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It has been a busy week for us here.  We had a mini-conference/camp for the students which had a huge impact on many of them.  It was great to have graduates of the college speak about what is going on in their worlds of ministry and mission.  At the same time we had houseguests who were delightful but just meant that things were a little different around home.  And on top of it all my super son had a rash and now a what seems to be a cold.  Joy.

In the midst of this all I have achieved one of my stated goals from 3 or 4 years ago and introduce a UK ministry to an Australian context.  In this case they had got to the person 1 day before I did but it was great confirmation for the Australian people.

This week has not been lots of posts or lots of reading due to general busyness.  However I have a few things to point out for those interested:

A new book by Patrick Leoncini that looks interesting

A biography about an itinerant pastor that also sounds good

A eulogy for someone I would like to be like

The challenge of being a saint over a celebrity

A new blog which I am enjoying

And a book which I think will shake some things up especially with this sort of thinking and this sort of writing

Have a great weekend.

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I am writing this on Monday and have a feeling that the story of Mike Guglielmucci will most likely be on television tonight.  It will generate a huge buzz, lots of introspection and some horrible comments about Christians by Christians.  You see we do a good job of shooting our wounded.

In the past 12 months I am aware of numerous problems in the body of Christ.  In the US there have been divorces of televangelists, others looked at for their use of money, the separation of Todd Bentley and his wife and now Mike Guglielmucci’s situation.  I have not weighed in on these situations as I am not one to judge as I know what it is like to be a forgiven sinner.

There are a number of good posts about this but I want my readers to consider their hearts before rushing to judgement.  How hard is it for you to resist temptation?  When was there a time when you fell to some temptation?  What impact did it have on your life and possibly has continued to have?  You see I start from a place of knowing I need God first and then seeing my brother or sister in Christ and realising they need Christ too.

I have no question there are issues of compromised truth in these situations that needs to be dealt with but the first issue I need to face is about me. For those close to the situations they are the ones who need to deal with the individual, not me.  We idolise from a distance and judge from a distance; neither is good.  I need to ask myself “Would I now give this brother a cup of water in Jesus name? ” Many of us are so hurt by what has happened that we would say no.  Yet Jesus’ words were “As you have done it to the least of these you have done it to me.”

Now remember these are people who have made a confession of faith at some point.  They are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  They would not be where they were today if God had not worked in their life at some point.  It seems to me that God is less concerned, for a time, in what ways they have continued to struggle.  Instead God works on their sin and mine in His time and sometimes situations happen where we see that sin revealed for all the world to see.  This is when we load the shotguns and shoot our wounded; both barrels.

This is the wrong reaction.  We need to see God in the person before we see the accuser in them and allow him to become the accuser in us.  There is no question that both are present but who is the greater?  You know how you would feel if your sin was revealed to all the world, so the grace you would want is the grace you now need to give.

So what grace are you giving?

This weekend I went to Deakin University‘s Open Day.  See my previous post for details fo some of the mess this was.  One reason I did this was the intention of looking in the library and seeing what books were available for a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education as I am thinking of completing one and the Deakin one is looking good.  Deakin’s library had a copy of Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do on the shelf.  I would not have recognised it, or borrowed it as it had the dust jacket removed and it somehow looked older than some of the 1990s books that were on the shelf around it.

Anyway to review Chapter 3 this week Bain considers good college teachers help students learn, the process is about the learning and not the teaching.  Bain actually raises in the preparing to teach a number of questions that good teachers raise to help people learn.  These are (courtesy of Scott McKnight here and here):

1. Good teachers plan backwards: from what they want students to be able to do. How do we encourage students to answer big questions and develop skills to do that?

2. What reasoning abilities do students need to answer this in this course?

3. What mental models do our students bring to the table and how can we help them in our challenge to those mental models?

4. What information is needed and what is the best way to gain that information?

5. How can we help students who will struggle with the questions of the course and with the methods needed to answer those questions?

6. How do we help students comprehend various views of the subject and grapple with the issues

7. How do we discover what our students know already and expect and how do we reconcile our differences?

8. How do we help students “learn to learn”? To assess themselves?

9. How can we learn what they are learning, give feedback, before we assess/grade our students?

10. How do we communicate with students in a way that will keep them learning and thinking?

11. How do we spell out our discipline’s professional standards? Why do we use these standards? How do we help students assess their own work in light of these standards?

12. How will we and the students best understand the nature, progress, and quality of their learning?

13. How can we create a natural critical learning environment?

These are non trivial questions that I still need to go back to and consider.  Some of these address issues I am wrestling with in units I teach this semester.

For me to reflect on this I think of some of by bad experiences and good one.  The one story I will give is a mixed one.  Years ago I was given and assignment to mimic how computers communicate.  The formulae were all given out and we were to have the system working for a certain date.  Somehow I realised that mine did not work as one of the formula meant that the system could crash if you did what it said all the time.  Later on the lecturer remarked that you may find that the system will crash … it is up to you to fix it.  I did.  I received reasonable marks for the exercise from memory and remember it to this day.

I was not happy about receiving incorrect information and so felt betrayed by the lecturer.  While it is quite obvious I learnt something about how to reason and solve problems in this field it was not a good experience.  This put me off this field of computing quite a bit.  The learning happened but it did so at a cost not worth it to me.

So are you teaching for others to learn or teaching for the sake of teaching?

This was an odd weekend.  We have decided to stay closer to home lately to save money on eating out as lunches for the 3 of us were costing more than we were budgeting.  So Saturday we cleaned up the house as we are expecting a guest this week.  We then took a family trip to the library and went to a place to consider getting a facelift for our kitchen as our oven died a while back and so far we have been told is is unreparable.

We then headed home and I slept on the couch, until my super son realised I was asleep from reading for 5 minutes and he woke me up by dumping his wagon of blocks about a metre from me with a loud crash.  Later Saturday we all went to church and saw Ken Duncan present which was great.

Sunday then was more cleaning, a little reading and then I went to Deakin University’s Open Day.  This was a very mixed experience as I had done my research and known where to go.  Eventually I found the right place but there were a number of signs missing, rude staff and hrlpful students.  I suppose it means something when the students are more helpful than advising staff, I’ll let you decide what.  Afterwards my super son and I went for a drive to the shops to get some things for dinner that we needed.  Again he wanted to go to the library and we did.  2 more books later and we got out of there.

When we got home my wonderful wife eventually awoke and we went for a walk.  I saw the rabbits which to this point had been mythical for me and also we found a park nearby that is easier to get to than by road.

While not as a restful weekend as I would have hoped it was still a break.

When I was a kid and in my teens and early adulthood I had dreams of writing a novel of parallel worlds nad being able to travel there and calling on people to rescue you when things go wrong. I have just read Harry Turtledove’s The Valley-Westside War which feels a little like Turtledove was mind reading.

The basic plot is girl goes to different timeline, boy meets girl, girl has problem with locals, boy sort of likes girl, boy figures out girl is from a different timeline and then girl goes home.  There is more to it than that but I don’t want to give away more details to spoil it for anyone who will read it now.

I really liked the idea.  Even though these books are obviously aimed at late teens that was not a problem for me.  I liked most of the writing and enjoyed the use of archaic language, groovy.

Here’s my gripe.  The last page made me feel like I was set up for a sequel.  I have no problem about sequels and writing books for an audience and requiring a sequel because the story is so big.  I do mind feeling set up.  When this sort of thing happens I feel like I have got to the end of the story and been mugged.

In the end I would say  wait and see what happens next in the series before you go and read them.

We went out last night and got home late.  Thankfully my super son had a three hour nap in the afternoon and was up to the trip to catch up with a friend who is in Melbourne for a conference.  When we got home we put him in bed and tried to get him in a state more suitable for a night’s sleep.  He said “I just want to go to bed.”  Which is where he was but it was where he thought he needed to be.

Reflecting on this, considering what to blog about today, and thinking through a number of scenarios I knew of I realised that there was a common thread.  1 John 2:16 talks about “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.”  I want to consider how the lust of the flesh is conceived into sin like I did on when I mentioned the lust of the eyes earlier this week.  See an article here for more details on research in this field.

The lust of the flesh is not fed by looking at things, sin is not birthed in having flesh but giving space to the flesh.  The traditional response was to deny the flesh, through things such as fasting, or other extreme forms of mortification.  The reality is that these work when you are dealing only with the beginning of the issue.  The problem is that many of us, through what we watch, see and hear believe that if we give our flesh what we feel we need then everything would be ok.  The problem is that this is now giving birth to the sin.  The problem is the conception.

I am starting to think that our desire to indulge the flesh is not because we are weak but something has happened previously to us that lets us say, if I give in to this I will feel better.  Mortificaiton is about denying what is there, psychological pain about a situation can easily open room for lust of the flesh.  It is not birthed by thinking, hey that seems interesting may its ok but by the fact that I am hurt and if you make me feel good through my flesh I will feel better.  To me this explains some of the scenarios I know of – abused girls entering into sexual relationships to feel better about themselves, people drinking to excess to bury pain and taking up destructive behaviours of drugs or food related illnesses such as overeating or annorexia.  If the psychological pain can be relieve through the flesh it is.

Healing, in this case is not done by removing the source of the problem, drugs, food, sexual activity, or even stopping thinking about it.  Healing is brought about by God, through Jesus Christ, dealing with the pain.

At the end of the day when we realise we are in psychological pain the response sometimes is “I just want to go to bed” and indulge the flesh in one way or another.  In the end we need to realise we are where we are and that the pain needs to be dealt with.

So what pain may be motiviating your flesh?

We keep being surprised with the comments we receive about our wedding.  Recently someone who was at our wedding has asked to see the video as they want to incorporate some elements in that we had at our wedding.  My wonderful wife expressed her surprise by saying something like “I never thought it would impact all these people”.

In the end we were celebrating what God had done and still continue to celebrate in different ways.

So how do weddings impact you?

There are things you regret saying.  I always said that we would never let our super son watch a certain television programme.  Apparently his cousin was watching it, he started saying she was watching it and lo and behold he wanted to watch it and tehn for us to record it.  This has made me realsie that I have a scale of the relative evils of children’s television.  Starting from the most evil to the least evil it goes:

Evil++) Things my child will never see

Evil+) Things my child requests and we get from the library for a short time only

Evil) Things my child requests and we let him watch on television when it is on

Evil-) Things my child requests and we let him watch on a video we have recorded

Good) Things my child requests and we purchase a video or a DVD of said program.

Now I have used no names here as I do not want to be sued by Television Companies if I say that program XYZ is bad.

Now the reasons I say this long introduction is I had a realisation the other day that the reason some of us get into messes is the stuff we watch.  You see we imitate what we feed ourselves on.  We are what we eat is what we say figuratively about our food but I am starting to realise it is as true for language, values and behaviours.  If we see something enough, not just on TV, or read about it lots, we start to think hey that might be ok.  In otherwords the seeds of disaster are sown not at the end of the process but at the beginning.  It is for this reason I keep my super son away from some programmes – I do not want to sow destructive things into his life.

John talks about this as the “lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16) and James talks about this sort of lust giving birth to sin (James 1:15).  It is a process of giving birth, of not just conceiving the idea but giving it nutrients to grow with.

So what are you feeding with what you watch?

The second chapter of Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do, ends with a great statement

The best college and university teachers create what we might call a natural critical learning environment in which they embed the skills and information they wish to teach in assignments (questions and tasks) students  will find fascinating – authentic tasks that will arouse curiosity, challenging students to rethink their assumptions and examine their mental models of reality.

This is a great challenge to us as academics.  Do we produce assignments that our students find fascinating?  I think for one of my classes this semester I have, though I am guilty of not doing so in the past.

To reflect on this for my own experiences is a different issue.  The hardest papers I ever wrote for Fuller Seminary were short, 5 pages or so, theological reflections on specific issues.  I did not always do well but they did keep my love for the unit alive.  Similarly where I have had options to consider different areas I have enjoyed the material more.  Choice however is not always a good thing.  I have had one student this semester come to me and say “please choose my topic for me.”  This surprised me and while possibly a reflection on the student it may reflect other issues going on.

The reality is our mental models change slowly and those who I have enjoyed most have led us through this change process, or put up the warning signs, “Here be dragons, enter at your own risk” but let us know it was an issue.

So how have good teachers challenged you to learn?

This weekend felt a bit like other weekends.  We were all at the doctor.  While my wonderful wife and super son got antibiotics to help them get over their bugs – and they are I was told, “It’s just a cold.  Oh by the way, the way your nose is working is not normal.”  This is not something you want to hear from your doctor.  So I now need to get an allergy test.

The rest of the day was relatively quiet with a trip to the library, pharmacy, some shops and church.  I enjoyed the sermon and it got my wonderful wife and I talking about our involvement and what I hope we will do longer term.

Sunday was a quieter day.  My wonderful wife slept in we had a late breakfast, an on time lunch, a trip to Chadstone to get some glasses for my super sons fluffy bear as my super son has started wearing glasses and finally Bunnings for some things around the home.

So while the weekend started out poorly it finished well.