“The Real Final Exam”


Meditation for June 29, 2014, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

Genesis 22: 1 – 14, Romans 6: 12 – 23, and Matthew 10: 40 – 42

To say that I am not a fan of the present teaching model would be something of an understatement. But, perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

I was not happy with the way that the Common Core Curriculum was “imposed” on the teachers of this country. It seemed to me that very little was done in the way of preparation for teachers, students, and parents alike. That there needs to be a common core should go without saying but you don’t change the curricula model without some sort of warning or preparatory system If there was such a warning or preparation period, I am not aware of it.

Personally, I didn’t have any problems with the curriculum but then again, I was working with my kindergarten age grandson and most of what we did was pretty simple stuff. I think the problem that most people had was simply with the fact that they had to think for themselves and weren’t able to adjust to the change.

Too many people today don’t want to take on new tasks, especially when it comes to learning. They are quite content to do it the way it was done when they were students and that is all they expect. And when a student, especially a college-age student, encounters a new way of learning, there is much rebellion. And that’s what makes it so easy to have a test-oriented curriculum; all you have to do is present some knowledge to the students, have them memorize it, and then test them on it. Once they are tested on it and they achieve a reasonable success level, then we move onto a new topic. That leads to the quote from “Teaching As A Subversive Activity”, written by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner way back in the good old days of 1969,

The Vaccination Theory of Education – English is not History and History is not Science and Science is not Art and Art is not Music, and Art and Music are minor subjects and English, History, and Science major subjects, and a subject is something you “take” and, when you have taken it, you have “had” it, and if you have “had” it, you are immune and need not take it again. (This and other sayings I have found interesting are at “A Collection of Sayings”.)

If we simply test our students, we don’t have to get involved in the learning process and that is the problem. Learning is an active and interactive process between people; testing is not.

Some of this saw this coming almost thirty years ago. When I was teaching in Missouri, the State Board of Education, in its infinite wisdom, created the Basic Essential Skills Test or BEST test. Now, the rationale and purpose for this test were valid; every student needs to have a certain basic set of skills for life after school. But the manner in which the BEST test was done required a response.

So we created the Scholastic Education Council on New Directions Basic Essential Skills Test – 1) I will let you figure out the acronym and 2) the actual questions are at “THE BETTER TEST”. Clearly, our response was satire but it went to the point of what students should learn, how they should learn, and how that learning should be measured.

There was an episode in the TV series, “The Paper Chase” that speaks to this point. It was the final exam in Contract Law and Professor Kingsfield had created an exam with 100 questions covering a myriad of law-based topics in areas such as real estate, medicine, theology, and probably a few areas that one would not relate to the study and practice of the law.

To get the answers required the students search not only the law library but practically ever other library on campus. And because the students were competitive to the point of insanity, when they found the answer to one of the questions, they kept the resources for themselves so that other students would not be able to answer the question.

You can imagine the chaos that ensued because students were unable to answer all the questions (certain in their own minds that completion of all the questions was necessary for success). In the end, the students or rather the various study groups began to work how ways to share the work that they had with other groups so that they could get the answers for the questions. In the end, they wrote a series of contracts.

And what you have to remember was this was a course in Contract Law. The purpose of the exam was not to obtain all the answers individually but work together and develop solid and viable contracts, which was the purpose of the course.

A second example occurred while I was a graduate student at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis). The Memphis Fire Department had agreed to take away several 55-gallon drums filled with chemical waste that the Chemistry Department had collected over the years. But before they could take them, the contents of each drum had to be identified.

Chemistry graduate students at that time took a series of monthly exams that measured their knowledge and competency. The solution to the problem of identifying the contents of the drums was to give each student a drum and tell them to apply their analytical and organic knowledge to the identification of the contents. (Of course, while this solved the department’s problem, it may have created problems for the individual students.)

I am not entirely certain that our present model of teaching can do that. In the end, our students learn to solve problems that already have solutions but they are not capable of solving problems that haven’t been solved.

And what perhaps bothers me more than anything else is that there will be a point in our own personal lives where we are going to be faced with such a problem. We shall be asked a question for which we may not know the answer and then what will or shall we do?

There really isn’t a question in the Old Testament reading for today but it is quite clear that God is testing Abraham. It is as if God is asking Abraham to prove that he, Abraham, will fulfill his part of the covenant. This covenant is the promise that Abraham’s descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky and yet God has directed Abraham to take Isaac to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him.

What must Abraham have thought? After all, as far as I know, Abraham believes that his oldest son, Ishmael, is dead and now he is about to kill his other son. The promise, the fulfillment of the covenant is clearly at stake at this point.

How would we respond in such a case? How would we respond if we had to put our faith on the line and just hope, without a single piece of evidence that God would fulfill His part of the covenant. And that is the real final exam! It is the one question that we have no way to study for; there is no book in which we can find the answer.

We could, I suppose, not worry about it. As Paul pointed out, you could lead the life we want, do what we want and ignore God. That way you wouldn’t have to worry or bother about right thinking or right living. But what do you get for all of that? Not much and when that moment comes when you have to answer the question you have avoided all your life, you won’t have the time, let alone the ability to think about what to say.

In the end, what you do, what you say, how you think shows where Christ is in your life. Many years ago I taught a course in how to teach science (a methods course). Most of my students expected me to lecture them on the various ways that one could teach science and sometimes I did just that. But a lot of times, I used the method that was the lesson, having the students do what they were going to be doing later on in life. I thought it was more important to do the method than simply speak about it. Not all my students got the message.

I would like to think that this is what Jesus was doing, having his students, his disciples do that which He taught them. It wasn’t easy for them to learn (and we know that many dropped out over the course of the three years). But in the end, enough understood and when the Holy Spirit came to them on that first Pentecost, they understood what they needed to do and then went from there.

Are you prepared today to take all that you have learned and go out into the world to show others who Christ is? The class is dismissed and the course begins.

Choosing A Password


I just found this and had to post it:

During a recent PASSWORD audit by NASA, they found that a rocket scientist was using the following password:

MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofyWashingtonDC

When they asked the rocket scientist why such a long password. He replied, ”Are you kidding me? I was told that my password had to be at least 8 characters long and include one capital” – Anonymous

Top Posts of 2013


Top Posts for 2013

Here are the top posts for 2013 on this blog. As was the case for last year (“Top Posts for 2012”) I didn’t post much new stuff this year. The once nice thing is that my readership numbers continue to show an increase each year, though perhaps not as much as in previous years.

I hope that 2014 will be a different year in terms of my blogging/writing. It is possible that the direction of my ministry will be shifting and I won’t be posting much again. Or I may find it appropriate to go back to a post every week.

I am also thinking that I need to do more in the area of chemistry and science education. We are at a point where our knowledge of science is getting very limited and I am convinced that our ability to solve the unknown problem is quickly disappearing. Pretty soon we are going to be at a point where the only problems that we can solve are the ones where the answers are in the back of the book and that is sort of meaningless since those problems have already been solved.

So as I ponder what paths I shall take with this blog, here are the top posts from 2012 (as of 26 December 2013)

  1. The Chemistry of Bowling: A Short History of Bowling Balls, Lanes, Coatings, and Conditionersposted on July 26, 2008 (#1 in 2012)
  2. Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch – posted on November 18, 2009 (#2)
  3. What is a part per million? – posted on February 19, 2010 (#3)
  4. The Twelve Disciples – Were they management potential? – posted on October 3, 2008 (#12)
  5. Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday? – posted on March 13, 2008 (#4)
  6. A Child’s Book Report on the entire Bible” – posted on April 5, 2008 (#13)
  7. What Does Stewardship Mean to Me – posted on November 6, 2005 (#8)
  8. Who Cuts the Barber’s Hair? – September 15, 2009 (#5)
  9. John Wooden – A Review of “A Game Plan for Life – the power of Mentoring” by John Wooden and Don Yager– October 9, 2009 (#7)
  10. The Nature of Academic Freedom – March 17, 2010 (not ranked in 2012)
  11. Describe Your Pastor” – March 11, 2008, (#19)
  12. The Difference Between Football in the North and South – October 8, 2006 (#15)
  13. Just What Is The Right Thing To Do?” – June 28, 2008, (#17)
  14. Hearing God Call (sermon/message)– January 7, 2009 (#9)
  15. Meditations On An Easter Sunrise” (sermon/message for April 20, 2003) – posted on April 6, 2013 (not ranked in 2012)
  16. The Dilemma of Modern Christianity – April 18, 2009 (#11)
  17. The Changing of Seasons” (sermon/message for October 24, 2010) – posted on October 24, 2010 (not ranked in 2012)
  18. The Meaning of Service” (sermon/message for November 17, 2002) – posted on November 14, 2008 (not ranked in 2012)
  19. There’s A Sermon In Here But First Warning” – posted on July 24, 2012 (not ranked in 2012)
  20. A Collection of Sayings – January 17, 2008 (#6) – This was actually the 21st rated post but the post that was in 20th was a summary of previous posts and is scheduled for deletion shortly.

The all-time list is

  1. The Chemistry of Bowling (#1 in 2012)
  2. Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday? (#2)
  3. Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch (#3)
  4. A Collection of Sayings (#4)
  5. What is a part per million? (new to the top 5)Top

“Top Posts for 2012″


Here are the top posts for 2012. Since I really didn’t post much new stuff this year, the list looks a lot like last year’s list (“Top Posts for 2011”).

I am not sure what 2013 will look like from a blogging standpoint. We are continuing the Saturday morning devotionals at Grannie Annie’s Kitchen and if I give the devotional, then it will be posted. (Get in touch with me if you are in the Newburgh area and want to present the devotional some Saturday).

  1. The Chemistry of Bowling – July 26, 2008 (#1 in 2011)
  2. Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch – November 18, 2009 (#3)
  3. What is a part per million? – February 19, 2010 (#8)
  4. Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday? – March 13, 2008 (#2)
  5. Who Cuts the Barber’s Hair? – September 15, 2009 (#5)
  6. A Collection of Sayings – January 17, 2008 (#4)
  7. John Wooden – A Review of “A Game Plan for Life – the power of Mentoring” by John Wooden and Don Yager– October 9, 2009 (#7)
  8. What Does Stewardship Mean to Me – November 6, 2005 (#13)
  9. Hearing God Call – January 7, 2009 (#12)
  10. A Brief History of Atomic Theory – April 27, 2011 (#9)
  11. The Dilemma of Modern Christianity – April 18, 2009 (#6)
  12. The Twelve Disciples – Were they management potential? – October 3, 2008 (#14)
  13. A Child’s Book Report on the entire Bible” – November 6, 2005 (not ranked)
  14. What Does It Mean To Be Called? – August 30, 2008 (#16)
  15. The Difference Between Football in the North and South – October 8, 2006 (#10)
  16. A Cake Without Baking Powder” – October 8, 2006 (unranked)
  17. Just What Is The Right Thing To Do?” – June 28, 2008, (unranked)
  18. The Difference Between Republicans and Democrats” – November 27, 2008, (unranked)
  19. Describe Your Pastor” – March 11, 2008, (unranked)
  20. A Scout is Reverent – February 2, 2010 (#19)

My all-time list is

  1. The Chemistry of Bowling (#1 in 2011)
  2. Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday? (#2)
  3. Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch – November 18, 2009 (#4)
  4. A Collection of Sayings (#3)
  5. John Wooden – A Review of “A Game Plan for Life – the power of Mentoring” by John Wooden and Don Yager– October 9, 2009 (#5)

“Notes for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here is a list of my sermons, messages, and posts for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.

This list was originally posted last year as part of the post of “To Finish the Journey” but only listed the posts for Year A as well as those posts that were based on the Scriptures. I have edited that post to be just the sermon and added a couple of posts to this list.

As I complete this particular year of posts, I anticipate shifting from the Sunday to the Scripture readings (since they are actually tied to the calendar and not necessarily the liturgical calendar) at the beginning of the new liturgical calendar year. But in the meantime, here are the messages/sermons/posts that I gave for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.

Sunday, October 03, 1999 (A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “The Rules We Play By”

Sunday, October 22, 2000 (B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Ask Not What Your Church Can Do”

Sunday, October 14, 2001 (C), World Communion Sunday, Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Saying Thank You”

Sunday, September 29, 2002 (A), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “How did we get this far?”

Sunday, October 19, 2003 (B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “Serving the Lord”

Sunday, October 10, 2004 (C), World Communion Sunday, Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, Lay Speaker

Sunday, September 25, 2005 (A), Poughquag United Methodist Church, Poughquag, NY, “Who Goes First?”

Sunday, October 15, 2006 (B), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “Finding God”

Sunday, October 07, 2007 (C), What Are We Supposed To Do?

Sunday, September 21, 2008 (A), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “What Do We Need?”

Sunday, October 11, 2009 (B), Ridges/Roxbury & Springdale United Methodist Churches, Stamford, CT, “Can You?”

Sunday, October 03, 2010 (C), “What I See”

Sunday, October 16, 2011 (A) – Dover UMC, Dover Plains, NY, “Who Shall Feed My Sheep?”

Sunday, October 7, 2012 (B) – New Milford UMC, “A Matter of Integrity”

Luke 17: 5 – 10

Top Posts of 2011


Here are my top posts for 2011. What amazes me is how it hasn’t changed from last year.

  1. The Chemistry of Bowling – July 26, 2008 (#1 in 2010)
  2. Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday? – March 13, 2008 (#2 in 2010)
  3. Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch – November 18, 2009 (#5)
  4. A Collection of Sayings – January 17, 2008 (#4)
  5. Who Cuts the Barber’s Hair? – September 15, 2009 (#13)
  6. The Dilemma of Modern Christianity – April 18, 2009 (#6)
  7. Ten Pretty Good Rules – June 16, 2008
  8. Hearing God Call – January 7, 2009 (#10)
  9. What Does Stewardship Mean to Me – November 6, 2005
  10. Pledges and Loyalty Oaths – March 27, 2008 (#8)
  11. What Does It Mean To Be Called? – August 30, 2008 (#11)
  12. The Meaning of Service – November 14, 2008
  13. The Mountaintop Experience – March 2, 2011

It is interesting how some of my older posts are getting read more now than when they were first posted.

My all-time list is:

  1. Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch – November 18, 2009 (new to the list)

For those who are interested in this sort of thing, here are links to my previous “top posts”:

My Top Posts for 2006

My Top Posts For 2007

My Top Posts for 2008

Top posts for 2009

Top Posts of 2010

We no longer have a “Best of the Methoblogosphere”, not because there are no noteworthy posts but because there are so many to pick from. I want to give my thanks to Allan Bevere for his effort is picking the best of the bunch. During 2011, Allan focused on the posts of note and one of my posts (“The Situation Today” – July 14, 2011) was chosen to in this group.

The challenge of a weekly blog is a daunting one. There has been a steady increase in the number of individuals who read the various things that I post and for that I am very grateful. Still, I have to wonder what the lifetime of a blog, like any ministry, is. I began posting in July of 2005 so I am approaching the end of my 7th year. Perhaps, in a biblical sense, I should take a sabatiacal and step away from blogging for a while.

The Situation Today


I posted this on my Facebook page earlier today but since not everyone who reads this blog is my friend on Facebook, I figured I would post it here as well.
——————————————————————–
In the New York Times this morning it was reported that President Obama has raised almost 90 million dollars for his relection campaign.

The Washington Post reported that Mitt Romney raised over 18 million dollars in the last three months. He has more than double the money of his closest competitor (Michele Bachman).

That means that, conservatively, some people or corporations have given over 100 million dollars for an election.

If there ever was a better example of the problems with this country, this has to be it. How many people would have been feed if this money had been directed toward the food banks and feeding ministries of this country? Over 1000 children are now receiving free lunches in the city of Newburgh, NY, through Abraham’s Table. We started this ministry because the school lunch program stops when there is no school.

How many people would have adequate health care? How many people would have their homes today instead of having lost them to foreclosure if the money given for relection campaigns had been directed towards resolving the housing issue.

We are staring at a major financial crisis right now because the two major political parties are more interested in themselves than they are the people they represent. And the only people that they will answer to are those who can write the big, fat checks.

I am struggling to find work and I am struggling to do what Christ has called me to do. I shall put it bluntly, if you have been asked or are considering contributing to a political campaign, don’t! They have enough. But what you can do is send the money to “Grannie Annie’s Kitchen” at Grace United Methodist Church in Newburgh. Or get involved with the ministries in your area.

This is not about talking back our country from the politicians; it may be about taking it back from the greedy and selfish individuals who truly believe (and the record indicates) believe that they can buy. But what will they buy if the people are homeless, hungry, and without healthcare?