog post on the differing perspectives of Muslims and Christians on the Eid-al-adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. For Muslims, they commemorate Abraham’s obedience to Allah as he was willing to sacrifice his son (Ishmael). His obedience earns him righteousness, so to speak.

But, for Christians, Paul’s reinterpretation of this Jewish story emphasizes Abraham’s faith that led to his credited righteousness (Romans 4). Abraham’s belief, not his action, merited him righteousness.

Now, for Christians, a faith in the perfect Lamb of God results in eternal righteousness that does not fade or need continual sacrifice. For Muslims, however, Muslims must continue to sacrifice for atonement of their sins. Well, that’s according to the blog post anyways. I don’t know how accurate of a statement that is because Eid Al Adha is a commemoration, not quite a sacrificial offering. Nonetheless, the distinction remains – obedience = righteousness for Muslims while faith=righteousness for Christians.


After a long discussion about how I feel like teaching is a Sisyphian task, I run across a poem by Emily Dickinson while researching diagnostic tests for my English Language Learners. And it is strangely liberating.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)

Emily Dickinson1830 – 1886

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –  
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –  
To an admiring Bog!

the teacher did not rise again because he stayed late at work again. Tomorrow is the third day of school, and I am exhausted and genuinely fear that I will not wake at the usual 5:45am to go to the gym. I’ve done it for a good 2 weeks going on 3, so I hope I can just keep it up. I’ve lost at least 4 pounds as well, so I’ve got to keep it up.

I keep trying to convince myself that I love this job.

I do, but I’m being worn down these days. Too many responsibilities. Too many needs. Too many poor kids with absent parents causing problems in my classroom. Too many emotions. Too many new teachers. Too many students. Too many chairs in the classroom.

Too few serious students. Too few parents involved in their kids’ education. Too few copiers. Too few working printers. Too few books. I can’t even tell if this is grammatically correct right now because I am exhausted.

A student’s warmth can glow in you for a while. Just being around the kids one cannot help but warm yourself by their energy and hope. Many of them feign cynical, but they all carry secret desires and goals. They’re too young to not have any fantasies.

While the youth are ignorant of the trials to come, the “mature” and “seasoned” adults grow dim and cynical. It’s not their fault. Adults experience failure, disappointment, and loss in their careers and their relationships and their families.  Their youthful dreams remain in the ether, and their realities remain stubbornly grounded.

I read Mark Lilla’s op-ed piece on how the democrats can revamp their party by relinquishing identity politics and refocusing on a message that appeals to a wider swath of Americans. He acknowledges diversity’s role in making America, well, more diverse than their European or Asian counterparts. On the other hand, he also warns against celebrating too much “difference” as that dangerously undermines the unity of American identity and culture, which will break the solidarity of common people. He quips that while celebrating difference may sound like good “moral pedagogy”, ultimately will spell disaster for politics in an “ideological age”.

Why? Because if you focus on LGBT, Latinos, Asians, African Americans, then you will inevitably leave out the biggest contender in the room: whites. By choosing to focus on diversity, inclusion, intersectionality, Other groups, one must necessarily neglect still other groups and the systems of government.

Lilla offers an interesting observation of the last election: “Mr. Trump won in large part because he managed to transform economic disadvantage into racial rage — the “whitelash” thesis. This is convenient because it sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns”
Source: The End of Identity Liberalism

Identity politics is primarily about outrage. Outrage at systemic injustice. Outrage at whatever ceiling. Outrage at the white dude.

In other words, outrage transforms into dehumanization of the other Other, or the so called oppressor. Trump won because he tricked fellow poor whites into believing that immigrants are the problem, therefore, we can still snub our noses at poor whites because they’re morally unsound.

Well, Charlottesville definitely seemed to justify such snubbery. However, as my roommate reminded me once, such feel-good snubbery will not do much in the way of healing our nation. I think Paolo Freire said as much when he said that the oppressed usually take on the tactics and attitudes of their oppressors, which further produces more dehumanization and violence.

Okay, enough for the day.

quite a few months since my friend stripped my lodge logic dutch oven. Today I’m finally reseasoning it with flaxseed oil per this link.

It’s quite frightening because it requires you to heat the oven up to 500 degrees for long periods of time. 1 hour each time you apply the oil. 2 hours for rest in the oven.

1:00pm – first coat on, baked for an hour, then rested.

3:15pm – second coat on, now in baking

4:15pm – taken out to cool

— edit 3/26, sunday —

3:15pm – 3rd coat and put in oven again, 3 more coats to go.

6:15pm – 3rd coat finished, cooled.

–edit 3/27 —

9pm – finished 4th coat


Posting a lot today on fb. Which probably means I’m procrasting.
I’m attempting to read Niehbur’s Moral Man and Immoral Society, and while it being highly theoretical, it has illuminated for me how sinful we really are as a society. This article briefly takes us through the major themes and conclusion of this book, of which I will leave you with one excerpt:
While individuals in their personal dealings often transcend self“interest (hence “moral man”), nations dealing with other nations, or social classes with other social classes, have little or no capacity for self“transcendence (“immoral society”). Nations and classes have limited understanding of the people they harm by their unjust self“assertion; they lack appreciation for the often complicated laws and institutions through which such injustice is perpetuated; and they are more inclined to embrace rationalizations of self“interest than prophetic denunciations.
I have witnessed friends and family members perform remarkable acts of selflessness (hence, “moral man”), and yet these very same kind people may add to a collective oppression of others. I think about how even an innocuous event like gift-exchanges at christmas or humorous white-elephant gift exchanges can serve up both a moral and immoral effects. We can solidify our bonds and communicate love to others with these gifts. But these very same gifts gather dust and add on to the already large pile of shit in our closets and basements and attics and car trunks. They are a hazard to our environment, and perhaps unjustly wrought by children’s hands or by underpaid workers who work on Christmas day. That money used to solicit a little laugh from others or to impress your girlfriend could have been used to purchase a life-saving cow for a family in a third world country.
And, if Wolterstoff is right, our privilege to enjoy security and the luxuries that come with it (e.g., useless gifts during holidays…which I enjoy), actually translates as theft from the poor. (“You who have two tunics, the extra one belongs to the one who has none”, or something like that).
If I am serious about becoming a disciple of Christ, should I not, in all my tiny power (economic, social, political, etc.), continue to strive to live justly a la Micah 6:8? And how does one do this from a point of a justified state? That is, how do I live a just life with the purpose of discipleship rather than earning salvation? How do I urge myself and others to understand the importance of living justly as part of our Christian calling with a gentle tone rather than a self-righteous and self-justifying one?
I’m tired. I can’t continue this train of thought.
etc. etc. etc.

Foundations of Christian life:

  1. You are created in the image of God.
  2. You/Satan/fate/God corrupted your image via temptation -> sin.
  3. Sin reigns through your body. Result: death
  4. (Insert something about law here.)
  5. Christ became man in flesh (in likeness of sin and in sin – Ro 8). Aka, sin reigns in his body.
  6. JC experienced the wages of sin (i.e. death)
  7. He rose from the dead…conquering it? So he paid the wages (death), but then now he rises so he can save others from the wages of sin? What’s the purpose of resurrecting? So he can show what we have to look forward to? So we can live resurrected lives? As a sign of future glory? etc. etc.
  8. You died, like Christ, in baptism, with Christ in 33 AD.
  9. Christ rises in you. (Does this mean sanctification is about letting go of your identity? Or at least the parts less savory to God?)
  10. You have been predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. This means returning to the pre-corrupted, or uncorrupted state of man in Gen 1. (Ro 5)
  11. Therefore, your uncorrupted self is justified/state of grace/state of righteousness/free of sin.