About Me

I'm somewhat introverted, I'm a voracious reader, and I love a good conversation. My interests and activities can be found on the right side of the page. My life goal is to use the gifts and talents God has bestowed on me to glorify Him and benefit others.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Respect Times Instruction" Is Not Commutative.

You might notice the mathematical theme running through my recent posts. Geometry class will do that to you.

Learned some really cool lessons in Composition class today. We watched the made-for-TV movie The Ron Clark Story, a film about a teacher from North Carolina who transfers to Harlem to teach ghetto kids. Clark had had great success with his fifth-grade class in NC; all of his classes graduated with above-average test scores. But when he transfers to Harlem, his world is turned on its head.

Upon arrival, he is offered a position to teach the highest-scoring class in the school, but insteads decides to teach the class that consistently scores the lowest. In contrast to the well-behaved environment he maintained at home, here he encounters a class full of juvenile delinquents, gang members, 14 year-old mothers and 5th grade gamblers who push him to his absolute limit. The turnover in teachers is alarming, and the kids actually place bets for how long he'll stay.

Seeing the vandalized classroom and noting the mocking indifference of his students, he tries to impose order. He comes up with a list of rules, foremost of which is his declaration that they shall treat each other like a family. This means that when one person suffers, they all suffer.

In one scene, the mocking and unruly ringleader of the group, Shamika, characteristically belittles his rules. Clark calmly tells her to obey or none of the kids will get to eat lunch, because when one of the family members suffer, they all suffer. So, Shamika grudgingly obeys under the pressure of her classmates. This approach works for a little while and Clark is satisfied.

But soon the kids are back to their delinquent behavior, mocking him and his rules and doing as they please. He quickly realizes that the kids (and even the principal!) don't respect him one iota.

Frustrated, a dejected Clark decides on a new method. He learns their games and interests and appeals to the desperate need in their lives for a consistent authority figure. He begins to earn their respect, and they in turn begin to open up to his instruction.

He comprehends what Benjamin Franklin wrote long ago: "If you would persuade, speak of interest, not of reason." He sees that you must win respect before you can give instruction.

You may have a fantastic set of rules for maintaining order, you might have an irrefutable argument, but these tools mean nothing if you don't first win respect. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

People may follow your rules, but they'll do so out of necessity rather than a commitment to your values. You might have achieved the desired result, but you took the shortcut, and you'll pay for that in the long run. The person obeys only out of convenience, or fear of the consequences. You haven't imparted anything.

I see this tying into 1) family life and 2) evangelism. In your family, if you lay down the law without first securing respect, you're in for long-term problems.
Your kids may comply with your instructions when you're there to enforce them, but if they never internalize the values you're trying to plant in them, they won't take any of your teachings to heart.

Similarly, in evangelism, you may have a perfect apologetic which, according to the evidence, no one could deny, but you haven't evaluated what you're up against. The human heart, with all its emotions and intricate wiring, can often override the logical response of the brain. So, if we're to redirect evangelism to aim for the heart rather than the head, we've got to win the respect first.
Winning a person's respect is like chipping out the first shoveful of dirt from the hard soil of all their defensive arguments and rationalizations, in order to get beyond the hard exterior to the soft earth, the real heart issues that lie underneath it all.

I desire to make a change in my relationships that accomodates this goal. I want people to know me as the person who really devoted himself to God and to his friends and being an encouraging and helpful presence in their lives, giving his all for them and those around him, more than just being known as the guy who had good arguments. The former is the better legacy by far.

God Bless!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm At the Junction of Practicality and Interest, Waiting for the Light to Turn Green...

This blog will probably be pretty short and to the point, a refreshing change after my previous extended discussions. (Plus, it makes the reading this look less formidable to my audience when they see variety rather than a huge block of print, doesn't it? Lol)

Anyways, like I said, I'm currently idling at a crossroad in my life, trying to decide on a career. God has gifted me with the ability to write well, to paint pictures inside peoples' minds; but He's also given me a deep and abiding interest in human psychology, in motivation and in helping others.

I know, I know: I should write for a psychology journal. ;-)- Don't think that hasn't crossed my mind.

What has also crossed my mind in the past month, however, is how much I love people. Those of you that know me are probably perplexed at this problematic paragraph and its pretentious propositions (I absolutely adore alliteration, don't you? ;-)-; perhaps I can prevent some preconceptions and present some prescriptions. Lol.

I have a love for people. Not the love that an extrovert has for people, which manifests itself in being a social and outgoing person, but the love of a friend who really, truly wants to help his peers. I stand by my friends through good times and hard times, and love to try and encourage them as best I can.

I'm also extremely interested in leadership, especially during times of war. What makes men follow some leaders and desert others? What made men like Alexander the Great or William Wallace into heroes that were able to rally their men under their banner, in good times and bad times? What made men willingly charge into battle and die with them, without ever taking a backward step? Like I said, it's all very intriguing to me.

Please pray that I would recieve direction from God as to a career choice. May He bless you abundantly over this coming weekend and may you offer yourself to him as a soldier offers himself to his commander without fear, knowing that his captain is watching out for him.
God Bless.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is Psychology Plus Writing Congruent to a Definite Career?

So, this is my first blog in like seven months. My interest in it was rejuvenated because my cousin and friend from church both have accounts, as does my friend Liz. As you read the following posts, hopefully you will be struck by the many changes that have collaborated to alter my life in the past several months. I have undergone a transformation since my last writing, a shift in the way I see the world, in the way I percieve my friends, and in the way I approach my relationship with Jesus Christ. Happy reading...hopefully you will be inspired in your walk with God as well.

Anyways, because of time constraints, I won't bother to lay out here the entire backdrop to my recent epiphany. If you haven't heard the story already and are really curious, e-mail me for details.

Suffice it to say that I have seen the power of God at work in a big way, in a way that profoundly affected my outlook. Up until this point, I had been going through the motions of Christianity, "Honoring God with my lips, while my heart was far from Him." Though I knew of God's tremendous power as well as his incredible love, I largely kept this knowledge in my head, refusing to let it percolate down to my heart and really transform my life. In a way, it feels safer.

We can "know" about a lot of things, like the assasination of Abraham Lincoln or the boiling point of water, but these things don't compel a change in our lives. To truly "know" something in an intimate and involved way, to adhere to a set of principles or to devote yourself to an ideal, requires sacrifice and commitment.

This is the crucial step I refused to take for a couple years. God would make his presence known, would really reveal himself to me, and I would say "No, I'm quite comfortable here on the sidelines, thanks. The preview was alright, but I don't really want to sit through the feature presentation." As Neo, the conflicted hero of the Matrix Trilogy, would say "I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life." We want a manageable Deity, an inflatable God if you will, someone we can take out of our pocket and inflate on Sunday, but if He ever gets too big, we can just let the air out and put him back in his place. See, we're all really control freaks at heart. ;-)- We're like the stubbornest Dad in the world, who absolutely refuses to surrender the remote control.

So, there I was, trying to struggle through life, putting my hopes in people and things that could never satisfy me, and wondering why my life sucked so bad.

It was only when God removed absolutely every crutch that I'd been leaning on, and ripped off every band-aid superficially covering my wounds, that I comprehended my own desperate condition. Lying on the ground, incapacitated, bleeding from my wounds, I realized the utter futility of my insubordination. There's a great quote from one of my favorite generals, taken from one of my favorite books, that sums up this reasoning well:

"Not until soldiers are surrounded do they each have the determination to resist the enemy and sustain victory. When they are desperate, they put up a united defense."

-Sun Tzu, from The Art of War

and also:

"Put them in a spot where they have no place to go, and they will die before fleeing. If they are to die there, what can they not do? Warriors exert their full strength. When warriors are in great danger, then they have no fear. When there is nowhere to go they are firm, when they are deeply involved they stick to it. If they have no choice, they will fight."

-Sun Tzu, from The Art of War

To put it simply, I was completely and royally stuck. But God had accomplished his purpose in causing me to forsake my foolish pride and acknowledge my inability to control my life. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on people and things; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you can't see something that is above you." This expresses my pre-brokeness view perfectly. But, several months ago, I finally took my eyes off of MY life and MY problems and MY situation, and focused on God and the life He had in store for me.

There are only two things in this life that truly matter in the long run: God and people. How you relate to both of these determines your quality of life. Once you surrender your life to God, you'll begin to notice how you start to care more and more about the things the God of the Bible cares about. Also, the things that God values and the things that the world values are polar opposites, so by association people will see definite difference in you; in the way you act and in the way you approach life. This is your best witness, your primary weapon in the war for the souls of humanity.
In closing, I would encourage each of you to stop the car, get in the passenger seat and let God drive. Hand over the reins, and rest securely in the knowledge that he has the bird's eye view that sees trouble before it even materializes, and that he "knows what is best for you at all times."
God Bless!