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Have you ever gone backward into time and sifted through old emails? They are a journal unto themselves. One day an anthropologist will sift through the world’s emails in the future, and will discover something great.

I emailed this to Core before we started our senior year in college. It was my attempt at rallying the team to be transparent and loving toward one another. Well, 2 years later I heard the fellowship underwent major changes and there had been some sort of “falling out”. But that’s college, and hopefully we’ve all grown up a little since then.

Below is a quote from Henri Nouwen. I’ve never read any of his works but heard my pastor end his sermon with this quote once, and since then its message has forever been seared into my mind. Transparency. Community. Loving correction. Forgiveness. All these will help temper the pangs of guilt that comes with the inevitable hypocrisy involved in leading people.

—-

This morning at the Eucharist we spoke about hypocrisy, an
attitude that Jesus criticizes. I realize that institutional
life leads to hypocrisy, because we who offer spiritual
leadership often find ourselves not living what we are
preaching and teaching. It is not easy to avoid hypocrisy
completely because, wanting to speak in the name of God, the
church, or the larger community, We find ourselves saying
things larger than ourselves. I often call people to a life
that I am not fully able to live myself.

I am learning that the best cure for hypocrisy is community.
When as a spiritual leader I live close to those I care for,
and when I can be criticized in a loving way by my own
people and be forgiven for my own shortcomings, then I won’t
be considered a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is not so much the result of not living what I
preach but much more of not confessing my inability to fully
live up to my own words. I need to become a priest who asks
forgiveness of my people for my mistakes.”

– Henri J.M. Nouwen, Sabbatical Journal – the Diary of His
Final Year, Crossroad, 1998, pp. 219-220

Each year a crocus stretches

out of the rusty mulch.

It shakes off the old iterations and reincarnates into a familiar new face.

Hello old friend, I say.

It’s good to see you today.

Long I’ve wanted to see your face,

Long I’ve waited to see this day,

But tomorrow you go to wherever you go,

And I’ll go wherever I go,

and perhaps come back when the chill warms and the light is right,

And if God or wind brings me to see you again,

I’ll see today in your face,

and remember the old and see the new.

I watched Hello World.

It’s a message of hope in a dark world.

That world is my mind.

So i created this post. With nothing else to say except this. The love of The Lord is steadfast.

I was about to open a door to nowhere, but then I typed “Lord help me” at last the minute. And this Psalm popped up. Thank you God for your provision. Thank you Biblegateway. Thank you Lord for instilling your spirit in me. Even if it feels like it’s only this moment. I’m glad for it, and I’ll take it. Lord help me indeed.

Great Is Your Steadfast Love

A Prayer of David.

86 Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
    save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
    listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
    for you answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
    a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
    and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
    give your strength to your servant,
    and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
    that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

And yet I will write them here.

Aylan’s death galvanized the world to pay more attention to the humanitarian crisis going on in the Middle East and Europe. As a result, Germany and Austria are generously (or finally) opening their gates to the throngs of refugees who have walked through hell to get there. The world has criticized European nations, especially Hungary, Bulgaria, and other Eastern block nation-states for squabbling for months and years to set a cohesive immigration policy.

On a macro-level, I can understand why the EU is hesitant to take any real action to address the migration crisis – should they take Germany and Austria’s lead, but potentially encourage more immigration? Or do they continue to build higher walls and ignore one of the most tragic humanitarian crises so far in the 21st century?

Here’s a thought experiment – if Europe completely closed its borders, would these would-be immigrants place greater pressure on the groups to resolve their differences either by blood or compromise? Would they themselves take up arms and try to end it? Would, then, the war end as more people – women and children included – enter into the bloody fray to survive?

I began thinking of these questions after reading Ross Douthat’s really interesting piece in the NY Times on how difficult it is to answer the question, “Who failed Aylan Kurdi?” When a baby dies, our instinct is to express our outrage at the world, spitting invective at the easiest targets – we can cast stones at the United States, with its inexhaustible resources and irresponsible meddling in the Middle East; we can also target bumbling Europe for their inability to create a comprehensive and cohesive immigration policy; we can blame the Gulf states for not doing anything.

But, in reality, how do we assign any responsibility? Ultimately, “the world failed Aylan” somehow points an accusatory figure at those in charge, or at least those with more power, and, as a result, we expect them to shoulder a greater responsibility in caring for the refugees. And, in fact, Germany, Sweden, and Austria have done just that. In Douthat’s article, he observes that Germany’s “utilitarian universalism” agrees with this mindset – the richest and the most powerful ought to take the most responsibility, and they have accepted it in the form of raising refugee quotas. While I agree that those with more power ought to help more, this theory of moral obligation does not help these countries set any limit or quota on their obligation. Should Germany accept 60,000? 100,00? How long can they sustain their humanitarian services? How will the refugees acculturate, if at all? If the refugees become more of a nuisance, will Germans tire of playing Good Samaritan? It is well documented that there is such a thing as “aid fatigue“, where, the world’s atrocities cause “burned out” people to tune out from the world. When that happens, will they vote in their own version of Donald van Trump?

Our school focused on integrity last month. In one sense, integrity means something like honesty. Many of my students immediately thought of a scenario where one ought to return something valuable that did not belong to him. A secondary meaning of integrity has more to do with integration and consistency.

If you look on facebook, every person loves to laud the values of diversity, honesty, and generosity. In contrast, we love to point out the hypocrisy of our leaders, our political foes, and sometimes ourselves. It seems that, of all the things we hate most, hypocrisy tops our list. I’m reminded of a PSA-type meme that contrasts the tepid public response to the deaths of black people to the uproar caused by a single death of a lion. People love to point out hypocrisy because integrity – the consistency and coherency of values – is a rare jewel.

I think, however, if we examine our own lives a little deeper, I wonder if we would withstand similar moral scrutiny as well. A simple run down of our purchases this last month would probably reveal the incoherency of our values. Should I purchase $50/month internet or save for retirement? I like to eat healthy, but eating a burger every now and then couldn’t hurt (“now and then” could translate to at least once a week?). I really am interested and care about the world, so I subscribe to the New York Times or to Wall Street Journal – but what do I do with this information? Has it caused me to donate any of my time or money to causes outside of myself?

I think, in these awkward times of self reflection, we find it an appropriate to make excuses by expressing our needs. Oh, I really needed to eat that burger because it was such a crappy week. There are so many problems in the world, I don’t know which one to choose to focus in on. I’m running low on my budget this week so I can’t afford to buy that $5 carton of cage-free, organic eggs (yikes).

All this is to say that attaining integrity is much more challenging than returning a $1 back to a complete stranger as my students conceive of it. I suppose this is how political extremists arise – they possess so much integrity to their ideologies and values that they are unwilling to budge one inch from their platforms because compromise in one area would dismantle their personal integrity. They would be, proverbially speaking, giving the devil a foothold.

Even now, I find myself compromising my integrity: even though I treasure and value hard work, right now I’m spending time writing this blog instead of planning tomorrow’s lessons.

I think a big part of maturation process is realizing that you come from a family and that no matter how hard you try to break from its gravitational pull, you will always in some way be influenced by them. This is a hard realization because there are a lot of people out there who try to escape the fate of their families their entire lives. Even if we have good relationships with our family, we still must reject or accept their teachings, mannerisms, and values. Even if end up rejecting everything, at the very least they express themselves in our bodies.

I think, in the end, however, love brings you back to the table. Love and the bond of blood.

Divorce occurs for a variety of reasons, but I suppose that one of the causes for divorce must be because no blood bond exists to secure the relationship. In marriage, a blood bond is impossible and abhorrent, so society must settle for a second one based on the law. If blood does not bind the two together, then the law must serve as a binding agent between the two parties.

It is no wonder, then, that in the process of divorce the two separating parties always fight over the rights over their children. Whereas the bond between two married couples is based on a contract, the relation between parent and child is defined by blood, and now the law must somehow supersede blood in defining parental rights to the child. By blood, both parents have a binding connection to the children, but because of a contractual break, the blood connection must be weakened on a practical level (though not on an ontological one). This is one reason why divorce is so painful because the parents are not only breaking a legal contract with each other but also weakening their rightful, blood-bonded relationship with their children.

——

When God employs the metaphor of marriage in the OT, he’s making a contractual type of agreement with his people, Israel. He says, you, Israel, will be like my wife and I will love you as my wife so long as you fulfill your duties in your contract. At least this is my understanding of Mosaic law. Of course, we know how that story goes.

When God introduces Jesus and his blood into the story, he creates a new covenant that fundamentally changes the nature of our relationship to God from a contractual type of relationship between husband-wife to one based on blood between parent-child. This is not to say that in the OT God did not apply the parent-child metaphor to Israel – this metaphor comes up a lot. But the blood relation between Himself and Israel still seemed to be predicated on contract and animal sacrifice, whereas the new relation is bound by the blood of Jesus Christ. If JC calls us his brothers, so then we must be his siblings as well as fellow blood-bonded children of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:17-19). Because Jesus is God incarnate, his blood legitimizes and solidifies God’s connection with His people (this time including Gentiles), except it is final and absolute in contrast to the temporary shedding of goats and lambs’ blood of the OT. Whereas the Israelites were forced to continually perform ritual and symbolic blood shedding to reconnect with God, all the world is now covered with the blood of Jesus, a blood that legitimizes and connects us to God forever as we are his blood-bonded children.

In other words, Jesus’s blood makes our connection with God permanent. God, in all his holiness and glory and morality, cannot destroy us because He cannot destroy his own flesh and blood. We are bound forever by the blood of the new covenant.

This faith in Jesus’s blood secures our connection to God, which replaces our enmity with Him with peace between God and ourselves.

This is a profound truth for me. As someone who is constantly testing the limits of the family bond, I realize that no matter what I do the bond between myself and my family can never be severed in any way because of our shared genetic material. Even if I am disowned by my family I still share their genes, which ontologically makes me forever a member of that family regardless of oaths or legal status. From my conception to the day of my death, I shall always remain a member of my family regardless of the words and contracts that are drawn up between those events.

Similarly, God, even if he sees me now in all my imperfection and un-glory and sin, he cannot remove the connection between myself and himself because of the bond established by the shared blood of Christ. I don’t know how biblical all of this is, but it seems to me that because I carry Jesus’s blood in me, through faith, I am now eternally secured to God my Father regardless of what I do from my birth to my death. This can be confusing as most religions, to my knowledge, require repentance in the form of action or penance to reestablish a connection to God/god. But God knew that such acts of repentance were worthless because they imply a relationship that is still based on contract rather than blood. Instead, God eliminates the contractual relationship and creates a blood relationship that secures His position as a Father and our position as children. This blood relation is eternal and does not end at death, and, perhaps, even exists before (human) life. You share divine blood – and you did nothing or can do nothing to preserve or create that bond. Obviously, this line of thinking can be abused.

Nevertheless, it is a curious idea to contemplate that God cannot destroy me because I am of his flesh and blood through Christ Jesus. That sounds rather blasphemous, but I don’t think I’m looking at it as if I tricked him into staying his own hand against me. It’s more like he loved the world to the extent that he desired a blood relation between his people and himself. I’m not really sure why he did that. I don’t think He’s lonely or needy for some fulfilling relationship. I’m not even sure if it’s for recognition. I know the answer is glory but I don’t even know what that means. I have negative connotations with that word.

At the end of the day, however, through JC I am a son of God.

Blasphemous. Outrageous. Arrogant. Ridiculous. Stupid. Pretentious.

but, I am a son of God.

Honorable. Noble. Legitimate. Strong. Indomitable. Proud. Virtuous. Eminent.

Loved.

I met a professing Buddhist once who tried to explain Nirvana to me as a moment of deep exhalation with a bunch of strangers. Everyone just sitting around together taking a deep breath and releasing it. No more war. No more passion. No more insanity. That’s like Nirvana, he said.

I think I experienced something like this one afternoon while sitting at the back of the bus with tired strangers one Friday afternoon.

We sat in a semi circle, letting the rocking of the lurching bus lull us into sleepy silence. You could only hear the hum of the engine, the squeak of the benches, or the small buzz from a neighbor’s tuned out earbuds. We were silent. We were at peace.

IMG_1218

From Theology of Reading: Hermeneutics of Love by Alan Jacobs.

p. 10 – “there are only few acts within language specifically and narrowly called works of love, but heaven is such that no act can be pleasing there unless it is an act of love” – Kierkegaard as quoted by Jacobs

p. 123 – No person of talent who has read him (Nietzche, I think) can fail to realize that the talented man, even more than the millionaire, is the rich man for whom it is so difficult to enter the kingdom of Heaven (123) – W.H. Auden

p.129 – Only by making benevolence to the poor and oppressed a matter of justice rather than charity can the sense of obligation be restored.

I’m lazying on my couch right now on a Wednesday evening (5:53pm). I just spent the last hour and a half reading about digital media/tech/education stuff that barely made any sense to me. I”m doing it more out of duty than interest because 1) I’m attending the DML 2015 conference next next week and I don’t want to be sitting there without a clue, 2) I’m writing a paper on said conference and don’t want to be sitting at my comp without a clue, and 3) ed tech is the present and the future and I figure I’d better get a handle on things before I get manhandled by it. There is no avoiding it, you have to get on the wave or else risk getting left in the dust of your chalk board.

Some things I’ve learned so far about Digital Media, tech, and education:

1) Black and Latino youth are prolific consumers when it comes to social media, even more so than white and asian youth. There’s a sort of black and latino subculture on things like twitter. Black Twitter is a thing, where black twitter users use the platform to publicly display knowledge of their black culture. Some use has been linked to the “dozens”, a sort of “yo mama” joke insult game used by black slaves to toughen each other up for their masters.

2) Low-Income Parents sacrifice a ton to give tech/internet access to their kids because they believe it will help their education. However, immigrant parents do not adopt social media technologies because they’re not really familiar with it and they don’t know how to view their kids’ use of it. As a result, my guess very little social media/tech monitoring is going on in L.I. families*.

3) All-things-digital-education-related = Inquiry-based teaching. American philosopher and educator John Dewey promoted inquiry education back in the early 1900s and his work is still influencing us (whether we know it or not) today. Inquiry education basically mirrors the scientific method, in which teachers guide students in working out issues and problems directly related to their own context, helping them to have meaningful interactions with their problems which should produce knowledge and further inquiry.

As inquiry education relates to our digital age, 3d printers, coding, media development (through Adobe suite stuff) are usually elevated as tools to “produce” or “make” new things based on the interests of the students. Students “inquire” about some issue or problem relevant to them, and they use tech to gain knowledge or skills to present their findings or produce some final product like a pair of fashionable jeans or a new app. This inquiry-based model using tech doesn’t seem much different from a Senior Project that some of my friends did in high school, but now the game is to use tech or to learn some code to produce something.

4) Open Learning, MOOCs, and other jargon.

MOOCs = Massive Open Online Courses. I’m thinking Khan academy and all the other universities offering their courses through itunesU or other platforms online. I think the jury is still out on their effectiveness, and Gov. Brown was trying to arm twist the UCs to go this route to save money as opposed to raising tuition rates.

Open learning Communities and the Merit Badge System – I think people see the potential of the internet as a medium of free learning as we see people teaching themselves how to do stuff all the time through online forums, Youtube, and other digital media. It seems that this type of learning/teaching is going on at a very informal level, but what if we gave these informal learners a form of official recognition for all the work they’ve done? These informal students learn crucial skills like coding, algebra, and bike tire replacement, so why can’t they put that on some transcript or resume? After all, universities do the exact same thing except award credits, but are much slower and more expensive for the learner to learn. Some have called for introducing a “badge” system, where self-taught learners can earn an official “badge” (much like a unit or credit from a college) after demonstrating a particular skill or knowledge of a certain subject. Given the asynchronous nature of the internet and its ability to accommodate multiple learning styles and living habits (you can now eat at your desk and learn at the same time), the badge system seems like it would benefit a lot of people who don’t/can’t bend themselves to the schedules and bureaucracy of the school system.

* I’ve seen 3rd-party how teens use media to get into all sorts of mischief. A teenager using my stolen iphone still linked to my icloud accidentally sent my phone texts while conversing with his friends on imessage. Texts usually consisted of a lot of emoticons and slang about acquiring and smoking marijuana, the enjoyments/horrors of sex, and selfies. Actually, I’m pretty sure middle/high income students are texting about the same things, which leads us back to the problem of how parents should monitor their kids’ technology while respecting their freedom.

And even though there’s no connection between this video of NSYNC’s live performance of “Digital Get Down” and my post, it was the first thing I thought of when I wanted to insert some color in this rather drab post. Enjoy!

Home is great, but not so great.

On one hand, your parents are trying to do every little thing for you as if you were a little kid again.

On the other hand, your parents are trying to do every little thing for you as if you were a little kid again.

And most of the time, the energy it takes to protest requires more energy than actually doing the task itself. So before attempting to do even the most simple tasks for myself or for my parents, my mind automatically calculate the strange consequences that follow any offers to help:

If I offer to put away the dishes, then,”you don’t know how to put it away right. Don’t touch it. Let dad do it. He hasn’t done anything all day, so this is his exercise.”

If I offer to pay for dinner/lunch, “no you idiot. Save your money, you’re a poor teacher (me in my head: not that poor)  and you need to save enough to do something real in the future”. 

If I protest fresh slices of fruit even when I never asked for them and am fully capable of cutting them myself, “YOU MUST EAT FRUIT. YOU WILL GO BLIND IF YOU DON’T EAT FRUIT. YOU WILL DIE IF YOU DON’T EAT FRUIT! DON’T BE A COMPLAINING SON – YOU NEVER COMPLAINED OF EATING FRUIT BEFORE, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!”

etc. etc.

And after a week of haggling, you’re just too tired to put up a fight anymore, and your parents have successfully transformed you into the baby they’ve always known.