A Different Educational Path

I was a traditional student.  Except for 2 years in private education, I attended the neighborhood public school. I walked to school, up hill both ways, in the snow. Like others, that’s the story I’m telling.

My parents expected me to succeed academically and stay on course. They encouraged my participation in extra-curricular activities  Still, I followed a well-worn path.

After high school, I went directly to college.  I wanted to go to a smaller school. My father insisted that I start at UNC.  Each kind of college experience had its particular advantages.  For the first two years, my parents paid my tuition and board in full. So, I yielded to their preference.

Of course, that was a long time ago when a college education was affordable.  That’s not true for a lot of people these days.  I’ll step down from my soap box and spare you my speech.  I graduated in four years contributing to my expenses with summer jobs.

That was back in the day before the internet, google, hotwire and cell phones.  I even remember writing letters to family and friends in cursive, on paper, putting them in envelopes with postage stamps.  Do you remember those days? Things have changed.

None of the four children I raised are traditional students.  There were gap years, military service, unpaid internships, online classes, global travel.  I can’t complain. Getting an education is much more complicated these days.  At the same time, their upbringing was more dramatic. Two of the four now have college degrees. Two are still plowing forward.

Thank goodness they have found a number of resources for financial assistance. First of all, they have tended to work year round, taking vacations when a break was needed.  When I was their age, I took fewer trips, but only worked in the summers.  Their exorbitant college expenses have been financed through parents, grandparents, scholarships, the GI bill,  grants, loans and a number of part-time jobs.  Like everything else, it has taken a village.

One day this past week, I got a call from my youngest son. He was walking on the beach in Phuket, Thailand.  Yes!  A month ago he was in Barcelona, Spain and Paris, France. As soon as his second semester ended at Ohio State, he started traveling before jumping  back  into summer school. He had worked many extra hours during the school year to afford it. It is his own version of “studying abroad”.

He didn’t book with some tour group.  He didn’t sign up for classes.  He just went without much of an agenda.  He planned to let his learning unfold organically.  Needless to say, our phone conversation was hysterical.  I heard about

  • language barriers,
  • over-crowded boats and taxis,
  • snorkeling with massive jelly fish,
  • ornate Buddhist Temples
  • playing soccer with school-aged children
  • a 4 ft. grouper
  • James Bond Island
  • tuk tuks
  • elephant sanctuaries
  • travel scams etc.

I am proud of his risk-taking initiative.  Don’t worry.  I limited my questions to stay within his “question quota”. Forever, I will be practicing to say, “tell me more”.

Here’s what I’m learning.  There are many different educational paths.  These days, students want more experiential classrooms.  Hopefully, my children will always find their joie de vivre as they gorge on wide-eyed, open hearted,  lifelong learning adventures.

Because of the internet, google, hotwire and cell phones, students have more access to opportunities and relationships.  For some of us, that seems like too much distraction. For others with decent boundaries and self-imposed limits, this technology opens a whole new world.

Again, things have changed. So must my imposition onto them of a more traditional way. I too am still learning.






How do you see yourself?

My next door neighbor is an ornithologist.  Do you know what that is?  He’s a bird man.

He and his wife are excellent neighbors.  We chatted about 10 days ago after their early evening stroll.  Dr. J had noticed my robin’s nest over my front door a few weeks ago.  I told him that the babies had already flown away.  “Now, I have a duck nest”, I bragged.  So they came over to see for themselves.

Almost immediately, Dr. J. rationalized that the birds were attracted to my condo because of the architecture.  Unlike theirs, my front stoop seemed less open. It seemed more protective. I guess one could look at that way. (Between us, I think he was jealous).

I, however, challenged him.  He is a bird expert, but I am a field agent of a different sort.  “I guess you can see it that way”, I offered.  “I see it differently.  As a pastor, I consider myself a midwife of new birth.  It’s a matter of perspective”. Dr. J. didn’t know what to say.

How do you see yourself?  It really makes a difference.

  • Beyond the classroom, are you a teacher? Then, you will attract opportunities to teach.
  • Beyond the hospital, are you a doctor or nurse?  Then, you will attract opportunities to heal.
  • Beyond the desk, or the sales floor, are you a sales person?  Then, you will attract opportunities to pitch big ideas.
  • Beyond the university, are you a student?  Then, you will attract opportunities to learn important things
  • Beyond the home, are you a mother or father?, then you will attract opportunities to nurture others.
  • Beyond the church or temple, you are a child of God; you will attract opportunities to act out your belovedness.

I have been out of town for the last 6 days.  I got home last night and when I arrived, I checked on Ethel, my duck.  Unfortunately, two eggs had been rolled away from the nest.  I assume they were attacked by a predator of some sort.

I told Ethel how sad that made me, but reminded her that she was still a good mother. This morning when I checked on her, she shifted long enough for me to see that six ducklings had hatched.

I’m thankful I got home in time. I texted with a friend this morning sharing the good news of birth.  He reminded me that Ethel had done all the hard work, not me.  In my profession, the same is true.  It’s not my job or my ability to take over the labor of new birth.  At best, I am a midwife, an encourager, a coach.

Again,  identity is a matter of perspective.  I claim that among other things, I am a midwife. I will continue to attract opportunities to encourage and coach. How do you see yourself?

All around us, we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But, it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become and the more joyful our expectancy.     Romans 8:22-25  The Message.


The Best Excuse to Blow-off a Work-out

In the last month or so, I went back to the gym on a fairly regular basis.  I got a medical diagnosis that motivated me to get more serious about my well-being.  Let’s be clear.  I’m no gym rat.  Thankfully, the diagnosis felt like court-appointed A.A. meetings. I had to get with the program, or else. Maybe that’s just what I needed because I lack the self-discipline to stay on track.

Basically, I’m extremely healthy.  Yet, I needed a wake-up call, as others of us do in helping professions.  It’s easier to focus on someone else.

Whether it is obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression or some auto-immune nightmare, many of us experience the consequences of not putting on our oxygen masks first, before  we help others with theirs.

Now I know that some people get high on endorphins.  I also know people who like to sweat.  Actually, I have one friend who calls sweat, “liquid awesome”. Give me a break.

I’m not one of those people.  Still, I found a trainer who is a former college athlete.  Her services were affordable- free! So, I couldn’t use the cost as an excuse.  Believe me, I have many excuses.

  • no time
  • pastoral crisis
  • a sermon to write
  • too busy
  • my gym clothes are dirty
  • I’ll eat less today
  • blisters
  • walking away from donuts should count for something
  •  I’ll work twice as hard tomorrow

Do any of these sound familiar?  The other day, however, I saw a post on facebook.  Unfortunately I didn’t save it.  Perhaps you saw it and can correct me.  It said something like this.

If I could change the nickname of the toilet from John to Jim, then when someone asked me if I was going to the gym that day, I could say, “I’ve already gone”.

All of this is to say, “I’m upping my commitment to exercise.  Up yours”.