Archive for April 2021

Seventh Grade Trivia

April 24, 2021

As I round the bend and head down the unexpected school year stretch, the final four weeks will be filled with excitement, anticipation, actions by students not thought through, sadness, gladness, push-and-pull, and at least a dozen bags of Smarties.

Smarties are my go-to for awards. I hand them out for the winning entry in “The Most Stupid Answer” contest, where I ask a question and encourager the students to think of the most ridiculous response possible for it. It takes some smarts to think really dumb.

Another Smart competition that happens daily is answering the daily trivia question. For that one I have the students work together as table-mates (3 or 4 sitting at a quad table) to provide an answer. Sometimes the answers are thought through and perspective…and sometimes they aren’t.

This past week I asked the question “What is the fruit that has the highest amount of sugar?” No one answered correctly in my first class, or my second class, or my third class. When my last class was given the question they talked to their table-mates about it. “Okay! Let’s start with Quad 1! What do you think?”


“Quad 2?”


“Quad 3?”


“Quad 4?”


“Quad 5?”


Something was smelling and it wasn’t the aroma of a mango. I looked around the classroom at a crowd of smiling faces. “Okay! The correct answer is mango.” Cheers!

“So we all get Smarties?”

“Yes, but I’ve got a feeling you may have had some help in finding out that answer.”

Confession is good for the soul, and they all pointed at one girl in the class who had found out the answer from a friend who was in the first class of the day and informed all of her classmates about it.

“Does this mean we don’t get Smarties?” came the pitiful plea.

“No, I applaud your ingenious efforts at finding a way to discover the answer without really being knowledgable about the subject.” I passed out the Smarties and then said, “And I guess I’ll need to change the trivia question for you all from now on.” Guilty groans echoed through the room as they bit into their Smarties.

Yesterday I switched the question for them. The question was “how many pounds of cheese does the average American eat in a year?” The answer is 34 pounds, but no one in the class was within a block of cheddar of getting it right. In fact, one table’s answer was- get this!- 13,000 pounds a year! That averages out to 36.6 pounds of cheese consumed each day. That’s about half of the body weight of one of the boys in the class.

I said, “A person might as well put his bed down by the cheese aisle in the supermarket!” It could have been the winning answer to the Most Stupid Answer contest. Sometimes seventh-graders are right on target and sometimes they are like a balloon that you let loose and it goes crazy in the air as it dispenses its air.

At any rate, I hand out Smarties like Santa Claus hands out candy canes. I’ve still got about 250 Dum-Dum’s also, but the sucker isn’t conducive to our mask-wearing environment. My fear is that I’ll go to the supermarket and the Smarties shelf will be barren, picked clean, sold out. After all, I’ve only got a reserve supply of about 400!

When the Help Stops the Help

April 18, 2021

When the pandemic hit in full force, afflicting people’s help, crippling businesses, and causing uncertainty about the days ahead, the government stepped in several times and provided financial assistance. The stimulus bill put money into bank accounts, helped pay the bills and the landlord. And then there was the financial help for businesses that kept the doors open.

And now the help may have had a boomerang effect. Unemployment checks of $600 don’t run out until September, but businesses are in need of employees now. I viewed a national news report tonight about businesses that are now able to reopen their doors, increase their hours and services, but unable to find people willing to be hired. Several voiced their opinion on what the problem is: The amount of the unemployment checks make work less necessary.

I can understand that. And yet, I’m uneasy as I think about it. Even though the assistance came from the government is there an understanding…a responsibility…to reciprocate when the need arises? Maybe that sounds strange or even optimistically naive. Perhaps it’s even rooted in my Christian values and how my parents raised me, the idea that because I’ve received I give back.

My son, who’s a restaurant chef, talks about how hard it was to let most of his staff go last April when dining was halted. With a staff that was less than twenty percent of what they had been at his restaurant survived, although it was touch-and-go. Now the struggles are because he can’t find help and is working himself to the bone. Another restaurant owner talked about the fact that his establishment has had to reduce hours and is only open four days a week.

So what happens in September when the unemployment checks run out but the summer rush for many businesses is already over? That’s four months away, you know, like in another lifetime. In the mean time, the uncertainty of businesses’ futures is causing a lot of owners and current employees uneasiness. Weird, because of the fact that their anxiety is due to whether they can provide the kind of services that people have come to expect when they want to receive it.

In a convoluted sort of way, it revolves around the idea of caring for one another. When one of the links in the chain folds its hands the chain of concern, care, and even sense of community is broken.

By now some of you are either with me or are beginning to think I’m deranged. I admit that I have been influenced and drawn to the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 where Paul writes about a group of churches, who even though they were themselves in need took care of others in other places in need. The first four verses say:

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able,and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,  they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” (NIV translation)

I realize we are a culture of self-absorbed individuals ready to receive what we may not have earned, but in my prayers I hope for the hearts of the helped to be turned toward the helpless– those who a few months ago were writing their paychecks.

Knowing When It’s Me or It’s the Culture

April 11, 2021

I haven’t always been the best judge of what is right and what is wrong, or, more relevant for these times, what is just and what is extreme. It goes all the way back to high school and having parents who were strict in what I was allowed to do and not do. I often complained to my friends about my lack of freedom. Being Baptist and having strict parents was often compared to being a juvenile delinquent with handcuffs on.

Years later, and in the reflection stage of having raised three of our own kids, I realize that my parents had a very good grasp of the wheel that charted our family’s vessels through a mixture of smooth and rough waters. Wisdom is often defined as stupidity by those who tend to drift into dumb waters.

And now we live in the midst of tumultuous times filled with difficult decisions. People are being asked to answer higher-level questions that are criticized by one side and praised by another. Questions such as “Do I get vaccinated?”, and “Do I believe everything that I’m being told I need to do to protect myself and others from COVID-19?” And the questions persist into other areas, such as “How open should our borders be?”, “In a social dispute should all the blame be laid on one side, or are should both parties involved have a share in the problem?”, “Should there be gun control and what is too much government regulation?”, “Should the tax burden be placed more on our shoulders now or placed on the backs of the next several generations?”, “Is college tuition debt something that should be eased or not?”

The questions could fill up a Jeopardy screen. The answers range from conservative perspectives to liberal leans.

The quandary for me and others who are on a journey with Jesus is discerning what is a culture cry and what is a Christ-cry? After all, the cry of the public was to crucify Jesus. He was too radical, too “out there” for His time. The establishment saw Him as a threat, even though He was voicing the thoughts of God.

For us, when we sense that inner-uneasiness, how can we tell if the squirming we’re experiencing is the whispering of the Holy Spirit or a ripple effect of our life experiences? Is it a holy uneasiness or a shaking of the tree that contains all the ways we were raised?

When it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to us, how do we speak in non-judgmental, loving ways that convey our convictions? How do we reflect the Christ we follow and are rooted to without sounding like an arrogant, pious church-goer? How do we speak with other followers of Christ who differ in their opinion from ours? Are we able to see each other as spiritual siblings who simply disagree without attacking one another’s salvation status?

After all, even the disciples of Jesus didn’t always agree. They got into arguments and discussions about who amongst them was the greatest, who was supposed to provide the food for the crowd of people gathered to hear Jesus, who was at fault…the afflicted or their sinful parents? Jesus had to change a few of their opinions in the time He mentored them.

Maybe some of our opinions…some of my perspectives also need to be changed…while others are rightfully anchored to the Rock.

Come to the Table, Would Ya’?

April 3, 2021

The Georgia Voting Restrictions that were recently passed has caused quite the stir, like two Ultimate Fighters seeking to pummel the opponent on the other side while never acknowledging their weaknesses.

As I looked for information on the restrictions, rationale and also rationale for being opposed to them, I noticed a few disheartening things. Most of the news sources were more about convincing the reader of the validity of the changes or how oppressive they were. It was hard to find a news source whose purpose was to simply report the news and leave it to the reader to make up their own mind about it.

And then there were the political advocates and opponents! Each of the two prominent political parties brings quotes and slammed to the situation that seek to convince the reader of the righteousness of their position. Sometimes what is being said isn’t the whole story, but rather just enough to cause there reader to be swayed.

And here’s the thing! I believe I speak for millions of Americans in saying “We just want our politicians to come to the table…maybe break bread together and they’re talking about what is and what can be, not politicking.

Both sides have good points and both sides need to share in the blame. However, the perception put forward is that one side is always right and the other side is always wrong.

When Paul said, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” he wasn’t thinking of Republicans and Democrats, but it still seems relevant. Political parties are about power and persuasion, not about peace and progress.

And that’s what’s so frustrating for me as a citizen, to see two agendas that are miles apart and a resistance to compromise and common sense. Compromise seems to be seen as a sign of weakness and vulnerability and common sense is like the index that is restricted to the end of the book.

Call me an old-timer. I just remember the old days when a community made up of different people with different beliefs and opinions would still be able to come together for the common good. Yes, I’m that old…and yet I still believe it’s possible!