Sunday, July 24, 2011

An Example of 1 Corinthians 13

Perhaps the most significant and worthy 4 verses in the bible occur in 1 Corinthians 13. In it, Paul gives a description of what Love looks like, providing guidance for those who would like to live out Jesus' call to love family, friends, neighbors, and enemies.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Unfortunately, words often repeated are, at times, drained of their power. For many people of faith, these words have been diluted to a sentimental set of verses repeated out of obligation at weddings, or read out during the annual church sermon on love.

However, we recognize it when we see it lived out and it never fails to take our breath away. It stops us in our tracks, and we recognize that something Holy has occurred.

That was the reaction my wife and I had as we sat and watched this sermon by Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of the televangelist Oral Roberts. Randy told the story of his family and himself, and how they lived through his announcement that he is gay.

What struck us both was the love that Randy has been able to nurture, in an environment that has been oppositional to him. Throughout the talk, he offers forgiveness and grace to the family and friends who have rejected him. As the verse states, Randy always chose to hope the best for their intentions, even when their actions were hurtful. In each pain he recounted, he offered grace.

My wife and I also enjoyed the trip down memory lane. We both grew up in charismatic/evangelical circles, so we understood when Randy related stories like the one of his grandfather climbing into the prayer tower expecting his listeners to give 8 million dollars or God was going to take him to heaven - in the world we were living in "this wasn't as unusual as you might expect".

His sermon is one of the finest "it gets better" talks I have heard. It is also a stirring example of someone taking pain sown in his life, and re-tilling it into something that nurtures.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happy 500th to Me!

Welcome to the 500th post here at Hackman's Musings!

I started this blog on a whim. I didn't read blogs at the time... I don't even know that I knew what they were. My friend, Brook, kept a pretty good record of his life on a wall calendar and a journal; and I always thought it was cool that he could go back through the years and not have to rely on memory alone. So, my original intent was to keep a journal. In a way, it has been; though more a journal of my thoughts than my activities.

My first entry was on April 22, 2003. It was only 3 sentences long and had no title or picture.  I wrote only 10 entries that year... and a mere 2 in 2004. Now, if bound, this blog would make for an awfully thick book. I now have so many articles that I sometimes have trouble finding the one I am looking for.... or have difficulty even remembering having written certain pieces. I recall seeing Daniel Amos in concert one year, and Terry Taylor had to read the lyrics of an old song as he sang it. I thought that was bizarre at the time, but now I understand.

I appreciate all of you who have taken the time to read. I am particular glad of you regulars whom I have gotten to know here and at your blogs. I have interchanged with some of you so often over the years that it surprises me to remember that we have never actually met.

Peace to you my friends!

Friday, July 15, 2011

That Was A Great Game!

There is a wonderful line at the end of the movie Hook. After all the adventures of Pan and the Lost Boys, after all the highs and lows, triumphs and set backs, shouts and tears; after Pan leaves, one of the Lost Boys looks at another, smiles and says:

"That was a great game!"

That was how I felt as the 2nd part of Harry Potter 7 faded from the screen today. After 8 movies and countless hours reading those books many times - THAT was a great game! Thank you Ms. Rowling!

Spoiler Ahead:

I really enjoyed the movie today and would give it an A+ except for one area. The final battle between Harry and Voldemort occurred with no one around. It mostly came down to a battle of wills and the fact that Voldermort never really controlled the Elder wand. However, in the book it was so much more than that. The battle was more about ideas - how Harry and Dumbledore viewed the world and how Voldemort and his Death Eaters saw life. Love was stronger than hate and fear.

Also, Rowling has a consistent theme of redemption and repentance throughout the series. In the book, one of my favorite parts in the final battle is when Harry appeals to Voldemort to look at his choices and to try and feel remorse; to be a man, be human, and regret what he had done. Harry practically begs him to repent. It is reminiscent of many of the exchanges in C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. Harry put before Voldemort Death and Life - and even after everything Voldemort had done - Harry implored him to choose Life.

Removing that piece from the movie took the power out of the ending for me.

Still, in pretty much everything else, they produced a crowd pleaser. I can't wait to see it again!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Misbehavior and Misplacement In School

I have been teaching summer school for the past month, and it has further solidified my belief that our public schools are in error when they place students according to age rather than need and ability. Presently, I am teaching math for 4 forty-five minute sessions - a 3rd, 4th, 5th, and a 6th.

Within these groups, I have 3rd graders who have a decent handle on some multiplication facts, I have sixth graders counting on their fingers, and every variation in between. Ideally, I should put all those counting on their fingers together, all those who can rattle off their multiplication facts together, and so forth. If I could separate them thus, I could more accurately address their present needs.

Instead, they are placed by age, which means I have large variances in each of the four classes. No matter what I am teaching, part of the class is going to be bored and part will be befuddled. It is like giving a surgeon butter knives with which to operate.

One of my present students is a perfect example. She is the classic tough, inner-city, attitudinal kid. She nearly got into a fist fight within our first 5 minutes of class. She had a chip on her shoulder and was daring me to knock it off.

I was not surprised to find out she was grades behind academically. Tough bravado is often used as a cover by students who struggle in school.

It is with kids like this that I tend to shine. I don't escalate their anger and I give them space. She refused to do any work at first and I didn't push.

Once I realized some of her anger was insecurity over academics, I tried to insert some "easy" items into the 6th grade class practice so she could be successful with something. Little by little she tried some of the work, and in this past week she has started to approach her math with some of the same zeal she originally displayed in attitude.

But here is the the sad part.... right now, I am able to give her a chunk of my class time because her summer school class has dwindled down to about 7 students, and the rest of this class is fairly independent. I am also working with her on what would be considered 3rd grade level math. When the school year starts, she will be in a class with 25-35 students and will be forced to do 6th grade math. There will be little outside help for her, and that which there is will try to make 6th grade math workable for her... rather than addressing her at her level. In that environment, she will most likely revert to the attitudinal and angry child I saw at the beginning of summer school. For all appearances, it will look like she is a behavioral problem and everyone will try to correct her behavior.

However, the truth is that her academic needs are not being met and she knows of no other way to express what is going on in her life. I honestly believe most behavior issues in our schools (and there are MANY) are due to children being mind numbingly bored or being forced to sit through lessons that might as well be graduate level in terms of their difficulty for the child.

and the band played on.....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Abandon All Hope

Cartoon by

I was talking with an evangelical the other day. He was telling me about how loving and merciful God is.

"Really? I replied. "I have always gotten the impression that God, in the evangelical interpretation, was full of wrath and had anger issues."

My friend became visibly irritated. "That is not true!" he said as his fist slammed the table. "God, loves us! He sent his son for us!"

I let the moment hold, then I said, "Can we spend a few minutes talking about what happens to the souls that don't fall under that umbrella?"

Friday, July 08, 2011

Modern Mormonism

The GOP has two members of the LDS (Mormon) faith running for president. Broadway has a hit musical which is satirically based on the adventures of two Mormon missionaries (most Mormon guys serve an intense 2 year mission during their late teens or early twenties). If you don't live in the Inter-Mountain West, you may be asking yourself - "Who or what is a Mormon?"

That was my question 8 years ago when my wife and I decided to move our family out to Salt Lake City, Utah. I knew Mormons read the book of Mormon, but other than that... I am not sure that I even connected Mormon to Latter-Day Saint.

However, having been brought up in a charismatic/evangelical environment, I had heard the term Mormon a number of times at church functions... and it was never positive. The word cult was frequently attached. I can't say that I really knew what a cult was either, but somehow it was even worse than a non-Christian religion. Muslims and Hindus were deceived in their false religions... but cults were several cuts lower than that.

So, when we decided to move out here, we had many concerned Christians offering us books and videos about Mormons - how to convert them, how to know their tricks, how to run away, etc.

Somehow, my wife and I had enough foresight to politely decline these advances. We figured the best way to get to know Mormons.... was to get to know Mormons. What we found is that they are pretty much like everyone else. Our Mormon friends are some of the most wonderful people we have ever known. We have also run into self-righteous Mormons who use their faith to put everyone else beneath them.

Seems that pattern weaves its way into every religious group.

However, our good experiences have obviously dominated. After all, we have stayed in Salt Lake City. :)

Still, if one does not live near SLC and you want to get an impression of the best Mormonism has to offer, where might you look? I have a book recommendation.

Modern Mormonism: Myths and Realities

The author is Robert Millet, a Mormon's Mormon, and a man who has become a good friend of mine over the past few years. According to Wikipedia:

Dr. Robert L. Millet (born December 30, 1947 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) is a professor of ancient scripture and emeritus Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Millet is a distinguished Latter-day Saint author and speaker with more than 60 published works on virtually all aspects of Mormonism.

Bob has worked with local evangelicals to foster better understanding and to promote courteous discussion of religious differences. He is also one of the best conversationalists I know. Regardless of your perspective on religion, Bob hosts a safe place to share your ideas.  He also has an enviable personal library containing a wide breadth of theological works. I have yet to bring up a theologian or author that he is not well versed in (or had lunch with).

In Modern Mormonism, Bob addresses a number of issues that are most often misunderstood by the public. He also presents the tenants of his faith in an approachable and heart-felt manner. Through personal stories and a deep knowledge base, he gives those unfamiliar with Mormonism a good sense of what the faith is like and what those who subscribe to it believe.

I am not Mormon; but I have many friends, whom I love, who follow the Mormon faith. I think Bob's book gives a good glimpse into the faith that my friends and neighbors embrace. If you have wondered about Mormonism, this book is a great introduction.
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