As an Episcopalian, I cannot hear those words without saying, "And also with you". I have grown up responding to those words, and now, I am going to admit a truth. Who knew you were coming to True Confessions, right? Until this morning, I didn't really and truly think about what those words really mean in the broader context than simply a liturgical and lovely "call and response". When I want to tell someone that I am praying for their peace and serenity, I think deeply about the words I say, but this? I have said the words for years without truly thinking them through. This morning, as Dave and I sat in church, we listened to the sermon about Jesus seeing that He had clearly frightened some of his followers by coming back to life and breaking bread with them. In their fear and disbelief, he said he wanted them to not be afraid and to be at peace.
I want to have peace...within myself, my family, my work, and in the broader worldwide community.
In order to live in peace with myself, I have to do certain things to keep at peace. I pray each morning, I read a daily meditation, and I talk to other people who are seeking the same peace as I am. This may seem like a ritual, and it is in some ways, but I can keep it green by talking to new people, reading new prayers, sharing my thoughts on a meditational reading, and remembering that what I do in private, so I must do in public. In other words, I can't "preach" peace while screaming at one of my students, even if I may, every great once in a while, lose my temper and have to take a big ole' (that's how we say it now that we're back in Texas) deep breath. My own brain is a pretty dangerous neighborhood to walk around in, left to my own devices. So, I rely on my faith, my spiritual advisors, and other loved ones to help me discern what is and isn't God's true desire for me.
In order to live in harmony with Dave, he simply needs to listen to what I say and do it without argument. Just kidding! We have learned and are still learning (after 29 years of marriage) to listen to one another and know that, at the end of our conversation (whether it's about politics or how big the study is going to be in the house we are building), we want to come out on the other side in peace and love. I have always been baffled by how we can show our best selves at work and then rip into the ones whom we most love. I suppose it is the nature of letting our guard down, but it is simply wrong. I should be my best self for Dave, as he is the one I chose to spend the rest of my life with...and we re-up that decision every year. I pray we keep doing that for the next 40 years or so.
How do we remain peaceful at work when all around us is chaos? I am amazed at how many changes have been made in the field of education over the last year or so. I work with some districts who don't know from week to week if they are going to switch from face-to-face teaching to online teaching or vice-versa. What do the COVID numbers show? You might as well turn over the Magic 8 ball...it will surely say "Reply hazy. Try again later." So many people are blaming one person or organization when truly, COVID is a bit tougher to wrestle than even the weather. School administrators are darned if they do; darned if they don't when it comes to school closings. But what if we offered a bit of grace to those in charge? What if we honestly said (and meant---that might be the kicker), "Peace be with you"? I feel certain that students, teachers, staff, administrators, and parents alike would all benefit from a little peace in life right now. I supervise student teachers, I teach graduate students who are getting their master's degrees in educational leadership, and I mentor doctoral students who are trying to get their educational dissertations completed....all during a pandemic that has so vastly changed the landscape of school as we knew it that it makes our heads spin. And yet, they are still working diligently to tap into the field of education to find out what they can do to make it better than ever. I conduct webinars in which people are laughing (not the crazed clown laughter, either; I mean honest to goodness laughter) at each other and my silly jokes and the mistakes we all make. It makes me realize that we all must be finding some modicum of peace in our lives through an unpeaceful time.
And finally, what about the world around us? Would I really mean it if I said that peace is evident in every crevice of our country? Surely not. In fact, I find myself shaking my head at some of the posts I read from my own friends and family members on social media that are filled with hate and vitriolic attacks on one another. I find myself wondering if it is best to ignore those curse-filled comments (I take any cursing off my own page, but I certainly can't control what others say on their own feeds) or to take a stand for peace. I want for peace to "be" with each one of our interactions, even if we disagree. I was amazed at responses I saw to a post that had some suggestions for how we might speak to each other if we wanted to show we were actually listening to one another's beliefs (i.e. "That is an interesting opinion; I want to think about that some more" or "I've never considered that before..."). The response was something to the effect that we need to question everything everyone says. Wait...what? I wonder what would happen if we all operated from a place from Stephen Covey's habit of "Begin with the end in mind", with the "end" being we simply want peace. Do we want to be right or do want for things to be right between us? I admit I have often wanted to be right. I'm just wondering at what cost that belief comes when I know I don't have all the right answers, anyway. If, instead, I want peace, that seems it shouldn't come with such a high price. And yet...
Just for today, I will truly examine what it means to say "Peace be with you" and "And also with you", and to honestly mean it from the bottom of my heart. How about you?
...and leave the rest.
This is a common phrase I hear (and say) in a group to which I belong. The premise is, of course, that you might just hear something someone says that you don't agree with (insert loud gasp of shock and amazement). But what if, instead of arguing about who is right and who is wrong, we simply allowed everyone to speak what they believe is good or right for them, and let the rest go? It seems that 12 step groups have that phenomenon down pat. Why can't the rest of the world try that on for size? The Indigo Girls put out a song many moons ago that contained the line, "Everything that I believe is wrong with you is wrong with me." What does that mean? For me, it means that when I am criticizing someone's belief about politics, religion, the "right" airline or hotel to use, the "right" coffee shop to frequent (my Nextdoor app was going CRAZY about coffee this morning, which I found to be amusing because I don't care for coffee, anyway----want to swordfight about that??), etc., others are very likely critiquing my critique. So, what to do? In social situations, I have learned that the phrase "You might be right" or "Hmmm...that's an interesting perspective I hadn't considered" works great. I truly believe that if I step out onto the proverbial dance floor with the crazy-making opinions, I am doing precisely what I am criticizing other people for doing. And yet...I still get swept up by the music, sometimes, and want to jump out onto the dance floor. For what? Do I really believe that all my words of wisdom are going to change someone's mind about whether or not to get vaccinated or whether they should fly ABC airline? No more than someone is going to change my mind. But I have learned (through a protocol we tried at church a couple of years ago called "For God's Sake, Listen!") to listen to someone else's point of view, and while I don't have to agree with it, I can certainly consider it and where they are coming from.
Why can't we all just get along??, I wonder. But even that very question seems fraught with controversy when people talk about its possible "origin". Here's what I do know. I am truly a hodgepodge of every person with whom I have been blessed to have in my life. I love Chinese food because my closest friends in college "made" me try it for the first time our freshman year, despite my protests. I love musicals because my high school choir friends and I would use the songs from the current musicals of the time in order to audition for the drama department's musicals. I love Labrador Retrievers because Dave and I pored over books about dog breeds when we first got married before deciding on a breed that would change the course of our lives forever. I adore James Taylor and Kenny Rankin because my mother and I listened to their albums when I was in middle school and high school. I likely do not have many "original" likes/dislikes/thoughts. Most of them have surely come from somewhere or someone whose path I encountered. But what if I would have said, "I will never eat hot and sour soup. That sounds nasty"? I would have missed out on so much goodness.
Even with workshops I teach to teachers, school leaders, professors, and my own graduate students, I find myself saying, "If you take nothing else with you from today, I hope you will remember this nugget...." And I hear, sometimes, that they did remember that nugget, and it makes me happy. All I have to do is show some willingness to listen and learn from others, and I might very likely grow in my own wisdom. And if something really gets under my skin? It is likely something I need to take special attention to, as it is likely something that is going to teach me a lesson down my own spiritual journey.
Just for today, consider what you nod your head to and what you vehemently shake your head at. Perhaps you might consider taking what you like and leaving the rest.
In virtual church this morning, we read the verse from Isaiah 50 that says "The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher." As a lifelong educator, myself, I ponder that quite seriously. Do I believe that the tongue of a teacher is a gift and talent I have been given? Yes, and I believe it is also my responsibility to use it for good and not for evil.
I have watched so many educators deal with turmoil this past year with grace and courage. What kind of courage? Some people have criticized schools and teachers for not wanting to "get back to work". Just what do these critics think teachers have been doing for the past year? I assure you that eating Bonbons is not part of that equation. "But teaching online has to be easier. You can do it in your pajamas" spout some of the critics. Pajama bottoms or not (well, don't take that phrase out of context----stick with me), teachers have had to learn (and teach their own students) an entire new way to conduct the business of school. From learning and implementing new digital tools (both quickly and with fidelity, I might add, so to minimize wasted time that should be used to teach and learn), to dealing with students and parents who struggle with getting on Zoom in the first place, to going back to school face to face one day only to be told "Nope, we have to go back online---we have three cases of COVID in our building", it is enough to make a teacher's head spin (and maybe even spit out pea soup in the spinning).
What can these critics be thinking? I wonder to myself and aloud to you. Imagine trying to corral 28 Kindergarten children into their seats, when some are still really YOUNG Kinders, and trying to keep them focused on you while you teach at the front of the room. You must constantly use proximity to remind them to focus on the board or on the other student who is speaking. Now, change the game: the Kinders are no longer in the classroom. They are on Zoom----some with absolutely no adult supervision, because, well....Mom had to go to work. This is not a myth I'm creating---this is real life that I have witnessed through watching teachers and student teachers teach all over the country. The students who have the capacity to maintain some semblance of attention while the teacher has them identify words that rhyme with "dog" hold up white boards or write on virtual white boards. Those who don't quite possess that necessary maturity are essentially in the outfield picking daisies. Seriously, they are seen petting their cat that walks between them and the computer; they are heard yelling at their brothers or sisters; they are trying to listen while someone in the house has loud 70s disco music blaring in the background (you can't make this stuff up); and you are trying to teach while all this is going on!
Without ever deviating from their primary purpose of keeping students' learning first and foremost, these teachers have given up their "free time" (that is a misnomer, by the way, as most teachers do not possess free time) to talk with parents about how to turn up the volume on their computers or to work with students with special needs one-on-one as a classroom setting on Zoom simply doesn't cut it for some students' learning abilities or to adapt lessons that are meant to be taught in person but have to be quickly adjusted to virtual learning.
How about if we all remember that teachers have been given a Goliath sized task, and they, like David, have a small slingshot in their hands. But they are making it work, trust me. I am blessed to see it happen on an almost daily basis, and it makes me so proud to be an educator.
Is COVID wreaking havoc on education right now? Yes, COVID is real and affecting people all over the world. I'm so grateful vaccines are becoming more readily available. Dave and I are both getting our first vaccines this week. But it will be awhile, I am guessing, before school looks the way some critics think it should look.
How about if we support teachers and educational leaders instead of criticizing them?
How about if we focus on solutions rather than being constant naysayers?
How about if we use appropriate language and words on social media instead of calling one group of people horrible names just because they might not believe the same things we do?
How about if we model for the children growing up right now how to have civil discussions without using foul language?
For me and my house, we will choose to eliminate any posts on social media that use foul language (I always try to remind people that using such language simply shows a lack of vocabulary----of all the words in the English language, you still revert to cursing?), and I will forever remind my connections that we are trying to do the right thing and stay positive about solutions.
I work with many student teachers, teachers who are getting their master's degrees in Educational Leadership, as well as with teachers and administrators in districts all over the country. To say I am blessed to get a peephole view into the "life" of education on a daily basis would be a massive understatement. The one common theme I see in so much of the work I do is resilience. Resilience was a major topic about which I studied when I was getting my master's degree in counseling. In a much newer version of his work, Frederic Flach (2004) talks about how resilience "describes the psychological and biological strengths required to ...master change" (p. xvii). I have always said that I love change. In fact, about every seven or eight years, I have begun or at least added on a new residence, job, responsibility at my same job, etc. There are certain points in life in which shifts occur. Flach calls these times of shift bifurcation points. Those might include marriage, death of a spouse, parent or child, new job, retirement, etc.
But I also believe there can be spiritual bifurcation points. One for me was my decision to quit drinking. I truly had a spiritual tap on my shoulder that said, "If you want to ensure you retain your marriage, career, lack of moral bankruptcy, integrity, etc., it might be wise to stop doing what you are doing". I grew up in a home in which alcoholism ran rampant. My mother went into a treatment center when I was 9 years old and was a recovering (we never say "recovered") alcoholic the rest of her life, until she passed away in 2005. My dad may never have said he was an alcoholic, but instead said he was "just an old drunk". My own recovery didn't require me to lose a home, a car, a license, a husband; but those were all "yets". If I had stayed on the path I was on, I might very well have ended up with any of those consequences. As a child, life wasn't picture perfect, by any means. But lots of people had rough childhoods. Why do some people come out of those bifurcation points in jail, with misery, or even having committed suicide? Why do some people come out of those situations with only minor scrapes and scuffs on their knees? Flach says it has to do with that resilience that can be helped with a few characteristics, two of which I always like to talk about and focus on. In order to come out of a major traumatic situation without it causing lifelong destruction to one's self, two factors might be:
*a relationship with a mentor of sorts (someone who has your back and believes in you)
*a sense of humor
I have been so very blessed in my own trajectory of growing up (still in process, by the way) to have mentors too many to count or to thank. These mentors have come along "just in time" in many cases (a 5th grade teacher, Claudia Edgerton, who saw that I needed a relationship with her just as much as, if not more than, I needed to learn about fractions. She wrote me little notes that acknowledged the difficulty of being a child of recent divorce and all that entails. While there have been so very many others in the 40+ (let's just leave it there, folks----just move along) years since then, I'd like to focus on that one, as it relates to our role as educators. In working with my graduate students, I frequently hear things like, "I wish I had a principal who cared about me as a person". I also have had student teachers who appreciate the connectedness they feel to their cooperating teacher and to me. They say it helps them feel like they can talk just as much about their growth areas as they can their developing strengths. Some of my workshop participants talk about how they wish they had a principal who would talk with them instead of simply talking at them. In other words, they want the relationship piece.
For all you educators out there, who teach pre-school to doctoral courses, I am not talking about being friends with our students. On the contrary, I tell my graduate students, "I don't mind if you are really mad at me for being tough on you when I grade your papers. I would mind, however, if you left this course thinking your writing was appropriate to become a school administrator when it is not. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I didn't help you become the best educational leader you can be." Sadly, too many students tell me that they have always gotten every single point on every single paper up until the course they are taking with me, and it is a shock to see the specific feedback (not always stellar) written directly on their paper. I cringe when I hear students (with whom I talk to on the phone or on Zoom calls to establish that relationship, because they won't care a bit about what I have to say if they don't know how much I care about what they know when they leave me) tell me they have never had a professor write on their paper. Wait,...what??? How can you learn from your mistakes if you don't know what those mistakes are?? I love hearing the words similar to "Thank you for caring enough to be tough on me. I knew my papers weren't great in my last class, but the professor didn't say anything so I got used to being mediocre. You've made me realize I don't want that for myself, and I don't want it for my own students or the teachers who I will end up working with when I become a principal."
Every once in a while, I have students drop my course, stating they didn't know it was going to be this much work. While it makes me sad, I take great solace in those other students who start out the first week of class, mad as hornets about their grade on their first paper; talk through the requirements and high expectations; and then come out of the course, writing me thank you notes that bring genuine tears to my eyes. Some of those students are "forever" relationships; ones that ask me to help them with resumes; ones that ask me to watch them teach, virtually, and model what a reflection conference should look like, etc.
Every single day, teachers of today are being asked to change in ways that truly have become bifurcation points for them. Digital learning for Kindergarten students is a strange, exotic bird that requires a new type of food, feeding schedule, etc. And so it goes. But I see so many resilient educators and educational leaders who not only are demonstrating the ability to "roll with the punches" but are also even able to do it with a sense of humor. The stories they tell me about how their students, after only seeing them on Zoom, see them in the grocery store and say, "Wow!! You are tall!" (because height has no meaning on Zoom) or the fact that the line of 2020 is likely going to be "You're muted. Take yourself off mute"---those stories are what keep us sane and ready to handle new changes that come our way. Resilience....I pray you have some measure of it.
Just for today, I would ask that you examine when your major bifurcation points have occurred, how you remain resilient, and how you can be a source of strength for others.
Wow! What a year 2020 was, and 2021 is shaping up to be an interesting year of change. Of course, COVID brought so many changes to us, and to educators for so many reasons. One of the coolest things that I have seen is the way teachers have stepped up to the plate and have accepted the changes with such grace. I am sometimes amazed at how the general public can criticize teachers for "not wanting to go to work" or for "not doing their job", when these same people may not even have kids of their own or know anything about what it is like to be in the field of education. It raises my hackles, I'll admit, as it simply shows ignorance. "Do you have any idea what teachers are having to do in this virtual 'baptism by fire' time??", I want to yell. But, in truth, it wouldn't do any good, as I won't convince people who don't know the truth. And, instead, why don't I spend my efforts helping educators do what they do best? It is such a pleasure to work with teachers on getting more comfortable with online learning. We spend time exploring digital tools, talking about the challenges and solutions, and discussing how these changes have likely altered the landscape of education forever. I feel so grateful to be a part of that world, working with several universities and teaching workshops all over the country as well.
Now, our own big change is a move to Texas. We have lived in Tucson for the last 8 years, and we had truly begun putting down roots here, including Dave's retirement (a.k.a. known as "golfing"), a wonderful church community, volunteering, fostering for a Labrador Retriever rescue organization, and so much more. While we have loved it so very much, we felt like it would be a great time for a change. I'm hopefully going to be teaching a bit more at Trinity University (my alma mater for my Bachelor's degree), in addition to continuing to mentor doctoral students, teaching at online universities, and teaching virtual workshops on increasing student engagement, etc. Dave and I bought a piece of land in the hill country of Texas about 14 years ago, and we always said we would build on it "one day". Apparently, that "one day" has come and we are going to build a home on that land. While we are super excited, we also know that change is going to be hard. It will be made a bit easier living in close proximity to my aging dad, my (almost 3 year old) niece and her whole family, and my best friend from high school, among many other friends and family. And Dave will surely find a golf course or two on which he can play several days a week, while our own two Labs will enjoy being able to spread out on some acreage around our new home.
What does change mean to you? How do you adapt to it? I am looking forward to hearing your responses!
Dave has a long history of making fun of me. Some things that seem to make so much sense to him escape my reasoning. While sports are a big part of his life, I not only don't do so well with most of them, my care factor isn't truly present, either. I would like to point out to all of my professional colleagues that my faux pas (yes, I had to check, and faux pas is actually singular and plural, and I, unfortunately mean it in the plural form) have not yet extended to my professional work.
Dave's history of laughing at me started only a few years into our marriage, when we were flying somewhere, and I looked out the window to see a plane flying pretty close to us. "Shouldn't we be farther away from that airplane over there? It seems dangerously close." Dave looked then smirked at me, "That is the wing of our own airplane. You're safe, sweetie", and he patted my shoulder.
Compound that with my lack of understanding of how, as Dave calls it, "water can run uphill". When we would drain the hot tub that was on the second floor porch of our house in Florida, the water would come from a hose that was down at the lowest point in the hot tub and go up then back down to drain out on the grass below. I never quite got the "physics hang" of how the water could get up and out of the hot tub. Dave sometimes still mutters, "We should have dated longer."
While most people are looking forward to watching the Superbowl for the football, I typically read or do work for an upcoming workshop while the game is on, looking forward only to the commercials and Superbowl food. Hey, at least I know that there are quarters versus innings in this game. I just don't really care.
I figure everyone has a superpower and everyone has their own kryptonite. In fact, I started playing a "game" with friends and family this past year. When gathered together, I would suggest we play Superpower. One person is in the Superpower chair in a circle, table or group. Everyone else, in turn, says what they believe that person's Superpower is. For example, Ryan is the most loyal and dedicated dad and wife to his beautiful family. Dave is "Mr. Justice and Fairness". Cid has dear friends in likely every state and country in the world because she is so friendly and fun-loving. Robin has the capacity to stay calm in the face of situations in which most others would panic. I challenge and encourage you to try this out with a group of family and friends. I assure you that everyone in the group will not soon forget the experience.
I can remember the names of my workshop participants after seeing/hearing their names one or two times. Dave can remember the phone number we had in the first house we owned in Dallas. And truly as patient as Dave is to try to remind me to "turn-turn" with my torso when swinging the golf club when I still am swinging mostly with my arms, I can only say, "I hear the words you are saying to me; my body just doesn't seem to understand them." And all Dave can do is shake his head. I believe my real Superpower exists in being able to laugh at myself, though. When Dave gave me a set of golf lessons, I thought, "This will be great!" I was soon out on the driving range with the female golf pro from our golf club. To say she lacked a sense of humor would be generous. At one point, she told me to get out my pitching wedge. I looked in my golf bag and couldn't find anything that would indicate it might be a pitching wedge. I finally gave in, pulling out a club asking, "I can't find it. Would it be this E club?" The look of disdain on her face will not soon be forgotten, as she reached over, turned the club and said, "It's a W----W for wedge". I promptly burst out laughing (that IS funny, after all), and she promptly...did not.
So, I will be here as moral support for Dave this evening as we watch the Superbowl...or maybe I'm here more as comic relief.
This is not a political post. This is not a political post. This is not a political post.
I am encouraging everyone to write this 100 times on the chalkboard. Okay, frankly, there are some of you who have never even seen a chalkboard, but trust me on this one----whiteboards are SO much better....for those of us, especially, who have issues with getting chalk on our hands. Oh boy....that whole issue is for another day and another blog.
Perspective is a funny thing, isn't it? Some people are thrilled with the election while others are not. Some people (even in the same family) see their childhoods as great learning opportunities while others see their early childhood years as reasons for not achieving their dreams. Some people see rain as a way to ruin your parade, while others see rain as an answer to prayer for their withering crops. This morning, as Dave and I drove to church, we headed east toward the Catalina Mountains, which have provided a most beautiful backdrop to Tucson over the last eight years of our life here. Over the Catalinas hovered enormous looming clouds, ready to burst open with rain, sleet and snow. We marveled at that sight while driving. At one point I turned around, and in the west, over the Tucson Mountains, the sun was shining so beautifully and brightly, Dave and I had to marvel and make a choice. We could look toward the east and see gloom or we could look to the west and see the sun on our way to learn more about the Son! Couple that with the fact that our priest's sermon was all about how during Jesus's walk on earth, He challenged people to turn around, to turn away from hypocrisy. What a Godwink for us! We also heard a pretty cool thought on the Praise and Worship station on Sirius XM on our drive to church. It was something to the effect of: Quit worrying about whether or not you are an elephant or a donkey, and focus on the fact that you are a lamb of God. Wowee!! I just loved that. On what do we spend the bulk of our time, thinking and Facebook posts? It sure seems, at times, that negativity is winning out. And then Amanda Gorman steps onto the stage at the Inauguration (remember, this is not a political post; this part is all about beauty!!) and recites her poem, "The Hill We Climb" , and our country seems like an amazing place to live and grow.
Dave and I are in the midst of making some major changes in our lives. We will be moving from Arizona to Texas (my homeland, by the way) soon, and we are looking at this situation through different types of lenses. While Dave will be leaving behind some really great golfing buddies (and an amazing golf course, to boot), he is excited about the prospect of playing different courses in the hill country area of Texas. While most all my work is online, I am hopeful I will be able to teach face-to-face courses at Trinity University in San Antonio (my B.A. alma mater) in the coming semesters. We are at the same time dreading boxing up all of our goods and excited about building a new home. It's all about our perspective.
As far as education goes right now, I talk to many, many educators on a regular basis. I supervise student teachers, and they are so excited to begin their journey to gain their own classrooms by next fall. I talk with educators who are struggling desperately with the shift from face-to-face learning to distance learning and all that entails. I'm working with some schools on new and innovative digital tools that are engaging students in ways that we wouldn't have imagined fathomable a year ago. I believe these tools and strategies have stretched all of us in education such that even when we are back face-to-face, we will still have a treasure trove of online techniques that we can add to our repertoires. Yes, there are major challenges: parent support, building relationships with students online, assessment in online conditions, and the hits just keep coming. But there are also spots when we turn away from negativity and find the sunshine making a clear path to innovative ways of teaching and learning. I am so proud to be a part of education (working with educators, educational leaders, my own students at the B.A, M.A., and doctoral level, etc.) right now and look forward to what the future has in store for me, personally, as well as for all of us in this amazing field.
Just for today, perhaps take a look behind you. Turn away from hypocrisy; turn toward the light that is as bright as we are willing to make it. And share that outlook with others as you see fit.
In the sermon this morning, Rev. Debra so wisely talked about being cautious about how we talk to people (and about people, for that matter). It reminded me so much of what Stephen Covey said about "Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood". In other words, if we don't know where people are coming from and we make assumptions, we can often use words that might be hurtful and even unwarranted.
So, I thought I might dissect this phrase: Mind Your Words.
MIND: Let's start with the mind. Starting here implies that I am cognizant of what I am saying. I am using my brain to pause when necessary and to re-think phrasing I use that might be taken out of context and possibly be offensive to someone. Does this mean we walk around on eggshells? I think not. I believe it means that we are aware that we are not the only people on the earth, and that we share this earth with people who have different beliefs than our own. On Christmas Day, we participated in an Inter-Faith Worship event. We had people who spoke, sang, played instruments, and story told from religious sects such as the Muslim Community Center of Tucson, a local Jewish congregation, Tucson's Ba'hai community, the Tucson North Stake of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Church of Science, and finally our own Episcopal Church of the Apostles. One of the coolest moments for me, personally, was when the Muslim sheikh said the words "As-salaamu Alaikum" which in Arabic means “May Peace be unto you.” And, after working with schools across the nation in the last few years, I have learned the proper response for this Islamic greeting is, “Va-alaikum As-salaam” which in Arabic means “Peace be unto you too". Ummm.... this is exactly what we say in our church, and I know most Catholic and Episcopal churches do the same. Wait a minute....we are saying the EXACT same words, just in a different language. That just touched my soul, deeply, to think about that connection to others. So, why do we let our minds try to convince us that we are so very different, and that if people look, talk, or worship a bit differently than we do, we need to reject them and their beliefs? As our priest said, we were likely looking at the Kingdom of God when worshiping together on Christmas Day---- with people from so many different walks of life. My theory has always been that our infinite God is like the world-wide web. That is our goal to get out to the internet. But we just each use different internet providers. We may actually change providers at times in our lives, because our needs and wants change, but no matter what, we are getting out to "infinite God".
YOUR: This word seems pretty self-explanatory, right? But within that four-letter word, there is an implication that I am responsible for my own transformation. In fact, I believe that it is only by allowing my "self" to be emptied before it can be filled with the Holy Spirit or any other new ideas that might have been rejected before if I was not open-minded enough. Richard Rohr, in his book "Yes, And.. Daily Meditations" (Rohr, 1997) that two dear friends of mine have been reading from and texting about on a daily basis since last May, talks about the small self (the one that relies on the ego, whether boosting me up or convincing me I am not enough) and how it can often overtake us. Instead, in order to become more Holy or even a larger part of human understanding, we need to allow ourselves to become more of our "authentic" selves (what God had long ago designed for us, in the first place). Chris Sligh, who finished 10th on American Idol in season 6, sings in "Empty Me":
"Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with You"
Click on the "Empty Me" link above. I promise it's worth a listen.
What does this mean to you? For me, it means that I simply must be willing to lose the "poison of pride", in which I either think too much of myself or or think of myself too much. Either way, I need to let go of those foolish things so I can be filled with the Holy Spirit and new ideas, whether personal or professional.
As a connoisseur of words, I have always been interested in communication. How do my words impact you? How do your words impact me? Why is it that, on a certain day, Dave might say something to me that flies right past me, when the next day, he might say the exact same thing but it hits me in a totally different way? I believe that is because true communication is the transmission of a message between a sender and receiver. That implies that at least two people's human natures are going to be involved. Each of us transmits messages and receives messages differently, depending on what emotional state we are in. I have written articles, taught workshops, delivered keynotes, and written a book specifically on communication, and this is what I know: I still get into situations in which I could allow the use of one word to either wreck or make my day. The blessing is that I get to teach graduate students who are typically teachers who are hoping to become school leaders one day. I try to model for them that their words matter. Their written and verbal communication matter, immensely, to the general public. I use the example that, if a principal were to write the word "principle" when talking about themselves, the "ballpark talk" (as I refer to it when groups of parents talk about what they see going on in their children's school) is going to eat that principal alive. I tell my students that I am trying desperately to save themselves from such a fate.
What words carry heavy connotation to you? "Social distancing"? What about "woke"? Do they offend you? Do they bolster you?
I am so very hopeful that the people with whom I work know how very much their words mean to me. When I teach a workshop filled with administrators or teachers, their feedback in post-session evaluations are taken straight to heart. Yes, there are outliers who say things like, "The coffee wasn't good. They should get Starbuck's next time", but I have learned to ignore the outliers and focus on the "mean", for the most part.
What does it mean to you to "Mind Your Words"? I would love to hear your thoughts. And, by the way, when I say this, I truly mean those words I say: I REALLY would love to read your comments. It helps me become a better communicator and thinker. God bless you, Rev. Debra, for giving me such food for thought to dissect three simple words from your sermon. I'd love to conclude by sharing a video that epitomizes this concept that words matter. I use it in multitudes of workshops I teach.
Happy Communicating to all,
Yesterday, Dave and I returned from a week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which I affectionately call my "happy place". Why? It is where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, creating a tremendously gorgeous turquoise water color combined with massive waves (it is rarely okay to go swimming in the water, but it is perfect for sitting on the beach, sitting by the pool, or lying in bed with the doors open---listening to the crashing of the waves). We got on the plane headed back to Tucson by way of Phoenix (don't ask), and within two minutes, we heard two couples griping at each other ("don't squish the hats!" "I wanted the window seat!" "Turn down the fan! It's blowing in my face" (okay, that last one might have come from me)). Dave and I looked at each other, and whispered at the same time "Vacation is apparently over". Certainly, most all of us have witnessed this same phenomenon at Disneyworld or Disneyland (you know, the happiest place on earth) when family members gripe at each other.
Today's sermon was about kneeling before God and others while standing up for what we believe. But what do we believe? What if my belief is different from your belief? It seems that, lately, that happens a great deal. Families and friends that say they love one another argue vehemently about political figures, even saying nasty things to one another on Facebook or in person. Loving God and our neighbors sounds pretty simple, but it apparently is not easy. Simple but not easy. Why? Because, for some silly reason, we believe that if we say we are right, then you who hold a differing belief must be wrong. I am but one voice, thought. You may not agree with me, but I do have that one voice that is mine and mine alone. I hope my voice is one of humility, but I believe that is not true, all the time. Why? I allow your voice that doesn't agree with mine to get my hackles up. And then, somehow, you are no longer just unique in your perspective but you are wrong.
What would happen if, instead of responding to one another's differing opinions with venom and ugliness, we simply responded with kindness and respectfulness? "How can I kneel and stand at the same time?" was the theme of our dear Rev. Debra's sermon this morning. Of course I have the right (and often a duty) to speak up with courage if a wrong is being done, but I pray with my heart and soul that I do that out of respect for others as human beings (after all, I think I am called to respect all humanity) instead of speaking to degrade someone else's beliefs? In fact, I think others' views might simply be considered unique versus wrong. Instead of arguing, what would be the problem with simply asking the other person whose views raise my hackles, "What is it about __________ that makes you uncomfortable?" or "What views about _______________ mesh with your own views about humanity?" OR.....I might even say Dave's and my favorite line for one another, "You know, you might be right about that" even if we might not totally believe it at the time. In other words, how do I behave in relationship with those with whom I abjectly disagree?
After all, the last I checked, God is God. I am not. I would, however, like to live in accordance with the way God would have me live----in harmony with my fellow man, with humility and integrity.
What about you?
Yes, it's that time of year...the time during which we all talk about the things for which we are most thankful. But why do we wait until Thanksgiving? Why do we wait until the pilgrims tell us it's time to gorge ourselves and give thanks for all our friends and family (and maybe moving across the ocean to practice religious freedom)? I think about what that must have been like to share their first harvest with the native Wampanoag tribe. Imagine the dialogue:
Pilgrim 1: Hey, we've got some corn we grew. Want some?
Wampanoag 1: If you give us some fruits and veggies, we'll give you some of our deer we just killed. Do you guys even know what venison is?
Pilgrim 2: Well, we know a lot about tea, but hey, we're game to try some venison. *laughs at his own joke*
Wampanoag 2: That's not really all that funny. I'm not sure this is going to work out so well.
Pilgrim 1: Don't worry about him. He's really never funny, but he has grown some grain that we could use to make some bread we could break together.
Wampanoag 1: Your bread breaks? *looks at Wampanoag 2* I'm not sure we want to share our deer with people who make bread that breaks.
Truthfully, I cannot even imagine what that must have been like. I wonder if, when the pilgrims put out their hands to say a prayer of thanks, the Wampanoag were thinking, "We are going to have to use a serious amount of hand sanitizer after this."
For what are you most thankful? I kneel down on my little bedside stool every morning to thank God for the day ahead and ask Him to keep me serene for the day. I'm thankful that, when I do that, I have a loving little girl Lab (L.C.) who lies down on the bed and puts her paws up next to my praying hands. I like to think she really is praying with me. It is a bit of a ritual I have been doing for approximately the last 22 years. I have almost never missed a day, so while I don't really like calling it a mere habit, it truly is. The problem? Before our pandemic, I was traveling a lot for work. Kneeling down on a hotel room carpet is not really conducive to serenity for a person with a bit of control freakiness and maybe a tiny bit of OCD. But I couldn't compromise, or it would have been that much easier to lapse the next day, and even easier the day after that. So, no matter if I have been in a tent on a safari in Africa, having to wake up at 3:30 in the morning to catch an early flight, or on vacation somewhere with Dave and the dogs, I still make it a priority.
What is so important? Everything! I love sunshine; I love family and friends; I love the work I do, getting to teach at four universities; I love hearing what keeps teachers and administrators going even when the going gets tough; I love watching "Lucifer" on Netflix; I love movie theater popcorn; I am thankful for Jesus dying for my sins, and the hits just keep coming. For what are you grateful? Dave and I like to take a moment for every person at our Thanksgiving table to answer that question during the meal. It is amazing the things we hear.
Why not take a moment to kneel down during this Thanksgiving week (or sit, if your knees can't handle the kneeling) and thank God for all the earthly and spiritual things that bring your gratitude?
Happy Communicating and Happy Thanksgiving blessings to all!!