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It is the Wednesday I go on holidays.  An unintentional slight on Emergent Kiwi’s blog has just been apologised for and I think all is right with the worl well at least the small bit of my little corner of it that I am somehow able to deal with.  If I am realistic even my corner is too big for me especially at Christmas when it is so easy to become manic.

This leads me to reflect on the Advent season we are in thus the reference to Holly in the title.  Holly is of course half the combination of the Holly and the Ivy which while sung at Christmas by Bing Crosby is really an Easter song.  Listen to the words if you don’t believe me.

Holidays of course were originally “Holy Days” when there was a break from routine whereby people could refresh themselves and take stock of their lives.

The family this year is taking a long drive (1700 kms or around 1000 miles)  to visit relatives.  We are looking forward to it though we all need more sleep.  Will this be refreshing?  I hope so.  More so will be the times of reflection when my passengers are asleep and I can stop and think while staring at country Australia,  Last year I felt God impress ideas and goals for the year.  I have achieved those in some measure or other and look forward to thinking about the next year.

I pray you have a great Advent and will hear from me again in the New Year

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It seems some days we don’t have time to do things.

Today was one of them.

This week I will explore two chapters of Weimer’s Learner Centered Teaching work before I go on holidays on Wednesday.  YEAH!

The issues that  chapters 5 & 6 of raise are helpful ones for me.  The first is making the students take responsibility for their learning.  The second is making evaluative assessment that shows learning as well as keeping exercises that enable learning.

I am working through how to have my students learn what is a skills based course, reading the Bible well,  to do so consistently.  I want them to keep reading the Bible at the end of the course in an informed and responsible manner.  I want them to look up tools and concordances when they get stuck on a word.

Now here is the problem students get the mindset they need to keep the lecturer happy to show they have learned.   How do we really know they have learned?  They want to know more.  This comes about as there are real consequences for not doing an action.  In psychology and the Boundaries books this is known as enabling.  Allowing someone to get away with something and then making up for their shortcomings just plasters over problems.  It solves nothing and only increases the enablers work.  We can do the same for students.  I think I will be setting tough consequences for the class for those who do not have the textbook in class by week 3.  The textbook is far better and more succinct than I at explaining the material and will work with the method I use so I have to come up with good exercises.

This leads onto the second point.  How are students encouraged to learn through self-assessment.  To truly understand you are learning you should not be relying on the grade that your lecturer gives you.  You should know yourself what you have learned.  This however is a process.  This last academic year I tried to get students to self-assess and Weimer points out they need to grow into this.  I think I know how I will help them grow into this but I have to plan more.

Which is an earlier point that Weimer says, we need to plan more to make this work.  And I really do want the students to learn.

Lee Child has written 11 Jack Reacher novels.  I started reading them when I was in the UK as WH Smith’s (I think) had a sticker on one of the books “Enjoy this or it is free”.  It was something like that to get you to read a novel they hoped you would enjoy and not return to them.  A sort of money back guarantee.  I have now read 10 of them.

I liked the initial novel I read and more so as they have progressed.  Jack Reacher is a drifter going where ever he wants carrying only the clothes on his back plus his toothbrush.  The action has been all over the place from small towns in the south of the US, to an English village to, this time, Los Angeles.

The stories vary, at their heart is the idea that Reacher is righting some wrong.  Whether it is an innocent family or friends that have been killed or framed Reacher is called upon somehow to set things right.  Along the way he usually gets the girl, though less so in the later novels.

So are these novels formulaic?  It would seem so as I have described them yet this one hooked me.  The plot twist of why did the friend get killed when he was better than his killers is the issue of the novel and it is revealed late enough to make you really want to read the novel but not too soon so you want keep reading.  More of Reacher’s past is filled in but not enough to make you know everything about him.  The numbers in this one are also a fun part of the story.  Its the inner geek being evoked.

So should a Pentecostal pacifist read novels which are violent and sometimes contain sexual content?  This is a harder question to answer.  I don’t let these things shape my world, in fact the violence reminds me more of why I am a pacifist.  Yet this is not to justify the reading of these novels for the “benefit” they bring.  I read them because they are a good yarn and I enjoy thrillers.  This was the genre I moved to after science fiction and I think it started when I was visiting Europe and reading the Len Deighton series Game, Set and Match, then Hook, Line and Sinker and finished off with Faith, Hope and Charity.  I could really imagine the action taking place in these places.  This is still why I like thrillers.  I still have that bit of a kid in me who wants to be James Bond or some sort of super spy.  I just read them and think of me being there.

Is this wrong – I am not sure but it is better than doing what Reacher does.  We all want to change the world for the better.  Some of us just use books to imagine bad ways of doing it.

In a class at Fuller Seminary with Robert Banks there was a mention of the theology of sleep by one of the Baillies. I wish I could remember more details to find the article. Part of the discussion was understanding that everything we do is theological and has theological implications and understandings whether reflected upon or not.

My super son woke up yesterday at 4AM. He woke me up and then his mother. We needed more sleep. This is why there was no entry on Wednesday my time. It was a low key day doing the essentials.

Today we had more sleep. He woke up at 5 something. We are really hoping when we are on holidays that the rooms will be dark and he will sleep well. Time will tell.

Regardless we still need to think why we do things. Sleep is a chance for our bodies to recreate, our brains to calm, or process the days work or whatever depending on what theory you read last.

While sleep is a necessity and godly sometimes it is also a pleasure.

One of the books I never read for my thesis was Wayne Cordeiro’s Doing Church as a Team. I quickly read it a couple of days ago to figure out if it was aimed at teams or leadership. It is ultimately aimed at leadership of teams. The best point I found was the fact that a team should be four people and you can keep delegating down. So each member of a team of 4 builds a team of 4 and each member of that team builds a team of 4 and so on. This is the first material I have heard on the practicalities of team based work.

The reason I finally read Coreiro’s book was I had read a very different book on teams. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni is a very practical book with the theory tucked at the end.  The descriptions Lencioni uses reminds me of places I have worked and had managers say exactly what some of Lencioni’s character say.

I really enjoyed the  book.  Now I expect if you have read this far you may be surprised that this is filed under theology rather than something else.  The reason the reading of Lencioni’s book became theological for me was finally understanding the issues of leadership that I struggle with.  I know within Australian Pentecostalism there is the idea that “everyone is a leader”.  This is a complete fallacy but it is still spoken about.  The answer I have realised is not to deny this but to say “Everyone is part of a team”.  Whether teams have captains or not is a different issue.  For the church the captain is Jesus and what that means for teams may need different interpretations.

The issue is not how do we empower people to be leaders but how do we empower them to be part of teams, people who trust one another, share deep feelings which sometimes leads to conflict,  being committed to the team and its vision, not avoiding accountability and paying attention to results.  This is a much bigger ask than empowering people to be leaders as we need to be part of functioning teams first.  Which means we have to overcome these own issues in our lives first.

Our salvation has become so individualistic that our service to God has gone the same way.  We must now all be leaders for God and not team players.  We can be individually saved by Jesus and not need the church. This was part of the thinking behind my thesis – why do we have church and how does it function?  The priesthood of all believers is not supposed to be individualistic but an exercise in team work.  These books confirm my thinking but it is Lencioni who will make me think for a while as to what to do about building teams.

Weimer’s next chapter finishes up the discussion on what teachers should do in Learner-Centred Teaching.

I think I should have read this far first and then started blogging but not all of us are as savvy as Scot McKnight.

Here the issue is designing courses rather than demonstrating ideas.  I think this is what I am planning for Hermeneutics in Semester 1, 2008 but time will tell how well I do this.

One of the worrying comments that Weimer makes is that “we like having the main role.  In many of us, there is a bit of the ham, the frustrated entertainer.” (p. 78).  Ouch.  A couple of us here joke that pastors enter ministry for one of two issues, power or entertainment.  I know I am the entertainer.

At the same time as skewering me Weimer raises the issues of why we have trouble setting ourselves aside.  I know in a Christian environment we should have more of a sense of it is not about me but about Jesus, “I must decrease and He must increase”, but somehow here we get caught up in a power game.  We talk about imparting something into students, as if we had something special that God can only give the students through us.  This is a form of pride that I will need to think about more and blog about later, God willing.  While I have no question that God appoints people to roles via spiritual gifts how these are understood as uniquely ours is what worries me.

Weimer uses an analogy of a guide showing the exciting things along the way but not doing so for the first time.  I remember going on the Maid of the Mist at Niagra Falls.  I got drenched.  I was cold wet and never wanted to go again though I loved it.  I think now however my son would love it and I need to take him.  This time I will be a guide not a traveller and I need to treat my students the same.

Thanks Maryellen.

As I finish up a week of reviews on books I have read recently I now get to the end of a series of 11 volumes in the Sword of Truth books. Congratulations to Terry Goodkind for finishing the novels before any serious health issues or death stopped the writing.

Terry Goodkind’s Confessor seems to be one of those novels you either love or hate. Amazon.com reviewers give it 3 stars.  Would I be so mean?

Well I will agree the series has dragged on for a bit but the ending is unexpected.  Goodkind does figure out how to keep both views of the future open without destruction of one or the other.  I have written this in a deliberately vague way so that readers who do read the book are not surprised.

The epilogue is quite appropriate to end the series on a high note rather than Tolkien’s sending Bilbo et al away at the end of Lord of the Rings.

What about the action?  A bit more gory than I would like.  The magic – not lots.  The basic ideas good with a great twist for the ending. Read if you have enjoyed the series otherwise leave it alone.

My students often ask why do I read science-fiction and fantasy.  These genres are what started me reading when I was in my early teens.  This means these books are escapism and a pick me up.  On my desk to read now are three different books on the academy and one on church.  I have a varied reading diet maybe not just the most healthy one 🙂

I had the pleasure of meeting Roger E. Olson a few years ago at an Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting. We were both about to go into sessions where we were speaking/chairing and I did not have long to speak to him. I bailed him up about a comment in a paper he had written as I knew it could be interpreted two ways and I wanted to know which one he meant. It was the way I hoped it would be, phrased in such a way to keep everybody happy.

Roger’s new book Reformed and Always Reforming is a great read though I must admit it is slightly repetitive at points. The editors could have cleaned up some of the prose as the same thing is said a few times about the same people. It reads as if it was a series of addresses that have been compiled into a book and slightly more editing could have been useful.

The back cover of the book says “Can we be more evangelical by being less conservative?” That is the thesis of the book and the book succeeds in showing so. I also think I will write a paper, in response to the book, “Pentecostals as Pre-Cursors to Postconervatives: We Can be more Pentecostal by being more Evangelical”.

So what is the content?

The lengthy Introduction sets the context for the whole discussion. It defines terms, names names, and says who are postconservative theologians and who are opposed to postconservative theology.

Chapter 1 is a consideration of the style of postconservative evangelism. Here Olson shows that the centre of doing evangelical theology is being evangelical. Being evangelical for Olson is defined by 5 points which I understand as:

1) Centrality of Scripture
2) Conversion
3) Christ
4) Evangelism
5) Christian Orthodoxy with God’s word as the highest authority for all Christian faith and practice.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Beresford’s Josh Hartnett Definitely Want To do this …  True Stories from a Life in the Screen Trade was not quite what I was expecting.

I thought it would be a memoir of some sort with a prose type structure.  Instead it was a memoir in a diary, with footnotes, insights and name dropping galore.  The name dropping is not for the sake of it but because these really are the people Bruce mixes with.  He has good days and bad days and knows more correctly than not that certain producers really do not have the money.

I think what I most  enjoyed about this book was the fact that it was about the reality of a persons life that many of us would think is glamourous.  Bruce shows he lives a lot on airplanes, visits strange places for work, some of which are nice, refuses the services of well dressed men who can provide “comfort” in the form of young women and overall is a “normal” Australian guy.

Of course most normal Australian’s do not go to the opera, theatre or watch movies as much as Bruce does but his one paragraph reviews of these items makes them interesting. He is basically stuck doing not much in the time he writes the book.  He rewrites scripts, tries to find money and dreams about making interesting movies.  He was the first choice as director for a movie about William Wilberforce which became Amazing Grace directed by Michael Apsted.

If you like Australian directed movies or want insight into what movie making is like I recommend this book.