Thursday, June 29, 2017

Identity in Moana

I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I'm kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn't all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).

Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed. 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster. 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us? 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it. 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world. 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences. 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer. 

To God be all glory. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ask Personal Questions

I’ve read a lot of articles that say, “Don’t ask.”  They’ll be about illness, infertility, divorce.  “It’s personal,” they remind us, “so mind your own business.” 

Today I was in a woman’s house.  I don’t know her.  I have talked to her a couple of times.  I will be doing some work for her.  I suppose I broke the rules, because after she’d told me a little about her life, raising two little boys though she’s their grandmother and wasn’t planning to do motherhood all over again, I asked her if she’s raising them alone.  And you know what, this woman wanted to share.  She’s desperately lonely in her situation, and not only feeling like she’s the only one going through this kind of thing, but also just generally like she doesn’t have anyone to talk to, anyone to love and support her. 

I think I know how she feels.  I have wonderful friends, who know me and my story very well.  And I still feel lonely sometimes, still would rather that people sincerely ask what is going on in my life and how I feel about it.  Even the private, personal things.  If it takes me a minute or two to figure out how to answer with appropriate discretion, that awkwardness is worth it to me for what it buys: relationship. 


To God be all glory.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Playing Cards for Teaching Math

Once when I was babysitting, I threw a deck of cards on the floor.  Then I sent the various children on scavenger hunts.  The younger ones were sent for colors or shapes.  Then I could send some kids for certain numbers, or odd numbers, or even numbers.  The siblings who were old enough to know addition or subtraction could be sent for “two cards that add to nine”, or “three cards that add to thirteen”. 

For more flexibility or to mix it up, ask for kids to bring you however many cards, as long as they add up to an odd number, or to a number greater than ten and less than twenty.  You could have the kids bring you one card, and then send them for a card that could be added to that specific card in order to reach a specific other number.  You can have kids of similar abilities race for the same answer, or you could give each kid their unique assignment and then say “go” to see who can complete their task first.  If the kids you’re working with don’t like messes, you could lay the cards out on a table in rows (it would be fun to sometimes have the cards in order and sometimes not). 


This kind of activity helps kids to realize things about numbers and math that they wouldn’t necessarily if they were just memorizing tables.  I like it for the additional reason that it uses supplies that many people have around the house, and that it can incorporate younger and older children.  It is active. 

To God be all glory.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stationary versus Stationery

I was writing the word "stationary" the other day, and wondering like always whether I was spelling the correct word. Then I had a brilliant idea: look up its etymology. I made a guess at the etymology of the
paper kind, that its root is "stationer" and that it came from the note paper, schedule books, tickets that train station clerks used. I tried to think whether "-ary" can be a suffix that means "pertaining to this thing": "glossary", "granary", "planetary" - I can see it.

So. Research results trump speculation:

stationery (n.) 1727, from stationery wares (c. 1680) "articles sold by a stationer," from stationer "seller of books and paper" (q.v.) + -y (1).

stationer (n.) "book-dealer, seller of books and paper," early 14c. (late 13c. as a surname), from Medieval Latin stationarius "tradesman who sells from a station or shop," noun use of Latin stationarius (see stationary). Roving peddlers were the norm in the Middle Ages; sellers with a fixed location often were bookshops licensed by universities; hence the word acquired a more specific sense than its etymological one.

compared to

stationary (adj.) late 14c., "having no apparent motion" (in reference to planets), from Middle French stationnaire "motionless" and directly from Latin stationarius, from the stem of statio "a standing, post, job, position" (see station (n.)). Meaning "unmovable" is from 1620s. In classical Latin, stationarius is recorded only in the sense "of a military station;" the word for "stationary, steady" being statarius.

-ary (adjective and noun word-forming element) in most cases from Latin -arius, -aria, -arium "connected with, pertaining to; the man engaged in," from PIE relational adjective suffix *-yo- "of or belonging to." The neuter of the adjectives in Latin also were often used as nouns (solarium "sundial," vivarium, honorarium, etc.). It appears in words borrowed from Latin in Middle English. In later borrowings from Latin to French, it became -aire and passed into Middle English as -arie, subsequently -ary.

I don't think I'll ever again forget the proper spelling for each.

All etymologies found and copied from www.EtymOnline.com
To God be all glory.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Falsely So Called

Hebrews says, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled..." In the United States, our legal system calls things "marriage" that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn't, is "honorable". We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord's Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, "Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?"

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn't want to, and I'm not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God's discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don't see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought "us" to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory. 



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Should You Homeschool?

I spent some time recently thinking about how I would help someone evaluate whether public school or homeschool is better for their family, especially coming from a perspective, like most American Christians do, of public school being normal.  In this I don’t want to be attacking public school or defending homeschool, but this article is informed by many of my reasons for preferring homeschool. 

What are your kids getting from public school? 
What useful? What positive? What harmful? 

What impact do their peers have on them? 
When they’re getting along?  When they’re not? 

Would your kids benefit from being in a smaller class size? 

What is in the curriculum that would affect their worldview? 

What other things are they being exposed to without wise guidance? 
From peers? From libraries? From field trips?

What is the impact of being bound to a school’s schedule?
On sleep? On nutrition? On transitions between environments and authorities? On routine?
How much of their time at school is actually being used for education?  (Why do they still have to come home and work on their scholastic education via homework?) 
Is a day structured around expectations and performance healthy for them?

Would they benefit from more interactive education?
Do they need more time to be active? 
Do they need to slow down on only one or two subjects?  Could they benefit from forging ahead on a couple of subjects? 
Would you like them to learn something that is not in your public school’s curricula? (Cooking, shop, business, Bible)
Would you like them to get a different perspective than what is being offered?
Would you like them to learn in a different way (more hands-on, more interactively, more self-study, more memorization, subjects integrated with one another)? 

What message does it send them to be sent away for long parts of each day? How does your attitude impact their perception?  How should parents maintain honesty (for example, about being grateful for the break when kids go to school) with their children, while not burdening the kids with the shortcomings of their parents? 
What message would it send them to be kept at home, unlike most of their peers?

What are they getting from time not in school? 
What useful? What positive? What harmful?

Do you have enough time to give them what they need?
Do you have enough time to teach them what God has entrusted you to teach them?
About Him? About character? About how to flourish in the story God has given them?
Do you have enough time to build your relationships with them? 
Do they get a (patient) chance to build their relationships with their siblings?

What are your reasons for not homeschooling?  Time? Focus on younger kids? Financial? Focus on other people? Focus on personal improvement? Stress? Intimidation? Inadequacy? Cultural normalcy? Influence culture? Perks of props and facilities and extra-curricular activities in public schools? Child’s socialization? Child’s practice with exposure to the world? Less strain on the mom-child relationship (not being teacher and mom)? Incorporating other adult influences for example and discipline? Hassle of truancy or curriculum laws?
Are your reasons based in truth, idealism, fear, selfishness?



To God be all glory.