Friday, June 28, 2013

Swimming Against the Current

I had a couple friends comment that my last post was appropriate for the day the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions came down.  Truth is, what I wrote was not in response to or in anticipation of the Supreme Court's business -- it was just my heart these days.

But I do have a response to SCOTUS's actions.  I hesitate to write it, however, because someone else already has -- a man named Ed Stetzer in this article here.  There are a few points of his I'd like to elaborate on, though.  Actually more than I can cover in one post, so expect a short series here.

The first concerns this remark he makes:  "We must realize that believing what the Bible says about sexuality will increasingly put us at odds with our culture. Pressure will continue to mount to accept a worldview rooted in cultural acceptance rather than biblical revelation. And we must prepare ourselves for the day when acceptance will not be enough—affirmation may be demanded to be a part of society."  (emphasis mine)

I have friends who insist to me that affirmation will never be demanded.  And I think they probably believe that.  I don't.  I hope I'm wrong -- and if I am, I will gladly admit so and eat my words publicly.  But I fully expect that there will come a day in America when I and others like me who continue to believe that homosexuality is not a way of life blessed by God will be ostracized and persecuted.  I expect businesses to be shut down . . . I expect preachers and other public speakers to be fined or jailed . . . and I absolutely, positively expect to lose friends, maybe even long-time ones.  And I will cry when that happens.

My fear, however, is that THAT fear is what is driving the ever-waning opposition to the gay rights bandwagon -- and what is driving once-opposing people to hop on.  I suspect that an awful lot (maybe even a majority) of the people who complain about the legalization of gay marriage do so not because they have any concern about the welfare of those who engage in the practice.  They do so because they don't want the wind to shift against them.  They don't want their lives to get hard.

As long as Biblical Christianity was the default in America, people like me have been swimming with the current.  From now on, we'll be swimming upstream, against the current, and some of us fighting to stay afloat.  And THAT's what people are afraid of.

So, a word to my complaining friends:  suck it up.  Nobody promised you a rose garden.  Quite the opposite.  "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also", Jesus said.  There are people in other countries right now who are put in jail, who have their homes and businesses burned to the ground, and who are tortured and killed for their faith.  Paul talks about the joy of being considered worthy of suffering for the Lord.  Christian martyrs in ancient Rome went to their deaths joyously singing hymns.  We are WIMPS.

A strong body requires exercise.  A strong mind requires study.  And a strong faith . . . well, it probably requires persecution.  So be it.

More next week . . .

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The God of the Extremes

Recently, while googling a few innocent words to find a picture for a blog post, I was stunned to see several sexual pictures show up – a couple of them downright obscene. It nauseated me for a moment.
The other day, I witnessed an irate man in the Target parking lot screaming with absolute rage at a woman who had accidently hit his truck with her car. It hurt my heart to hear it.
I just recently found out that an old friend is separated from her husband and dating someone else. I almost cried.
Suddenly I seem to be confronted all day long with evidence of how broken and fallen humanity is (including myself), and I'm finding it almost unbearable. I'm repulsed. And I'm heartbroken. I wonder sometimes how God can possibly stand us – why he doesn't just destroy us all now.
I haven't always reacted this strongly to sin, my own or anyone else's. Usually, I treat it pretty casually, I'm afraid – just as most of us do, even the Christians among us. We proclaim loudly and boldly that God loves sinners and so do we, and then we immerse ourselves in the fallen world, becoming increasingly numbed to the horror of what's going on around us . . . and ultimately what starts happening within us. We laugh it off. Oh, old Joe and his beer that he can't handle! Old Martha and her cattiness! Old Bill and his greedy ways! We even choose to watch it as entertainment. We pay darn good money to watch people destroy themselves and each other.

But my recent reaction (and where exactly it's coming from, I can't say) saddens me some, too. My repulsion makes me want to cocoon myself away from the world, isolate myself from all the badness. That's the other extreme we believers tend to get pulled into, it seems. We condemn sin and sinners and hate them so much (even while we say we love them) and want to separate ourselves completely from that world – so we create our own little world with our churchy music, catch-phrase t-shirts, and scripture-coated breath mints, a world where we are completely useless to the work of Christ's kingdom. God, I thank you that I am not like other people, the publican prayed in Luke 18. How familiar that rings sometimes.

And we think the solution is to find a happy medium between the two positions, because we're wimpy finite humans and that's the best we can do or imagine. The problem comes when we paint God with that same paintbrush. I've been struck lately with the fact that God is such mystery, that He is rarely, if ever, the Golden Mean we strive for. More often, He is something that we have a hard time conceiving: he is the fullness of the two extremes. He is fully God AND fully man. He is transcendent AND personal. He is holy and just, AND He is loving and merciful. The fact that He can fully and completely embody two characteristics that we see as incompatible is part of what makes him God and us not.

God hates sin – fully, completely, and passionately. And he loves sinners – fully, completely, and passionately. That's what the cross is all about.

Monday, June 24, 2013


There is a Catholic tradition about a place called Limbo.  Because I'm not Catholic, I don't know much about the theory, but as I understand it, this is a spot in the spiritual world where souls go to after death when, for whatever reason, they are not destined for heaven but also not destined for hell.  Apparently, they have to hang out here for a while until their eternal destiny is determined . . . by what means, I'm not sure.  But it is an in-between place -- where you are neither here nor there.  There is no Biblical basis for a belief in such a place, so I don't believe there is a Limbo in the afterlife.

But I know there is a Limbo on earth.  I'm living there.

Our family had plans to leave Sioux City for San Antonio permanently at the end of this week.  But we had a family conference last night (via Skype for hubby, who is in New York this week for some kind of training) and decided to put that off until the second week of July.  Our house here hasn't sold -- we don't have a house there -- we have no specific reason to be there until drama camp for the youngest the third week of July . . . so we'll wait here.  In Limbo.

Not that I dislike Sioux City.  It's just that we've been mentally preparing to leave for a year and a half now, and "socially" preparing for a couple of months (dropping out of things, cutting ties, saying goodbyes), and I've been physically preparing for the last week or so since we got back from our trip to SA.  And now we're going to sit for a while.

Frankly, I don't know what to do with myself. 

My eldest said to sit and relax.  Treat it like a vacation.  Well, maybe I'm weird, but I can only "sit and relax" for so long before I feel like a worthless slob. 

It almost feels silly.  There has to be plenty of stuff I can do to entertain myself for the next two and a half weeks.  But I think that's the problem -- I feel like I'm wasting two and a half weeks of my life searching for "entertainment".  Is there something wrong with me?  I don't know.  I just want to move forward with life.

But apparently God has other plans.  Okey dokey.  I'll deal with it.  It just gets awkward saying "good-bye" to people again and again when they see you and thought you were already gone.  You start to feel like the boy who cried wolf.

There's a reason.  Surely there is.  I just gotta find it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Mysterious Green Thumb

The cyclamen
I have these cyclamen in my kitchen window.  The only reason I know they are cyclamen is because I posted a picture of them on Facebook and people told me so.  These people also told me that cyclamen are very difficult to grow, which astounds me because I have a hopelessly black thumb and yet I've been able to keep this plant alive and thriving for three and a half years now.

Well, thriving until this week.  I came home from our trip to find them pretty droopy.  Late for one watering and look what happens. 

My orchid still looks good.  That's the other flower my friends tell me is almost impossible to keep going, and yet mine blooms and blooms despite me.  I really don't get it.  I've killed every houseplant I've ever owned.  I'm telling you -- my thumb is hopelessly black.  I have no idea what I'm doing. 

I bought a couple of flowering plants to put on the front porch to make it look a little more colorful while we're showing the house.  (Notice I said "flowering plants" because I have no idea what kind of plant they are.  I suppose it was on the tag somewhere.)  When I went to pay for them, I told the Lowe's lady what I intended to do with them and asked if that was a good idea.  She nodded, rather noncommittal about it all.  I asked for some tips about how to care for the plants -- specifically, how much water do they need?  She muttered something about giving them a good drink when they feel dry.

And I think this is why I kill plants.  "A good drink" when they "feel dry".  How dry?  How often do I check if they're dry?  Twice a week?  Twice a day?  How much is a good drink?  Until the dirt is soaked?  Soaked on the surface, or soaked to the bottom?  What do I do, stick my finger in the dirt and feel how wet it is?  These directions are simply not helpful in the least.  (And these poor things will be lucky to make it through the fourth of July, I think.)

The orchid
Apparently, people with green thumbs are like cooks -- I mean, natural cooks, those people who throw a bit of this and that into a pot and something amazing comes out.  I, on the other hand, am a baker.  I need a specific recipe with specific measurements for specific ingredients.  I can't feel my way through a dish for the family to eat . . . and I can't keep a living green thing green that way either.

One of the houses we're looking at in San Antonio we have dubbed the "garden house".  That's because it has an enclosed courtyard in the front with a fountain and trees and plants all around it.  It's beautiful -- an oasis -- and if we buy the house, I will have to hire a professional to come take care of it all.

In the meantime, I'm afraid I'll have to give up my cyclamen and orchid to a neighbor when we move.  (And the amaryllis that blooms something gorgeous every several months or so.)  I doubt they'll survive the drive to Texas, and I don't know if they'll thrive in a different environment. 

You think I'll ever again have a live houseplant that survives as well as these have?  I don't.  Oh, well!  It was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bracing and Embracing

We fly back home today, and when we leave home the next time, it will probably be for good -- that is, it will no longer be home the next time we return.  The reality of that has started to sink in.

Sioux City has been a good place for us.  Lots of great things happened there.  Lots of trying times, too.  All four of us are different people than we were when we arrived almost five years ago.  God has done mighty things in our lives in our time there.  When hubby first lost his job, I didn't feel ready to leave -- I was too happy with the life we had.

But after a year and a half of closing doors and anticipating change, I'm ready for the change.  I'm ready for a new start -- a new house, new schools, new work, new church, new activities, new weather, new recreation, new friends . . . all of it.  Not that I won't miss the old, but we've moved enough to know that God always has wonderful things in store for us in a new place.  I've been very excited anticipating the new things.

Now it's time to close the final door on the old things, though, and I'm preparing for the grieving that will set in for the next couple of weeks.  All the "lasts".  Last Sunday morning at Sunnybrook.  Last party with the drama kids. Last shopping trip at Hyvee.  Last night sleeping in our bedrooms.  Many tears are coming. 

Bracing myself for the tears . . . but also trying to embrace the tears.  The sadness is only an indication of how important to us the things are that we are leaving.  And we want to celebrate the things in life that are important to us, that change us, that make us who we are.  No way to avoid the sadness, so we may as well indulge and let it wash over us and do its complete cleansing.

So, I don't know how much I'll be blogging in the next couple weeks . . . or how insightful they will be.  I may just be a blubbering, stressed-out mess for a while.  But whether or not you continue to read through my blubbers, I'd appreciate any prayers you think to shoot up on our behalf.  Transitions are hard.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Home Observations

So, if you read last Friday's blog, you know we looked at sixteen houses over the last few days.  We narrowed it down to our top two or three and are getting ready to make an offer on one.  I won't elaborate on all that until we actually have a house -- then you can get all the details.  But boy, looking in on people's houses is an interesting thing.

A couple of these were empty.  But there were a couple which were not being lived in but were still "staged" with furniture.  The agent said that there are furniture companies in town who will dress up your house for a fee, with the hopes that the people who buy the house like the furnishings enough to buy them.  Pretty darn smart, I say.  But it's kind of funny the stuff they put out to make the place look "homey".  One house had a lovely wooden tray in the middle of the kitchen island with a few loaves of artificial bread on it.  It added a very nice ambience to the kitchen -- but really, how many people do you know who have random loaves of artsy-looking breads sitting out in the kitchen to dry out? 

One of the tips we got a while back when we were selling the house was to have every light in the house on when we left for a showing.  It really surprised me how often we went in a house and had to hunt for lights -- and these were cloudy days, so it really did make a difference.  A couple houses had soft music playing.  Aha!  There's a good idea.  Gotta add that one to our show-prep routine.

Essentially, you know, the goal here is to make the house look NOT like a place where people actually live.  The goal is to create an image.  "The people in this house listen to classical music, hide away their shampoo and razors in the bathroom, and eat three loaves of artsy-looking bread every couple of days before they get a chance to dry out.  If I live in this house, I'll be that kind of person, too!  Ooh!  I want to buy this house!"  Really, rich people aren't as smart as you'd think.

One trend that I noticed in most (if not all) of the houses: a separate "living area" by the bedrooms, especially if there was a second floor.  The intention being, I presume, that the kids of the house would hang out there.  Now, I see some advantages to that.  Toys not being underfoot in the main area of the house.  When you're entertaining, the kids have their own area to be in while the adults visit in the main living space.  Essentially, I guess, these took the place of a basement in most houses -- basements are rare around here, apparently, because the ground is too rocky to dig down that deep.

But it kind of made me sad to think of designating different parts of the house for the kids to "live" in away from the parents.  I mean, I want to see my family when I'm home with them.  Yes, I get tired of the Disney channel and all, but I would rather watch "Good Luck Charlie" all day long and actually interact with my kids than send them off to another part of the house for the bulk of our lives.

Of course, you may want to ask me that again by the end of the summer.  We'll start our stint in San Antonio living in a two bedroom apartment for a while.  I may have my fill of togetherness by August!

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Evolving Dream House

So, we're in San Antonio again -- this time, officially, on a house-hunting mission.  Hubby has been out with the realtor in all his spare time in the last week or so and has narrowed the list of possibilities down to about . . . sixteen.

Sixteen.  He narrowed it to sixteen.  That gives you an idea of how many total houses he's been looking at.  I'm so glad I have him.

Somebody asked the girls and I recently what we were looking for in a house.  All each girl really wanted was her own room -- and her own bathroom, although I told them not to hold their breath for that one. 

I wasn't so sure what I was looking for.  I remember when we bought our first house in Hutchinson, Kansas.  One of the things I so wanted then was a "craft room" -- a separate room where I could store all my craft supplies and work on projects without having a mess out in the living area.  LOL!  (Literally, I'm laughing out loud.)  How I have changed since then.  I have a cross-stitch project I started before my 13-year-old was born, and I can't seem to make myself finish it.  I'm kinda done with the crafty thing.

When we bought our house in Springfield, Missouri, having a guest room was a big deal because we were going to be further away from family and when people came to visit, they would need a place to sleep.  And I discovered there the pleasures of a tub with Jacuzzi jets (something I've really only used and valued a lot when I've been pregnant) and a large walk-in closet -- both items which went on the wish list gioing forward. 

By the time we were moving to New Jersey, I had a child and much more family-living experience, and I had different desires.  I wanted a separate dining room.  I'm not even sure why now, but I did.  I wanted lots of storage space.  I wanted a real, wood-burning fireplace.  I wanted a basement, or some kind of play area where we could put the kid's toys and they wouldn't be underfoot all the time.  And I wanted a rural feeling in the environment (a challenge to find in New Jersey, but we did it). 

When we moved to Sioux City, with two children now in tow, I wanted everything we'd had before . . . plus a homeschool space.  And a three-car garage (we expected to add a driver while we were there). 

But I feel like I'm coming into this search with a different mindset.  I don't know if it was the long period of unemployment . . . or the consideration of a move to Panama . . . but I have very little I feel like I need in a house right now.  In fact, we'll be living in hubby's apartment for a while, I expect, and I feel content with that.  When my friend asked what I wanted in a house, all I could think of that I would really covet was a nice, shady back porch or deck with an attractive view where I could sit and work and visit and read and relax.  Having a door to that from the master bedroom would be even better.  Maybe I'm getting old.

But hubby did mention a house with a library.  A library.  Oh, yeah.  That would be nice.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

But It Doesn't FEEL Like Worship . . .

When you do a lot of performing – as a musician, actor, dancer, speaker, even as a teacher – you get a feel for how the energy flows during a good show. During a performance, energy comes from the stage and is absorbed by the audience. In a really great performance, the audience gives energy back to the performers as well. It is an interaction – almost a "spiritual" one – between performer and observer.

I've experienced this many times before in my lifetime of doing various kinds of “performing”. But I didn't really articulate it for myself until right after we moved to Siouxland and were visiting churches. It became clear to me that some churches were performing on Sunday morning rather than worshipping. I could feel it in the energy flow. Not that there's anything wrong with performing per se -- not at all.  It's just that it's not always equal to worship.

In worship, the energy flow starts from stage and seats together and moves upward to God – a vertical movement rather than a horizontal one.  And you know when the worship is genuine because you feel the energy coming back. Again, an interaction . . . but every human in the room is on the same side of the interaction. The comraderie that a band feels during a concert, or that a play cast feels at curtain call . . . this unity can be experienced immediately and powerfully even among a group of strangers when genuine worship is happening.

I have spent many years off and on over the course of my life involved in drama ministry. And the bulk of that ministry involved skits performed during worship services -- I've even been writing those skits myself in the past few years. But I told some friends recently that I'm not sure I want to be involved in that kind of drama ministry anymore.

An article a friend posted recently began to help me articulate why. It was titled “The Difference Between Congregational Worship and a Concert“, and it elaborated on these three points:

1. If we, the congregation, can't hear ourselves, it's not worship.

2. If we, the congregation, can't sing along, it's not worship.

3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it's not worship. 

When I applied these concepts to the skits we do on Sunday mornings, I saw the source of my concern.  For most of our skits, the actors are the center of attention; the audience is not participating -- they are absorbing.  It is a performance energy flow.
Now, I understand that preaching and teaching are a similar phenomenon in a worship service.  But anyone who has heard a really excellent preacher or teacher knows the difference between teaching that is an act of worship and teaching that is a show of knowledge or oratory skill.  My concern is finding that distinction with my Sunday morning dramas, because I don't think it is often there.
And right now, I'm not sure I feel a pull to look very hard for it.  I just need to worship.

I've made a commitment to our church here to continue to write scripts for them – and I will, as long as they want them from me. But for myself . . . for my own Sunday mornings . . . I have a need now to separate my performance time from my worship time.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Secret Church

Dr. David Platt is the pastor of a huge church in Birmingham and the author of a recent bestselling book, Radical.  (If you're a believer and haven't read this book, you need to.  It's wonderful: challenging and inspiring.)  In that book, he describes meeting with pastors of underground churches in Asia and their begging him to teach them about the Bible -- and the teaching sessions lasting for hours on end, for as many days as he could give them.  They were so desperately hungry for the Word and for training in leading their people.

Upon returning to his comfortable, Americanized mega-church, he wondered if they could have the same hunger, so he started having occasional six-hour teaching sessions, going through the basics of the faith as found in the Word.  A thousand people showed up for the first session, and they've done at least twelve more.

But these lessons had a dual purpose: they were also videotaped and translated into the various languages of countries around the globe where Christianity is illegal or persecuted.  Their goal was to put these teachings on thumb drives and such to be passed out to church leaders in those countries who are desperate for training -- "seminary on a stick," they called it.

Here's why I mention this: these lessons are online for anyone to see, right here.  They call it "Secret Church", in honor of fellow believers who have to meet in secret.  Each session includes four hours worth of teaching -- you can watch it, listen to it, read the transcript, download the extensive fill-in-the-blank notes (with empty or filled-in blanks) . . . and it's all free.  Really, really excellent teaching.

I just got done listening to session four on "Who Is God" (not all four hours at once -- about a half hour at a time).  It was SO good.  Yes, I technically "knew" all of this . . . but we tend to discuss the character of God as it comes to us in scripture -- in pieces, a little bit at a time.  To have it all laid out in one fell swoop like that was amazing.

And I kept thinking of unbelieving friends I have who would actually enjoy this.  Friends who have genuine respect and curiosity about faith, who want to understand how we believers think.  These lessons would do that.

Dr. Platt is an amazing young teacher.  Whether you're a believer or not, you should check out the Secret Church website.  It's summer -- a great season to devote some time to learning something new.  :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pilgrim's Progress

I've spent my afternoons this week leading a drama camp for sixteen middle school homeschoolers.  And I'm exhausted.  :)  This was a crazy idea Kim and I had -- to try to put together a show in five afternoons.  But I'm amazed at what these kids have done.

It helps that we are reprising one of our first plays:  Pilgrim's Progress.  If you're unfamiliar with this title, it's a book written by John Bunyan in the late 1600s.  Very heavy reading, full of scriptural references and seminary-worthy exposition, only recommended for the very literary-minded.  But we read a children's version in homeschool which boiled it down to just the allegorical story of Christian's journey to the Celestial City -- and this is what I based my script on, with a lot of comical character adaptations.  Like, Goodwill gives instructions regarding the path like a cheesy flight attendant.  Ignorance is a hippie.  Knowledge is a cowboy who greets him, "Well, howdy, pilgrim" . . . a la John Wayne.

Amid all the stress and harriedness of putting the show together, it has been nice to revisit this story.  One of the things I like about it so much is that there is something here to speak to everyone, wherever they are on their walk.  I've enjoyed being reminded this week about how the King knows his pilgrims are headed toward the Slough of Despond and sends Help (a superhero in our version) just when they need him.

And about how our burden is removed at the cross . . . never to be seen again.

About Christian's battle with Self, where he is almost defeated by the recollection of the many failures he has experienced on the way.

About the Shining One reminding him that his mistakes were already forgiven, way back at the cross.

And the one that always speaks to me the most: about how he languishes in the dungeon of the Giant Despair until he remembers the Key of Promise he was given, a key that unlocks any prison doors.

I love doing this play.  And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to do it one more time, even if it is a crazy, harried week putting it together.  Your last opportunity, Siouxland friends:  Pilgrim's Progress, 6:30pm tonight at Sunnybrook Church, a FREE 45-minute production.  These kids have worked hard and deserve an audience!  Come see us!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

#lookingforlove #allthewrongplaces

I nearly jumped a curb in the van yesterday when the friendly DJ on the radio, who fills in the gaps between songs and ads with entertaining factoids, informed me that one-third of new marriages these days are the result of relationships that began on the internet.

Are you kidding me?!??

Now, I realize I'm nearing old fart status.  The world is a different place than it was when I was dating, I understand.  I know how the internet has changed the way we interact and all.  I even have friends who met through a dating website and who seem well-matched and happily married.  So, maybe this is just me.  But.

I still cannot imagine seeking out new relationships on the internet, much less committing my life to one of them.  You know, friends, people lie.  The web is like a virtual reality world -- you can put on any face you want and be whoever you want with few or no consequences.  Even with the people I talk to on Facebook, who are ALL people I know (or once knew) in real life, I understand that they are showing me only the part of themselves that they want to display to the world.  This isn't the real them.

Of course, face-to-face interactions can be just as false.  I mean, that's the whole problem with dating -- it's not like real life.  You're going out to entertain yourselves and each other, putting your best face on and your best foot forward, for a few hours at a time.  Once you get married and start actually doing life together, a completely different person can emerge.  But the internet makes those false faces even easier to don and maintain.

I am so glad to be out of the dating scene.  If I were to lose my husband (God forbid) and have to start over . . . well, I just might not start over.  Dating is scary to me now.  At least dating with the idea of finding a lifetime partner . . . and I wouldn't date with any illusions that we're "just enjoying each other's company" because I know how falling in love can slip up on you unawares. 

Marriage is great -- but marriage is hard.  Hubby and I have spent almost twenty-four years now growing up together and figuring out who we are and how we mesh and how to make life work . . . and I still don't think we're "there" yet.  It is truly a life-long process.  A wonderful one -- a challenging one -- one I wouldn't give up for the world -- but one I have no desire to go through again with someone else.

Especially with "JoeBloe24" whom I only know from the internet.  Yeesh.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Let's Get Physical

I keep referring back to that Bill Bennett book -- it really was that good.  (If you're interested, you can get in on Amazon here.)  In a couple chapters, he refers to one Matthew Crawford, an author who wrote Shop Class as Soulcraft and "The Case for Working with your Hands".  Crawford says,

It is a rare person, male or female, who is naturally inclined to sit still for 17 years in school, and then indefinitely at work . . . Some people are hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, when they would rather be learning to build things or fix things. 

Can I get an "Amen", brothers and sisters??  He continues:

One shop teacher suggested to me that 'in schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement.  Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.'"

Oh, yes.  An abstract and distant world.  Contrived, artificial learning environments "undeserving of their attention and engagement".  He hit the nail on the head.  Case in point: a few teenage boys I know through my eldest daughter who I suspect will not be getting their high school diplomas in the next couple years, if ever.

Reading these passages, I remembered Booker T. Washington's autobiography where he described how every student at the negro college he founded was required to learn a skilled trade along with their academic book learning.  And I increasingly see the value of that.

What would it look like if every student had to learn the basics of a skilled trade before they could graduate from high school?  Something physical and concrete -- something they do with their hands.  That could be auto maintenance, hair styling, carpentry, sewing, plumbing . . . there are so many possibilities.  I see tremendous benefits to this requirement.

For one, no more issues with kids graduating and not having the basic skills to make a living.  Have you had a plumber in to work on your pipes lately?  They make a darn good living.

Also, the skilled trades would have their dignity restored to them, as would the students who excel in those trades.  I remember the kids in my English classes who were outshone all day long by the honors brats -- but who, if given the chance, could have put the brats to shame in the industrial arts department.  I always kind of longed for them to know what it felt like to excel over their peers for once.

But even more so, I think it would do everyone some good to have to work with their hands.  I'm a perfect example of this.  I live in my head; I'm an academic nerd.  The few opportunities I get to do something physical and concrete (like take care of the lawn, snow-blow the driveway, or try to figure out how to repair something in the house) can be very aggravating, but they are also fulfilling in a way.  I wish I had the skills to do stuff like that. I can imagine what my friends experience when they say that going out and working on the car they're fixing up in the garage is very relaxing to them. 

Yeah . . . let's do that.  Add that to graduation requirements. I think I need to start my own school . . .