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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

This is just (?) a test

March 18, 2013 Leave a comment

There’s a generation gap when it comes to tests. If you’re getting up into the age when you start to joke on your birthday that you’re 39, and you’re not, you’ve never had to take a high stakes test, at least during your pre college days. If you’re young enough to have never used a typewriter you don’t know what it’s like to not have the pressure of tests to graduate.

For many these tests are a source of great stress. I watched kids who had completed their credit work years earlier coming back to campus to retake their graduation tests again because they’ve failed them in their past.  In one infamous case a girl was class valedictorian yet was incapable of passing the graduation tests.  Although I give the kids credit for coming back so they can hopefully pass the test, I felt for these 20 and sometimes 21 year olds still trying to earn a valid High School diploma. The burden for passing these tests falls more on the poor and disenfranchised than among the rest of the population.

Enter 2013. Louisiana passes a law which requires all juniors to take the ACT test. The law also expects a junior in Louisiana to score an 18 on the test. While the student will not be required to make this score to graduate, the school will be held responsible for students who don’t score an 18.  In Louisiana the average score for an African American (the large majority in my school) taking the ACT is 17.5.  Until now, those taking the ACT and scoring 17.5 were willing to take the test, in other words trying their best.  Tomorrow when juniors all over the state take this test many will take it with the attitude that they don’t plan to go to college.  Now if you weren’t planning to go to college, how much effort would you put into taking a test like this?

So in a few months when the school performance score for the ACT comes out it will undoubtedly show many schools, particularly in underserved communities as being lacking in educating students.  There are hardworking teachers in these schools, I even know some!  The result will be more scrutiny for the school, staff being removed, administration being ‘reassigned’, etc.  Many of the schools in my district have different principals  each year, sometimes, more than one in a year.  Morale sinks among the staff and even the student body as the news reports of a school given a grade of ‘F’.

Here’s where the just part of things works into the equation.  Justice is a theme in the Bible that hasn’t always been stressed in our churches.  It’s been said King James didn’t like the term too much, so it appears 28 times in his famous version.  The New Revised Standard Version uses the word justice 173 times.  In something called the Common English version it’s used 220 times.  I would lean towards the NRSV in terms of its’ treatment of the word justice.  We are to work for justice.  Christians are supposed to be agents of justice.  Justice for the poor, disenfranchised, underserved, for the widows, orphans and others who are being denied opportunities for any number of reasons.

What can you do to be agents for justice?  Some can work to change unjust laws.   Letters can be written to papers, politicians, and school boards.  Volunteer in schools.  Volunteer to sit with a kid to read with him or her.  Become a teacher!  And if you do, consider teaching in the schools that need good teachers the most.  Give a word of encouragement to a teacher. (I know this sounds self serving!)  Pray for our schools.  Pray tonight for students that the unmotivated will find it within themselves to put in an honest effort tomorrow.  These are all actions that will bring about justice.

Proverbs 21:3  Acting with righteousness and justice is more valued by the Lord than sacrifice.

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Black History isn’t just for blacks.

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

While teaching Bible at Desire Street Academy I developed a series of lessons that I called “Famous African American Christians”. Approximately every Wednesday I would teach a lesson and help the students discover African Americans who became well known for many things, and who primarily gave glory to God for who they were. Some in the series are well known, others are not so much but who through a little research I ‘discovered’.

Why embark on a series such as this? Mainly because I love telling stories about people whose faith can inspire us all. A second reason is to educate people about some Christians who in my humble opinion people should know about. A third reason is that I pray that these stories will help break down barriers that still exist between those who worship primarily in racially divided churches.

You may use these stories for family devotions, for dorm discussions, for work discussions, for carpool discussions, at your Sunday School classes, youth groups, bowling league, at the barber, stylist, I don’t know, tell these stories! They’re interesting, fun, tragic, sad, inspiring.

Finally, if you have a suggestion for someone, send me a note, comment here, give me a phone call. I’ll do the research, writing, etc. I’m a teacher, it’s what I do, I enjoy it.

Check back Wednesday, I’ll have my first post. I’m not sure if I’ll produce one of these every day, but most days I’ll try.

Swimming Without Flags

July 30, 2011 1 comment

As a child my family took frequent trips to the beach. We spent many a summer day at Atlantic beaches in New Jersey and each spring break we went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Without a care we ran into the waves to play. There were no flags.

Later in my formative years we lived in Chicago and the beach became a distant memory.
Recently however we moved near the Gulf of Mexico and are not too far from some really nice beaches. We have made some trips to the beach to swim. There are flags.

I guess I was born before there were lawyers and lawsuits and liability. We did things that people today think are risky enough to warn us that maybe we should be careful. If something happened, well that’s the breaks. There is some merit to warning people about risks like swimming in the ocean. A rip current is the hazard all of these flags warn us about. Had we been aware of these my dad may not have gotten caught in one with a girl he was swimming with. Dad thankfully got himself out of the situation unscathed. Many do not. Rip currents are dangerous even on my beloved Great Lakes.

Not only do the flags warn of the rip currents, they warn of other things like harmful marine life nearby (blue flag), or other weather situations. They even warn you when it’s calm. “Exercise Caution” reads the sign. (green flag)

When I go to the beach I hope there’s waves. I want to play with the kids in the waves. The bigger the better. That’s my memory of childhood at the beach. There were never flags telling you that these big waves represented danger. So we swam and had fun.
Yesterday the waves were appealing to us to come play. We did, but I saw those red flags. “Dangerous Surf Conditions” read the warning. The waves weren’t that big. This is the Gulf of Mexico, placid, calm, serene.

So we played in the waves. The kids had fun, I tried to but kept peeking at the red flags.
I’d rather swim without the flags. Use due caution without the withering don’t you dare glare of a elementary school drill master. We swam with flags and enjoyed it a bit less than I think I might have had there been no flags.

Life is the same. Paul, or whoever wrote Hebrews warned his audience of drift. Drift doesn’t happen to you when you’re sitting around. I’ve sat in chairs and have yet to drift into trouble. The only drifting I do in a chair is drifting off to sleep as the day winds to an end and I’ve lost interest in whatever I’m reading or watching. Drift happens in water mainly.

I recall a story of a family enjoying a day on the Niagara River. Now being on the Niagara River should bring up warning flags right away. Niagara……Falls……. the word we all associate with Niagara. Well anyway, the family didn’t pay attention to the fact that not only were they drifting, a very natural occurrence on any river, but they were drifting to the falls. By the time they were aware of their drifting towards oblivion it was too late. Somehow the family’s boat drifted up against a rock and they were saved. Their problem? They weren’t aware of drift.

Hebrews 2:1-4
1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

God’s Word is given to us as a warning. The Holy Spirit is gives signs and wonders as a warning. What is the danger of drift? Neglecting your salvation. You are given many red flags in life by God. Especially in the United States. Our lives are surrounded by Christians, churches, TV preachers, Christian radio. There’s movies that proclaim a Christian message. Rock bands, rappers, country singers, ballerinas, football players, politicians, skaters, actors, actresses, baseball players, even some Green Bay Packers, all proclaiming the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Some ignore the red flags and die because they neglected so great a salvation. Others, having received so great a salvation have a new responsibility. Stopping the drift.
Most people who die drift towards their death, a regretful look back at opportunities to
become a follower of Jesus neglected. Who will be the red flag warning of the dangerous currents that threaten every person who isn’t a Jesus follower? We should be. We’re supposed to be. We can’t neglect the great salvation that we can help bring to others.