Archive for March 2007

Long time since Sunday, Part II

March 28, 2007

I have been reflecting on our sermon of last Sunday. It explored the theme of Jesus as the vine, found in John 15. This sermon was the latest in the series of the “I am” statements found in the book of John. Up to this point, Stan and Lynn have been presenting the messages. This week, Cherice Bock brought the message. This has been a favorite passage of mine, both because of the horticultural imagery, and also because of the way in which Jesus presents the relationships between him, his followers and his father. Cherice shared that if we can view Jesus as the vine, and we as branches, and the Father as the gardener, then the Holy Spirit would be the sap which moves through the entire body.

There were several strong points to consider from this sermon and this section of John (15:1-17). Included is the concept of abiding (remaining) in Christ. The horticultural imagery certainly supports the notion of abiding. The branch that is broken off from the vine has little chance of surviving because it is cut off from the life giving sap that flows through the plant. The concept of pruning is another very important one introduced here. God, our father does do deliberate pruning for his purposes. Cherice pointed out that the purpose of pruning is not just to remove diseased, damaged or dead branches, but to even remove productive branches as well, all for the purpose of fruit production.

Pruning is necessary to keep fruit production at its optimal level. Although a vine has the capacity for producing many healthy branches, if some of those branches are not pruned out, what fruit is produced will be smaller and of inferior quality. In examining my life and considering all of the branches I have, I realize to get really good fruit on some branches, I’ve got to have some other branches pruned away. I believe that there has been some of this pruning going on in my life over the last six months. A key factor to consider in this pruning process is who is in control of the pruning. Do I truly believe that God is the gardener and he is in control of the pruning so that my fruit production can be improved? Or do I want to be in charge of the pruning (or lack of pruning). Maybe I could hold onto these projects a little longer. Maybe I could accept one more responsibility. It is for good purpose, isn’t it?

I am going to pray this prayer with sincerity. “Oh, Lord, I want to recognize and act on my connection to the vine of life. I want to faithfully submit myself to your pruning so that I can produce the kind of fruit that you want to see in my life. I trust you and know that you have my best interests at heart. Help me to choose for your purposes, not my own. Help me to set aside my preferences and schedules so that you can establish your preferences and schedules in my life”.

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Long time since Sunday

March 28, 2007

I’m in San Antonio and on Tuesday evening and it seems like a long time since Sunday. I am attending the SITE conference with my George Fox colleages, Sean McKay and Eloise Hockett. Sean and I presented today on the use of wikis in our courses. Eloise presented on the e-mentoring project that she and Gary Kilburg are running for first-year teachers.

I have not left the hotel and conference center yet. First off all, the presentations and people are awesome, second, the weather has been rainy. However, I intend to see the Alamo and the Riverwalk area tomorrow.

Alamo

My flight in yesterday was like a roller coaster, as we spent about 45 minutes flying through a thunder storm. I was worn out after that experience. Today has been wonderful. I sat in strong presentations on digital story telling, staff development, collaboration and reform in teacher education. I visited with people from Canada, England, South Africa, Kansas and Malaysia. A highlight for me was meeting Geoffrey Shakwa, who works with NIED in Namibia. Geoffrey was here to receive an award from SITE for Namibia’s efforts in integrating ICTs in their education system. NIED is the research and development arm of the Namibian Ministry of Education.

ME

I have had quite a bit of time to reflect on our sermon on Sunday and would like to share a few thoughts about that in my next post. Cherice brought the message and it centered on the I am the vine statement of Jesus in John 15. Stay tuned.

Helicon

March 22, 2007

Yesterday morning I attended a meeting at the Helicon Opleidingen, an agricultural university in the Netherlands. I was joined by Joop van Schie, a dutch educator; Peter Bunus, a computer science professor from Sweden and a group of his students; and by Angela Graat, of the Helicon. Angela was our host and directed the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to give Peter and his students a tour of the facilities and to learn about how the facilities are being used by the Helicon for instruction in agriculture-related subjects. A highlight of the tour for me was my ride on the mechanical bull. I stayed on for twenty seconds and took quite a fall at the end of the ride.

I met Joop several weeks ago, as a result of me sharing a little about myself in an email list that I subscribe to. We have met several times since then. We share similar backgrounds in vocational technical education. You may be wondering about how I could get away from Newberg on short notice to go to a meeting at a Dutch University. That is the most interesting aspect of this. My meeting was all done on the Internet through Second Life. This medium has allowed me to become acquainted with and establish relationships with educators literally from around the world. And, as I have written about before, I am getting acquainted with Friends from around the world as well, through this same medium.

I will try and take a couple of pictures the next time I ride the bull and share them with you.

Had to cry today

March 19, 2007

I thought of one of my old favorites on Saturday morning.

It’s already written that today will be one to remember
The feeling’s the same as being outside of the law

Had to cry today
Well, I saw your sign and I missed you there

This is Had to Cry Today, written by Steve Windwood and recorded by Blind Faith in about 1969.  What prompted my memory was the frustration and sadness that I experienced in not being able to get to our meeting for worship in Second Life.  This is the first time I have had log in problems with SL and it was unexpected and disappointing.  At one point, I was able to log on, but all I could see was blue space surrounding my avatar, like I was in some kind of fog.  I could tell that my friends were online, but it was during a time of silence and I was not inclined to test my capabilities my barging in on the group with a chat message or IM.

After 30 minutes or so of trying, I moved on to other activities.  I had a fruitful day of pruning shrubs, playing with kids and visiting with my friend, Roy.  I also reflected on my emotional response to being unable to attend our meeting for worship.  I realized that my sadness was akin to what I would feel if I were on my way to worship on Sunday morning in my car and experienced a breakdown or a detour that got me close enough to see the meeting house, but not close enough to get there.  I am sure that I would miss my friends, our worship and fellowship in our physical space as I did in our SL space.

We made it to the North Valley meeting house on Sunday morning.  I participated in the second meeting of our technology group.  We had a good discussion and agreed on a couple of items for business, including the development of a seminar series in the fall through our Wednesday night with Friends program.  The series will feature technolgical tools applied  to the problems and situations of those in our congregation.  Problems and situations involving communication, information gatherings, serving others and learning will be investigated.  More on that later.


				

Leading by following

March 14, 2007

We are babysitting Pearl, our son and daughter-in-law’s cat, while they are in China. Pearl has been staying in our bathroom because she does not get along with our three cats (even though those three are her mother and two litter mates). Anyway, at about 2:00 am Pearl starting scratching at the door, wanting out. She woke me up and I could not go back to sleep. So I got up and started my morning routine a little early today.

When I arrived at the office, I had some found time to invest. I typed up the minutes from our administrative committee meeting last night. I serve as the recording clerk for the administrative committee at North Valley Friends Church. I reflected on a brief discussion we had at the conclusion of last night’s meeting. The discussion centered on the best time to have our business meetings. Several comments really made an impression on me. One individual stated that if we had meaningful business for people to participate in, they would attend business meetings. Another person stated that having a published agenda one week ahead would be helpful. Our presiding clerk agreed that that would be a good idea but that he was not that good at getting agendas out.

The thought struck me, “Why do you have to wait for someone to ask you to perform a service, Scot? Couldn’t it be that there is an opportunity to serve, by following a leading, which would provide a leadership function for the group.” Have you experienced how in an instance an entire dialogue occurs within your head about the pros and cons of a particular course of action? That was going on within me. “My job is to take the minutes, the clerk can develop the agenda and request additional help, if needed”. But then I thought, “What would happen if I sent a proposed agenda for our next business meeting to the presiding clerk, along with the minutes from last night’s meeting?”

I built an agenda based on a typical order of business and included items that came out of the administrative committee meeting. I included some guides as to how the agenda could be revised and added to. I also made it clear (I hope) that I was in no way trying to take control, I was simply suggesting a course of action that might be helpful. I did send that agenda on to Bruce along with the minutes this morning.

I hope that in taking the lead in this small way, I was helpful to Bruce and the meeting. Leading and following go hand-in-hand and it is amazing to think that being a good follower is a leadership activity. I suppose that being a good leader is also a followership activity. I will explore that concept in greater depth in the near future. I am reminded of Tom Sergiovanni’s work in educational leadership. Tom’s work in his book Moral Leadership is based on the premise that moral authority is most effective (as oppposed to positional or technical or charismatic) as a basis for leadership, for the source of authority in moral leadership is a set of agreed upon external principles that the entire community agrees to submit to. So, in essence, the leadership function is to point to the commonly agreed upon principles. In this model then, there need be little distinction as to the worth of leading and following, as all members are leading and following. And, it is the responsibility of all to be listening and to lead when appropriate.

Debbie and Ruth and Ruth

March 11, 2007

My Girls

This is a picture of my wife Debbie and our four daughters. I took the picture last summer in the Redwood forest in northern California. Next to Debbie is Becky, who is now seven, Livvy, who is now four, Ruth, who is 15 and Abby (11). I am blessed to have a wonderful wife and four beautiful daughters. Debbie and Ruth are on a retreat this weekend. They traveled to the Oregon coast to stay in the Prayer Lookout at Twin Rocks Friends Camp at Rockaway Beach. I am home with the other girls.

My bible study friends Dave, Torey and Troy came to our house this morning so that I could participate in the study without leaving the girls alone. We have been reading the Book of Ruth. Last time, we read the first chapter in which Ruth told Naomi, her mother -in-law,

16″Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

Wonderful words and a wonderful story of commitment. Just as wonderful are the words of Boaz, found in the second chapter, which we read today. Boaz not only allowed Ruth to glean in his fields, but commanded his men not to harm her or embarrass her. He ordered his workers to put some of what they had gathered down in front of Ruth so that she could gather grain more easily.

It is somewhat hard for me to grasp the significance of these events and words since their culture is so much different than mine. I find it hard to understand how very counter-cultural it was for Ruth to abandon her home country, her kin and her gods to follow Naomi. It is also hard to get a handle on how different Boaz must have been then many wealthy landowners who would have believed it was quite appropriate for his servants to humiliate, harass and even rape a young foreign woman who was not attached to a man and who was scrambling in the grain fields to gather up enough so that she would not starve. I do realize that in both the person of Boaz and Ruth, we learn of individuals who were willing to go beyond their own traditional view of community and be bold and generous enough to reach out to those who were different than they were.

How willing am I to go beyond “acceptability” to extend a hand of love and generosity to others? Its easy to be friendly around those who are like me. Is it quite as easy around those who are quite different? I was reminded of this during our Friends worship this morning in Second Life. If you unfamiliar with Second Life, I encourage you to read a blog entry from my friend Ruby who shares briefly about the experience of meeting for worship in Second Life.

I won’t go into details at this point. I would just like to state that I am learning to appreciate and accept a much broader range of “otherness” in Second Life, as our meeting for worship has a diverse group of people. And, we are sitting and listening together and looking for ways of expressing care and concern as we move forward in establishing a community or friends in Second Life.

Regarding community, I want to recommend a fine piece by Timothy Travis, a Quaker blogger from Portland. His piece on community can be found here.

Life of the Beloved

March 7, 2007

My wife Debbie gave me a Henri Nouwen book for my birthday.  The book is Life of the Beloved.  I have read several others by Nouwen and find each to be an authentic presentation of the life of faith and service.  This one is no different.  I am about two-thirds of the way through the book.  This book, written in 1992 was penned by Nouwen for his friend, Fred.  Fred challenged Henri to write to a secular audience, as Fred knew that Henri’s books have had great meaning and acceptance by Christian people, but may not have been widely read or regarded by a secular audience. Cover

Nouwen, in his gentle, caring way, has drawn me into the book and his words have been an encouragement to me to listen to my friends and neighbors and seek to find common ground with them. The primary message of Life of the Beloved is that we are all the Beloved of God.  The book is themed around the four aspects of  Jesus’ words regarding  the bread and community of table fellowship.  These are, “taken”, “blessed” “broken” and “given”.  In the account of the Last Supper (see Luke 22:19), we read of Jesus, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'”

Nouwen discusses the life of the beloved in the sense that we are all taken, or as he puts it, chosen, we are blessed, we are broken and we are all to be given.  In some regard then, we are recreating in our lives the journey, commitment and service that Jesus first set forth some two thousand years ago.

I will share more as I have time to study this book and its meaning.  Stan’s sermon on Sunday had to do with Jesus interacting with a group of religious leaders  in John chapter 6.   Jesus contrasted the bread provided by God to the people of Israel in the wilderness with his own being as bread.  Manna sustained physical life but eternal life is sustained by being a partaker of Christ.  I have much more thinking and prayer to do before I can bring adequate words in response.  Help me listen and to see.