Are We Asking the Wrong Questions?

Life sure is funny.  I have spent a lot of time working on Compass Retreat Center over the last decade.  I have been tireless until these past several months.  I kept asking questions, wondering why it wasn’t all coming together.  Why God had given me such a big vision if we did not get to make it happen.

As I have started to read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson I had an epiphany. I am tired because although I believe God, I was not asking God for all that we needed.  I did not make a circle around it and believe God for it.  Don’t get me wrong.  Those of you who know me, know that I have prayed. We have witnessed so many blessings in this journey. Many of you know that I pray boldly. However, I have not been praying bold enough. I got wishy washy in my prayers even vague.  I started to say God whatever you desire for us is my desire.  He simply wants me to name the desire that he has placed on my heart. He has given us the vision.

So here it is:
God, please provide the provision that Compass needs. Give us a facility to use permanently, provide the funding and resources necessary to run it, and give us a heart to see the needs of military service members and their families in advance and do everything within our power to minimize their liabilities and maximize their potential. Let us be an organization known for its action and compassion. May we never give up on reaching veterans helping them to reconcile with their spouse, children, self, friends, community and above all you.

If you read this, I hope you will pray circles around it with us. I am asking you to pray like the Israelites did as they stood outside the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6). Will you march around (pray over) this once a day for the next six days and on the seventh day, Thursday, July 26 will you march around (pray over) it seven times? I know that God is just waiting for us to boldly go. I would also love to get a quick note from you so that I know who is praying with me.  Next, if I can be praying for you and your family please let me know that as well.  I would be honored to stand with you.

If you have never done this in your own life, I encourage you to read The Circle Maker and see how you can change your prayer life and more importantly deepen your relationship God.

 

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Part Two: What Are We Doing Differently as a Culture?

Yesterday, we began a discussion about what has changed in the school environment and today our question shifts to a look beyond the walls of the school to examine what has changed in our culture.  Certainly the most immediate change that has pervaded all aspects of culture is the economy.

I do not think that we need to spend a ton of time discussing the impact the economy has had.  First and foremost it impacts individual families.  More families are experiencing unemployment, or insecurity at work.  Cuts seem to be coming from all directions.  This has played out in family finances forcing families to tighten their belts in order to buy fuel for the car or put food on the table.  Likewise it has impacted schools who struggle to pass operating levy’s. John Irons writes,  “Unemployment and income losses can reduce educational achievement by threatening early childhood nutrition; reducing families’ abilities to provide a supportive learning environment (including adequate health care, summer activities, and stable housing); and by forcing a delay or abandonment of college plans,” according to his report for  the Economic Policy Institute titled “Economic Scarring: The long-term impacts of the recession.”

A second shift in culture is that we have seen a decline in the American work ethic.  Many assert that this spawns from the entitlement that people feel.  This is a huge swing from working to achieve the American Dream to being able to have it all.  Eric Chester in his book, Reviving Work Ethic , states, “There was a time when achievement meant more than possessions, and when character (a person’s inner qualities) was valued more than achievement. Americans felt good about putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. This was the time when “Made in America” was the best label any product could bear, quality was everyone’s priority, and companies made decisions to ensure long-term stability—not short-term gains for stockholders. ”  This shift has permeated the workplace and the educational system.  There are a lot of students who raise the question, “How can I make money quickly so I can just enjoy life”?  There is not a sense of committing hard work to make something great. As Chester says, “They’ve grown up in a world where most people work hard to find ways of avoiding hard work.”

A third shift is the ineffectiveness of government showing that we can’t work together. Instead of link arms mentality that is designed to make decisions and legislation in the best interest of Americans, we see an Us – Them mentality.  Putting it simply, the shift in politics has moved toward self interest (or political party interest) rather than a national best interest.

These cultural shifts do not happen in isolation.  They impact all areas of life  – individual, family, workplace, and school environments.  Again, I am certain that there are others.  My only goal is to get you to discuss it and see where it takes you. My personal belief is that a ” have it now” mentality devalues the ethic on which this country was founded.  “Have it now” implies a lack of foresight that there are challenges and consequences beyond the immediate.  We are seeing the results of such consequences across all sectors of life and culture.

 

Part One: What Has Changed in the School Environment?

On Monday, as I sat and watched the news of another school shooting my heart was again saddened that as a nation we seem to be raising a generation of children who do not know how to cope with adversity and who do not have resources accessible to get help.  NBC Nightly News raised the question, “How do we stop the violence?” As a former high school teacher I paused to reflect, then I realized that this question can’t be answered until we broaden our scope to include:

  • What has changed in the school environment over the last two decades ? 
  • What are we doing differently as a culture? 
  • How do our values impact the rise in violence?
  • And, how can we prevent violence  in the future?

These are all tough questions and it isn’t enough that the media has dialogue about it. We should all be having the tough conversations that lead us to action to save our kids. I will work to address each of these questions in a four-part series.

So what has changed in the school environment over the last two decades?  I think several things have changed. First, in the late 80’s things did begin to change. We started to reward everyone for participating. Trophies were awarded for playing instead of winning. This transferred to the classroom where students would argue, “I worked really hard on this essay so I deserve a better grade.”  My response often had to be, “I am grateful that you worked hard because without that hard work your grade would be lower.  Now we need to talk about what else you need to do to earn a higher grade.”  It was hard for students to understand that hard work did not automatically equate to meeting the expectations or requirements of the assignment.  As an educator the difficulty compounds when the parent provides the same argument.  As a parent myself I work to teach my children the difference between hard work and exemplary work.  Hard work is a necessary step to achieve success, but it does not guarantee it.  Exemplary work is even harder.  And, as they get older and progress through the grade levels in school expectations of what is exemplary should be rising too.  In an “everyone gets rewarded society” everything seems to lack value.  Mickey Goodman shared a similar report in her article in the Huffington Post, “Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?” She also believed that we give kids a false sense of success.

Another thing that has changed is that educators have started to write curriculum designed to teach to standardized tests.  This means that a certain amount of material must be covered in a particular manner.  Although accomplishing work is critical to education, when teachers are teaching to a test things get overlooked.  One of the things that I believe has happened as a result is that teachers have less opportunity to build in time to know their students and develop relationships peer-to-peer or teacher to student.  I would argue that this is key.  Relationships are key in the classroom, workplace, and certainly in the family. When test scores drive school funding, teacher competency, and anticipated student success, etc. we spend more time fulfilling the requirements. Students learned quickly that what matters is the test.  How to get the grade became the motivation rather than how do I give my best effort, challenge myself to be better, and really compete for skills and knowledge that stretch my thinking and my abilities. An example is the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) given to sophomores the majority of whom pass it in 10th grade. If however, a student does not pass they will retake it twice a year until they do. It is true that they cannot graduate without passing the test but those who pass it as a sophomore are left asking, “If I can pass the graduation test now, why am I still in high school?”

Next, we began to use a soft approach to discipline because parents demanded that schools could not implement punishment. Schools should have policies, but  a business model became the norm for schools. This led administrative teams to view students as customers and then parents took on a role that the customer is always right. So, discipline in many schools became a negotiation. Then, following Columbine, administrators decided that the best solution is a “No Tolerance” policy. This meant everyone is at fault in a fight or altercation. This is the polar opposite of giving everyone a trophy who participated. It was no longer about who started it, it was instead about defending oneself as well. This policy clouds right and wrong in the school environment and we will come back to this in Part 3: How do our values impact the rise in violence?

For students, these may be the first in a series of things that have impacted their learning environment. Certainly there are others as well so hopefully this sparks more conversation about what changed in the educational environment. When we can fully answer this question we will be better able  to develop a strategy to turn it around.

Counting What Matters

Today I found myself stopping to take a look at life.  I asked myself, in a country where we have so much available and so many possibilities why do we take it all for granted? Next I asked, what really matters in the day to day?

What matters is…

  • my family knows I love them because I tell them and show them
  • spending time looking for the gifts in life
  • relationships – both tiny interactions and intimate ones
  • pushing through the tough stuff
  • learning from experiences
  • caring for others
  • forgiveness
  • love
  • God loves me
  • sharing your heart
  • living your passion
  • I chose and choose my husband
  • my children’s thoughts and ideas
  • putting my best effort forward everyday
  • positively impacting the people you meet throughout the day whether it is the grocery clerk, postal worker, a stranger, friend, or family member
  • reaching out to others
  • gratitude
  • faith
  • trust
  • education
  • prayer
  • a walk whether in snow, rain or sunshine
  • action

I am sure that I could go on.  This blog however is about what matters to you?  If you put it into writing — a list, poem, song and then look at it.  Post it on your mirror or next to your bed.  Read it each morning before you get up and each night before you fall asleep. You will start to live for what matters.  Sometimes we spend so much time overlooking these things and focusing on the things that don’t.  In this New Year… why don’t you try to make the things that matter to you matter.

Give to Give

I recently read Donald Miller’s, Blue Like Jazz and as the President / Founder of a charitable organization I really got stuck when he said, “I love to give charity, but I don’t want to be charity. This is why I have so much trouble with grace.” I started to think about this and realized I too was guilty of this feeling, but I never transferred it to relate to my relationship with God. You see I was taught that grace was a free gift. I never equated that I was in need. Interesting when your world gets rocked! Why else would God send His son to earth? Did He simply do it out of kindness or because it was the right thing to do?  Really? No, God saw a world in need of saving. He saw a world so mortally broken that He sent the one nearest and dearest to Him to change the world.

Now let’s turn it around. We are all in need, and if you haven’t admitted it yet, let’s talk.  We (humans) need: love, interaction, relationship, input, to be valued – to matter, significance, change, constancy, routine, newness, understanding, acceptance… Should I go on? This begs the question, do we contribute enough to others, work, family, etc.  to just be deserving, or do we expect these things (entitlement)? Looking at my own life I know that I want it to be enough, but the reality is that my needs are often greater.  So the learning is that we all give and receive charity. Maybe if we recognized this we would be more inclined to give more, reach out, rather than in.  And maybe by giving more we will learn that both giving and receiving are gifts. The sooner we accept the needed gifts we have been granted, the sooner we can accept the grace God gives us freely.

Do you enjoy giving with strings attached or is there more joy in giving to give? Following God’s example, this year let’s give to give.  Give to meet needs, and then be thankful for those who give to meet ours.  The truth is we are charity.

Veterans Learning from Other Veterans

“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” ~Vernon Howard

I recently asked a group of military veterans who are now CEO’s of their own companies what advice they had for returning veterans. It was great to receive so many responses. Over the next several weeks I will share some of them with you.

Michelle Jones, MBA shared this:
After my military career / my last tour in Iraq I transitioned out and immediately into my own business. There is so much advice I could give now that it is over 6 years later but I’ll narrow it down to these 2 thoughts:

1) Be proud of who you are and embrace everything it means to be a veteran of this great country. I think we all have a hard time doing this. When I left the military I never even told people about my career or rarely spoke about being a veteran. It took 4 years before I had a clear message (from God) that everything I experienced could be of great help to others and I need to start sharing more of myself with regards to my military background/experiences. I wanted to close the door to that chapter of my life and move on to the next and that’s just not how it works. I’m surrounded by veteran’s, we hire only veterans, and we train others based on our experiences. There is absolutely nothing better than being a veteran and surrounding myself with other dynamic veterans. We make great things happen, together.

2) Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Men and women–understand that it is not a weakness to ask for help. I’m married to a retired operator and I’m surrounded by spec ops and Rangers and everything in between. We all know the effects of the war(s) and there is NO shame in getting the proper help for PTSD, addictions, and any other health issues. The result is a life better than ever imagined. We’re living it.

Thank you all so much for your service and Happy New Year!!!!!