Facebook status gratitude, August 16, 2015

A link in the event that anybody who wants to see the original.

So, I need to brag on this guy Dustin for a bit.

This whole #TrendingAtRefuge series our church has been running – taking hashtags on social media and offering a theological perspective on them – couldn’t be easy on any pastor. It REALLY can’t be easy on a guy who is most at home expanding on Biblical history and putting common Bible stories in context. For a pastor who’s so young and a church that’s so new, the task he’s put in front of himself is incredibly daunting, and one where the temptation to simply fall into doctrinal or political line and offer cliched answers has to be real.

This man has been nothing short of a revelation these past five weeks. Tackling the church’s response to LGBT identity, institutional racism, and this week immigration, Dustin has patiently built a response to the culture around us that is at once orthodox and engaging, doctrinally sound and warm-hearted, true and welcoming. He’s leaned on history and scripture in kind, and he’s found that both resist pat answers, that political orthodoxy satisfies neither. He’s leaned on John 1:14 as a prayer, and he’s fulfilled that old pastor’s saw of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Today was, to me, the most challenging of the lot. Anybody can talk about immigration by telling stories of Ellis Island and immigrants entering the United States from Europe. Dustin starts at ANGEL ISLAND, and starts telling of the culture that ASIAN immigrants – particularly CHINESE immigrants – brought with them to California. He traced that back to the Gold Rush, and rattled off dates that I’d never heard where the response of that influx of Chinese turned from curiosity to hostility to racially-motivated immigration policy – and made vividly clear that the issues we have with racism long predate anything Donald Trump may have said while declaring for the presidency.

And connecting those dots within the history of Judaism and Christianity – to the commandments God gave the Israelites in their new home (see Exodus 22:21 for an example) to the edicts of the Jerusalem Council (in Acts 15) to not over-burden non-Jewish converts to Christianity – reveals a narrative in Christianity that, counter to what we hear in our church culture today, is always welcoming to the outsider, to the foreigner, to the immigrant.

I’ll make sure I link the message when it’s uploaded. I felt like I’d gone back to school, as much new as there was that I learned.

If I’ve got my math right, Dustin’s got one more week of this, and next week’s hashtag is going to be #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. It’s probably not going to fit a certain frontrunner’s prescription.

Dustin – from the bottom of my heart – thanks for making Refuge Church exactly that. I’m so grateful you’re my pastor.


Facebook status rant, March 14, 2014

I made the mistake of starting to scan a Department of Education document on gainful employment rulemaking (related to for-profit colleges in particular), just released, to see if I can get the drop on the higher-ed policy nerds on my Twitter feed.

I got to page 47 before my jaw hit the floor, and I haven’t been able to pick it up. Check this out:

Our analysis of the D/E rates component of the 2012 GE informational rates reveals these poor outcomes among some GE programs. For example, 27 percent of GE programs evaluated produced graduates with average annual earnings below those of a full-time worker earning no more than the Federal minimum wage ($15,080). Sixty-four percent of GE programs evaluated produced graduates with average annual earnings less than the earnings of individuals who have not obtained a high school diploma ($24,492). Of programs with average earnings below those of a high school dropout, approximately 24 percent of former students defaulted on their Federal student loans within the first three years of entering repayment.

Okay, now in English:

I know that there are any number of ways you can define “gainful employment programs” and that there are any number of devils that can be found in details in a federal report. But for ANY possible definition of such things, the fact that over half of the possible programs don’t do any better than a wretched high school education in actually getting their students paid – and that those programs base their entire business model off of federal funds – should horrify everyone concerned.

This is where the screaming about for-profit colleges comes from, folks.

(Be aware: there’s naming and shaming in this document, too. Long and probably not good for casual reading, but I like to cite my sources.)

Facebook status rant, September 10, 2013

This is an important story, and you should read it. If you have ANY concern about American medical education at all, you need to know about how the Caribbean medical schools operate, how they buy up residency seats that would otherwise go to (more-deserving?) stateside medical students, and how for those students who fail to win residencies, the American taxpayer winds up footing the bill for the almost inevitable default on debt. (If you don’t know about these things, click on the article and read it. I’ll wait.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t blame the for-profit schools that run these schools. At all.

The OVERWHELMING majority of students who choose to study medicine in the Caribbean would choose an American school – ANY American school – first. They would be retained by American schools better, because it’s HARD to live in a Caribbean nation studying medicine (ask anybody who studied at St. George’s who lived through the Grenada invasion). The reason they study in the Caribbean is because that’s the school that’s willing to give them a shot. The Caribbean schools (particularly St. George’s, which isn’t linked with DeVry, and Ross, which is) know this, educate students who are academically weaker but willing to work harder, and turn out a LOT of very good doctors as a result.

If American colleges and universities (and the public who funds them) actually believe that this is a bad thing, and that students should NOT take the bad deal of pursuing their medical education abroad, then they should put their money where their mouth is. There are not enough medical school seats for the students who would make good doctors, and there are CERTAINLY not enough medical school seats for the doctors we will need serving in primary care. You want to keep money out of for-profit hands? Empower the public sector to serve the people who want to become doctors, particularly those who want to be primary-care providers. (Central Michigan University is the example the article mentions that is actually stepping up, but that’s one example. We need more – a LOT more.)

Until then, even the bad actors in this field will be able to provide seats, and will find MORE than enough students competing for those seats – and the privilege to take on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt in a third-world country in hopes of being able to take on a career where there is genuine demand for workers. Good job, America. Good job, good effort.

Facebook status rant, September 2, 2013

This. Hurts.

We didn’t have enough history to be upset when Timo Liekoski got sacked. Sacking Tom Fitzgerald and Greg Andrulis was worse, but it’s hard to argue it wasn’t necessary either time. In a perfect world, Sigi would have found everything he ever wanted in Columbus and stayed for the long haul, with a certain free-kick specialist as his loyal lieutenant, but that wasn’t to be either.

But I never stood ten feet away from Timo Liekoski, Tom Fitzgerald, Greg Andrulis OR Sigi Schmid as they delivered inch-perfect corner kicks on a postage stamp of a pitch in Ohio Stadium.

And I don’t know if it’s better or worse that Brian Bliss is taking over to finish the season. There’s this little fantasy I kept in my head, real or not, about Columbus being the family club to MLS’ big boys, in an Altogether Less Fashionable Part Of The United States, and Robert Warzycha being Columbus Till He Dies just like the rest of us.

Whatever might have been real about that fantasy, it is over, just like the Polish Rifle’s career with the Crew.

Professional sports are ruthless. They have to be. If this is about winning a second title, this move is probably as necessary as sacking Fitz and Greg was at the time.

It doesn’t make this any easier to swallow.

Thanks for all the years, Robert Warzycha. In so many ways, you ARE the Columbus Crew, forever Massive.

Facebook status gratitude, July 31, 2013

Okay. Twenty years, then.

The miracle of having known this woman for more than half of my life, having shared the same roof with her for twenty years, and STILL finding more reasons to love her every day…I could attempt to explain them with words, but none of them work…

…except “maybe I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time.”

I love you, Kristin.

Facebook status rant, May 5, 2013

On Friday, I heard a commencement address at the old place. It was a very standard address for a Southern Baptist institution, a very standard exposition of the Gospel from that point of view, but it was surprisingly hopeless. The thing I’ve heard repeatedly, after the fact, was how much it was focused on how hopeless the world was, how dangerous the days ahead were, how miserable of shape that we are in without Jesus. There was just a bad taste on the day as a result.

All of the above might be true, but it feels like an incredibly incomplete story.

Last night, I heard a baccalaureate address at the new place. It was a call to reconciliation, with the parable of the prodigal son as the text. It was a picture of God, standing before us with arms outstretched, waiting to receive us as the father was waiting without judgement for his long-lost son. It was a pitch-perfect reflection as we await today’s sending out of graduates into the world.

If we have anything to offer as Christians, it is the hope of this resurrection of Christ – the ultimate triumph of life over death – as power to “grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days”, as Harry Fosdick once wrote. The resurrection isn’t merely “fire insurance” to get Christians out of hell – or the hell they’re currently living in. It’s actual power for the here and now, through the Holy Spirit, to cast out darkness around us and allow light to shine in.

I simply can’t abide any longer people telling me a situation is hopeless – whether that situation is in my yard, in my vocation, in my country, or in the world. If Jesus Christ is who he said he was, no situation is ever hopeless. Period.

So: for Sunday morning, and for graduation.
Because greater things are yet to come,
and greater things are still to be done in this city.

Facebook status rant, December 14, 2012

So, apparently unspeakable tragedy happened in Connecticut today. I’m not going to belittle it; it’s historic in its magnitude, and the fallout will be happening for a very long time.

But I don’t GET it. I was with 30 middle schoolers this afternoon, for one last time in this month-and-a-half long program we’ve been doing (and that I’ve been shilling for the company). I got to play “random question!” with them, and go to all kind of scientific and silly and philosophical and ridiculous ideas with them like you can only get from a group of middle schoolers. I got to thank their parents for getting to work with them, and encourage them going forward. I was loud, madcap, passionate, all that.

I’m trying to put together in my head how the one thing could happen when I experience a completely different thing. I can’t get there.

I’ve hit a point in life where I only know how to do one thing, and that’s fly around everywhere I can as wildly as I can explaining as many things as I can while being as positive as I can and affirming everyone that I can. I don’t expect appreciation for that, or even want it. Honestly, the excitement in a kid as a thing makes sense to them for the first time, or as they feel freedom to ask weird and wonderful questions for the first time – that is its own reward.

But if I can encourage those of you who care to read these thoughts somehow, it is this way: the Golden Rule still matters. Giving to others the way you would like for people to be giving to you still WORKS. Think about that, and ACT on that. Instead of another complaint on Facebook about another way in which this world is sad and broken and over, make the world better. Go. Do.

Facebook status gratitude, June 4, 2012

For all the students who tell me how much they owe me for this, that, or the other thing: know that I owe this woman every bit as much, and more, starting with a general science class in 8th grade when I wasn’t all that sure where I was headed in life, and going all the way through however much biology and chemistry I could get out of her. Every opportunity I had to go beyond Hilliard in the sciences, this is the teacher who opened those doors to me and showed me what was possible. Hopefully all I’m doing is paying the debt I owe her forward.

Happy retirement, Janet Higginbotham Conner. (You’ll always be Miss Higginbotham to me.)

Janet Higginbotham Conner, June 4, 2012

Facebook status rant, April 4, 2012

To be a Christian and to be an academic is the only life path I could have possibly taken, and I am grateful for the experiences I have had and what they have made me. But there are seasons in this life that are overwhelmingly stressful, and if you think you know the costs that people bear, the incredible work poured in, and the risk that faculty take in the name of integrity, not knowing whether the arrow aimed at you is coming from the right or the left…until you’ve lived this out, you don’t know a blame thing.

Please pray for us. All of us, regardless of where we work. I am so thankful for the career I have, because I am seeing anew how quickly it could go away.

Facebook status rant, October 27, 2011

I gave this talk nearly a year ago. I am incredibly sad tonight over this simple fact: I did not love Shorter University enough to stay. There are so many of you that, if there was a way, I’d be back in my office at Shorter tonight and I would be listening to everything you had to say; God knows you’ve had enough to say to me this week, through Facebook and text and what have you.

Above and beyond everything else I am praying for peace and understanding between students, faculty, alumni, administration and board. I long for all of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ to be able to share that common ground, extend liberty in all of the non-essentials, and love one another in our every act.

(ed note after the fact: that very prayer has been repeated publicly so many times since, and privately infinitely more)