A Lesson from my Dad

My Father is a wonderful man.  He taught me how to enjoy learning, how to never give up, how to love a woman (he and my mother have been married for nearly 35 years now!), that a rolling rock gathers no moss, that family is more important than a career, and many other things. One lesson which he taught me stands out above the rest. He taught me this lesson through the telling of a story–like many of his lessons–thus I will retell the story as accurately as I can recall.

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Two lumberjacks were both known for their incredible skills at chopping wood. The first was a young man of 23 years old, incredibly powerful and athletic. Everyone knew him to be one of the best lumberjacks, and he prided himself in that. The second man was an old hand of 70 years of so. He grew up in the trade, coming from a long line of lumberjacks in his family. He was a humble man, and kept to himself for the most part. However, he was so good at what he did, people would still come to him for advice.

Now it came about that there was going to be a wood chopping competition, namely who could chop two cords of wood the quickest. Both of these men were selected to go head to head. And so it began.

At the beginning, both men were keeping on the same pace. The young man because his strength, the old man because his craft had been perfected. After some time, the old man started falling behind a little, so he sat down to take a break. The young man saw this as a wonderful sign and went even harder. The competition kept going, and the old man would take breaks every half hour or so, meanwhile the young man only took a few. The young man could taste victory. However, the young man began to get very tired, and the old man began to overtake the young man. This infuriated the young man, so he began working even harder, but the old man was still somehow beating him. In the end, the old man won the competition. The young man and the spectators were completely dumbfounded.

The young man walked up to the old man and asked, “How on earth did you beat me, you were taking breaks every half hour, I just don’t understand?!?” The old man replied, “You thought I was just sitting down and resting, but in reality, I was sharpening my axe.”

Work smarter, not harder. Don’t forget to sharpen your axe. Why is this the best lesson I learned from my father? Because I think of this story nearly everyday. I work incredibly hard at what I do, but I still takes breaks to “sharpen my axe.” For instance, this last month I have been preparing for oral exams and my thesis defense. The mental energy that goes into this is incredibly exhausting. I put 8-12 hours of study in per day, but I still “sharpened my axe.” For me, this was in the form of playing worship music on my guitar, taking cat naps, and going on daily runs. In other words, I created a balance between my mental, physical, and spiritual life and successfully accomplished what I needed to. Thanks for the lessons, Dad.

What is a valuable lesson that you learned from your parents?

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Top 6 Tips for Teaching

Teaching is not just something for the classroom. It can be applied to any scenario. Personally, I am a high school teacher, but I have also taught a little at the graduate level, and a little at our church and in Bible studies. I just completed my third master’s degree–all this to say, I have teaching experience and I have experienced the teaching of a lot of really good teachers, as well as that of some really bad teachers. The following is a list of what I think are the Top 6 Tips for Teaching. This list is not a comprehensive end all, this is more of my teaching philosophy than anything else.

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  1. Teach students, not the subject per se. If your goal is to teach the subject, you have failed. Your goal should be to teach students. They are people first and foremost, and you have been given the opportunity to help these people succeed in life. When students know you care about them, they want to learn. If they don’t think you care, then you could teach the best lesson in the world, but it will not mean a thing to them.
  2. Teach multiple viewpoints and allow the student to come to the conclusions themselves. Not only is this good teaching, it is allowing other people to grow and discover. To simply give one viewpoint is arrogant. If you are dead-set on teaching one viewpoint, you have failed to teach students (cf. #1), and you are simply trying to create a mini-me.  You want to help creative thinkers, not clones of yourself.
  3. Allow the students to grade themselves for at least 25% of their grade based on the effort they have given. By doing this, they will realize that you respect them as people (cf. #1), and chances are, they will actually grade themselves lower than what you would expect.
  4. Relate the material to life. Every class should present some challenge to go further, learn more, search more diligently, study harder, etc. If there is no action step, the lesson will be forgotten. If they talk about you or the class during other classes, lunch, dinner with their family, etc., then you have succeeded.
  5. Don’t punish when they fail, give them the opportunity to try again. Life is this way, so allow your teaching to reflect this. Don’t label your students as “trouble makers,” rather, call out their true identity, they are “children of God.”
  6. Recognize your students’ dreams and coach them. Dreams without actions are just wishful thinking. You are there to help them succeed in life. God has given you this opportunity, now it is your turn to go help your students find their opportunities.

How do you feel about this list? I would love to hear opinions from students and teachers alike.

Can the Truth ever be a Mystery?

Why have we created a dichotomy between science and religion? Or more generally, why have we created a dichotomy between truth and mystery? When I say “we” I do not simply mean this generation, but I mean we as in humanity. It is as though we think that the “truth” is simply one thing which we can comprehend entirely. We have placed a dichotomy between truth and mystery. We only allow ourselves to succumb to mystery when we are at our wits end; we have proclaimed that to proclaim mystery is failure. But why? Is there no beauty to mystery? Is there no truth to mystery? Why can’t we view mystery as truth? Certainly not as the ‘whole’ truth, but as truth nonetheless.

God is other than this world, and as such he cannot be observed. Whenever we seek God, there is mystery involved. And whether we calvin mysteryare studying the vastness of physics and astronomy, or the microscopic of chemistry and biology, we cannot allow ourselves to try and find God in these things. If we think we can find God in these things, then we have allowed ourselves to say that God is confined to this world. It is true that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ–I am simply saying that there is no scientific way to locate God. He is in all things, and creates all things, but we cannot locate him. God’s presence is always a matter of grace, and we can only receive grace, we cannot find it.

If we cannot ‘find’ God on our own, how are we to understand him and have faith in him? We can only understand that which we know, and knowing is best understood in a face-to-face relationship, and we can only ever have a face-to-face relationship if we are invited into the presence of God by grace, and we can only receive this grace by faith. And this is a mystery, but it is also the truth.

riddleWe can never understand faith, because it is based upon a God which is other than this world, and thus there is no way to scientifically observe and measure it. However, we can certainly use our faith to seek an understanding of God, but we must never forget the element of mystery, and that this side of heaven we only see dimly, but there will come a time when we will see him fully and clearly, and face-to-face.

Do you think that mystery can be a beautiful thing?

Do you agree that the truth can be a mystery?

Beauty out of Death

trees3One of my all-time favorite things to do in Portland is to go running on a brisk autumn morning. The chill of the air instantly freezing the sweat pouring out of your pores. The smell of the wet grass and leaves reminding you of the previous cleansing rain. The fog lifting away, nearly transporting you into another dimension. But really, the thing that puts it over the top is the sheer beauty of the trees as they begin changing colors. Have you ever seen trees so spectacular? I had not until we moved here. I grew up surrounded by pine-needles, and they would simply die, fall to the ground, and catch fire.

But back to the colorful leaves, when I ponder it a little more, I realize that the beautiful colors are completely dependent upon immanent death. How can death be so lovely? And if death can be so beautiful, how magnificent is life? I don’t always view life as something so fantastic, probably because my frame of reference is so static. I need to step out of myself, so that I can truly understand life. That is relativity.

What would happen if you had a near death experience? Heck, let us actually pretend that you do die. And then you are given a chance to come back and experience this life again, with full knowledge of what life is about. I think that you would have a much more profound outlook on life, and you would probably appreciate all of the people around you much more because you would want all of them to experience as much of life as possible.tree2

Enjoy this life. God loves you. He created you. He created this earth. I believe he wants you to enjoy life and discover his truths in the world we are in the midst of. “Love God, and do what you will.” (St. Augustine) You will not discover the harmony of this life until you learn to play with it.

My Philosophy of Education

letter2One objective of my blog is to help people become one with each other and with Jesus Christ. As Bonhoeffer would say, this Blog covers both penultimate and ultimate things – things of this world and of the next. I personally love the things of this world and believe that God made the creation so that we could learn about it and be prepared for the world to come. The universe contains so much beauty & unity. It is my goal to share my knowledge and passion for math, physics, and theology thereby giving students the resources needed to learn about the beautiful things which God has created. Hopefully, this will encourage them to further His kingdom here on earth – and a major aspect of kingdom is becoming one with each other and with God.

I am a Christian educator and I believe that this role ought to be defined by faith: one of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and one of unending faithfulness to the students. And as a Christian educator, I seek to equip creative and critical thinkers, not simply produce students who score well on standardized tests. I pray that both students, educators, and everyone else who reads this blog is truly blessed and encouraged.

Beautiful Things

hammockYou are walking through the neighborhood, not a brisk walk; this is a stop and smell the roses kinda walk. You are wearing your flip flops because you intend to move slowly; you simply love the way the leather feels on your feet. The sunlight is shining brightly into the fabric of your skin, and you begin to radiate. The greenness of Portland is all around you. The smells remind you of so many wonderful things and leave you craving even more. The beauty around you is overwhelming. Why did God make so many beautiful things? It was truly an act of grace and kindness – why else would he shower you with these gifts? He loves you so much!

You continue strolling through the beautiful things, and they nearly draw you to tears. They are so beautiful. What is it about beautiful things that can lead a man to tears? A newborn baby, his bride, the sunset, an old growth tree, a blooming flower, the changing colors of fall….

You were once told that it is God’s kindness that leads you to repentance – perhaps you are now beginning to realize what that means. Repentance is the act of turning away from your selfish desires and turning towards the will of the Father. What if you are somehow brought to tears by beautiful things because it is his kindness actually drawing you to repentance, helping you realize that the fading beauty of this world is only a mere glimpse of the beauty of the new heaven and earth that await you. In that day you will find true rest and true beauty.