christmas a couple days early

Emily bought for me Ecto today – a web-blog publishing platform fully equipped to keep me busy working on posts, and glued to the blue screen of my ibook. Currently I am trying to figure out the whole badge process – which typically I would be opposed to, I am not much for advertising, but as it goes for now I find it interesting to see what other bloggers use for tools so a few of mine are below.

Cristes maese and the American Soul

So today Emily and I worked my last day of work for about 10 days. We are ready for a break, who isn’t really. It seems like our world is built around a “dog eat dog” mentality – this is nothing new, the trouble is, is when it carries over into our more sacred times of the year. Earlier in the year I posted about Halloween and how it had the possibility of being viewed sacramentally. Granted Halloween requires more creative thinking to view it sacramentally than Christmas or Easter does – or so it seems at least on the surface.

Then again, I am not so sure its all that easy to take part in Christmas sacramentally either. While I was stocking textbooks earlier today I heard an automobile driver lay on his/her horn for more than a block out of frustration and impatience, we received a nasty email from a very impatient professor yesterday concerning the store’s policies, and we had a gentleman come into the store last night and repeatedly insult, and lie to one of our clerks about being faculty so he could receive the faculty discount. Tis the season.

The Beatles have a great song,

I, Me, Mine
from their famous album – “Let it Be.” I listened to it today during lunch, I was filled with sorrow and a bit of despair when I realized this Christmas we Americans are singing.

All thru’ the day I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
All thru’ the night I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Now they’re frightened of leaving it
Ev’ryone’s weaving it,
Coming on strong all the time,
All thru’ the day I me mine.

I-me-me mine, I-me-me mine,
I-me-me mine, I-me-me mine.

All I can hear I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Even those tears I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
No-one’s frightened of playing it
Ev’ryone’s saying it,
Flowing more freely than wine,
All thru’ the day I me mine.

I-me-me mine, I-me-me mine,
I-me-me mine, I-me-me mine.

All I can hear I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Even those tears I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
No-one’s frightened of playing it
Ev’ryone’s saying it,
Flowing more freely than wine,
All thru’ your life I me mine.

The culture surrounding Christmas has undermined the possible sacrament that it could be. We are so distracted by gifts, we either pride ourselves in how much money and time we put into a gift, or we pride ourselves in how little we spent and how “we really don’t care much for gifts.” I know – I am guilty, I love gifts…I love to know that people are thinking of me, have put some thought into trying to figure out who this “Wess really is” and “what he might like.” I also understand how giving gifts became so important.

First – and rightly so, it is because Christmas signifies gift giving, Christ the Messiah – the Son of God was given to us as a gift from Yahweh – to save us from our sins, our pride, our distractions away from God.

Secondly – the wise guys brought gifts to the babe in the manger to show their reverence to him who came.

Thirdly – Gifts more negatively have become so important because they cost something, namely cash. And cash is what makes America go ’round.

For the first two – we take part in some of the sacrament of Christmas when we too give gifts to those we love (who doesn’t like to give a gift to our loved ones). But it is the third part that has spoiled and so undercuts much of what happens – so much so that all good-tidings, brotherly and sisterly love, and joy are succumb to marketing, greed and a last minute gift-rush that leaves all the Christ-like virtues behind the shed in the backyard.

But what about that babe?
Who flipped worlds upside down. How does the babe flip Christmas around this year or any year for that matter?

For one thing – there are no gifts to be given or received that has not already be given to us. What this means is that the significance of Gift giving must be lowered – for we have already received our gift this year – a babe wrapped in a manger.

But to leave it here is to still put all the attention on gifts…that is gifts that are centered on ourselves.

There are other themes that must be reminded in the Christmas story.

  • A teenage virgin mother who faces the fear and scandal of having a child out of wedlock.
  • God places his trust in a Galilean woman (a very lowly position in society) to carry out his mission.
  • It is the powerless and social outcasts who assemble to celebrate the birth of a homeless child.
  • Hope comes through peace not power, prestige, riches or any other expected source of good.
  • Yahweh has his people in mind, he wishes to redeem creation.
  • Christmas also reminds us that we are, as Christians, different from the rest of the world because we believe in a baby to save the world. This foolishness, this scandal of the Christmas story is to also placed into the center of our thinking about Christ’s birth. It is God himself who continues to shatter our expectations while still offering hope and joy to the world.

Simeon says,
“This Child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35

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thoughts on class

This past quarter i had the great privilege to be Ryan Bolger’s teaching assistant for his class Transforming Contemporary Cultures. He has done a great post reflecting on things he’s learned from the standpoint of the teacher based on the students comments the last day of class. Taking his lead I thought I would do something similar.

First I wanted to post the links for their group work, which consisted of ten groups creating wikis (and some groups did podcasts for extra credit) that dealt with an issue in today’s world, a background to the issues, and how Jesus followers (and congregations) might respond to these issues.
1. Ageism and Ableism
2. Global Health Concerns
3. Global Media and Culture
4. Global Media and Family
5. Global Technology
6. International Economic Issues
7. Issues in Africa
8. Religious Fundamentalism
9. US Economic Issues
10. War, Terrorism and Militarism
For the whole quarter the students read books, and searched for resources on each of their issues, in the process they became versed in the specific vocabulary needed to communicate in each of the areas. I think it was about the 5th week when I really started to notice that their vocabulary was changing, that they were understanding and using specific terminology the pertained to their topics. In this class the students became specialists of their certain fields, able to at least in some degree offer knowledge, resources and possible ideas about how congregations can go about educating and responding to these issues.

For me it was a lot of work to keep up on all their individual blogs, group blogs and work on their wikis – but because of their work I felt like I got to see learning in action. This was something I’ve never experienced what it looks like for this learning process to take place from the “other side of the desk” so to speak. I thoroughly loved it.

There were difficult things about it besides the work. I was surprised how hard it is to communicate expectations. Ryan didn’t want to box the students in too much, not wanting to be too strict and wanting to allow for some creativity, we decided to not draw hard and fast lines about every expectation. But this seemed to be a greater challenge to the students than we have anticipated. This caused me to reflect on how pedagogy is approached altogether. There is something about the way we are schooled that unless things are really write out word for word, we have a hard time deducing certain things, I saw various struggles this past quarter. This is something that was good for me to see because I am a very independent learner, coming from a home-schooling-type atmosphere in high school I know what its like to motive myself to learn. I do my best when there is little control exercised over me – but I think that this is not the normal situation and that many people have not had opportunities to have creative space to think and become better thinkers. Ryan really challenged us all in this area.

It confirmed for me the desire to teach but also showed me the difficulties ahead. After watching Ryan teach I realized that it is also a very very hard profession, I know how much time he spent preparing, and trying to re-think how to approach things. It is one of those jobs were there will always be challenges, no easy ways out.

Working with Ryan was a real good time also. It was great because I really feel like I can learn a lot from him without being afraid of him, he definitely made me feel like a peer – as if my ideas were useful (when all along they were his!). Finding people who believe in you and trust you is always something that has the possibility to transform your own perspectives of yourself and the world – this class in keeping with its title did that for me.

I look forward to next quarter when I help with the “Emerging Churches” course.
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one more moment of tech stuff

Okay – I confess that I’ve been a little distracted by all the tech stuff as of late and sorry for the less thoughtful thoughts instead, about “haloscan” and other strange things. But I’ve been looking around alot for new social software, and other freeware types of things that can be used in Ryan’s classes. He has found a lot of stuff, and taking his lead I continue to digg for things that may be of “instructional” use. Of course I am also just trying to find things that are useful in locating information of my own.

Here are some sites I have found useful as of late.
1. Rojo – Recent Stories from all Feeds
2. suprglu (a place for all your tags)
3. Writely – The Web Word Processor or ThinkFree (though writely is more stable)
4. openomy (storage online)
5. Wink (news source) or digg
6. All Consuming (blogging stuff)
7. Welcome to Flickr!
8. to dos or Kiko Calendar
9.HaloScan.com – Weblog Commenting and Trackback
10. Technorati: Home

Of course you’re always welcome to watch my del.icio.us page.
to see what I am running into as I search for these things.

Next up some real thoughts about real issues – stay tuned.

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